PHOENIX — Coyotes co-owner and President of Hockey Operations Gary Drummond offered his thoughts on four topics outside the scope of our feature story.
Following a recently published letter from Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asking Phoenix not to poach the Coyotes, team President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc cast doubt on the possibility of the Coyotes remaining at Gila River Arena long term. What is your position?
Drummond: I don’t blame anybody for the current location. It was 15 years ago that they started planning this. Lots of stadiums and arenas found their way out to the suburbs back then, but that is not happening nearly as much now, if at all. There’s a realization that these facilities are better situated closer to downtown or even right in the middle of downtown, and of course, our fan base is really heavily concentrated in Scottsdale and parts of Phoenix.
We and others before us have made every effort to make the business viable in Glendale. Regardless of the quality of the team on the ice, it seems clear it is not achievable. Given that, we are making every effort possible to relocate in the East Valley in a new arena. It is a definite cornerstone of our long-term plan and we are extremely optimistic such will happen.
You hired a GM in John Chayka who is 39 years younger than you. What was at the core of that hire?
Drummond: In a nutshell, we took capability over experience. Sometimes, that’s not the way to go but in our case, we think it will be evident in a short period of time that we made a good hire. When you find young talent like that, if there’s a way to glom onto that, it’s always in the best interest of the organization.
We quickly had a strong connection in spite of our wide age difference. I thoroughly respect and enjoy how he approaches the challenge of building a winner. I think I can be a good sounding board for him and help in creating our plan and maintaining the focus and structure required to enhance the execution of that plan.
The NHL Draft and free agency are a little more than a month away. What insights can you provide on the team’s plans?
Drummond: Those are topics I leave to our professionals. However, from a high level we need to build up our organization in terms of goalie and D-men prospects. In addition, given our non-playoff standing for the past several years, it’s clear we need to fill several holes in our roster. This will come through a combination of developing our own prospects but also by focusing more on college, junior, European and NHL free agents. It won’t be easy but I feel our guys will be up to the challenge.
The Coyotes were at the lower end of the NHL in spending again this season. Do you anticipate that changing?
Drummond: We haven’t had a hard discussion on budget, but we’ve had a lot of discussion of the type of roster we’re trying to build and the long-term vision we have. The management staff has faith that the current ownership group is going to do whatever it takes to have an all-around better team on the ice.
As that evolves we’re well aware that our spending needs to rise to, realistically, the midpoint (of the NHL) or higher. There’s absolutely no way, long-term, that you can be competitive at the low end of the payroll. It doesn’t work.
I don’t think we’ll ever be a top-of-the-cap team but where we could be sort of a cap team is around providing an infrastructure and environment where our roster players, recruits and prospects have the best chance to play up to or near their full capacity.