by Mike Chen on 09/11/09 at 12:00 PM ET
Last week, I interviewed Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney about a few different topics, such as where his young players stand, why Olli Jokinen didn’t work out, what he expects this year. You know, the usual things you’d ask a GM.
Oh, and that whole bankruptcy/auction thing.
While you wait for Friday’s court hearings result (and the inevitable continuation as A) nothing gets decided or B) someone appeals a decision), check out my Q&A with Maloney, along with my related article on Fox Sports (Update: Link is active as of 10 AM PST).
How do the off-ice issues invades your day-to-day business? How would you compare your duties this summer to last summer?
A: Regarding the hockey operations department, very little has changed regarding our off-season activities. Every day we focus on how we can improve the hockey team and put a winning product on the ice. Like any other off-season, I had an operating budget approved by ownership (in this case, the NHL and a representative of Mr. Moyes) and I worked within that budget. If issues arise outside the budget, I would require approval from both parties.
How do you keep your coaching/scouting staff appraised of what’s happening and how does it affect their duties?
A: Doing business in 2009 involves Blackberry’s, the internet and email so regular communication is not an issue with any of our staff. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the Coyote franchise at this time, we will ice a team so coaching/scouting duties remain the same.
Earlier in the summer, Ulf Samuelsson mentioned on XM Home Ice that things should be clearer by the end of the summer so team matters can resume normally. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. How do you promote your team to the public with all of the chaos surrounding your team?
A: We have a very loyal fan base who believe in our program and understand we have to continue to be patience for long term success. I believe we are a better team than a year ago and, with a big season, we will make up for all the unrest this past summer.
Have any prospective owners, from Jim Balsillie to the NHL, spoken with you about their plans should they take control of the team? If so, how has that affected logistical things in the organization (travel, schedule, etc.)?
A: I have not had communication with the Ballsilie group. I have met with both the Reinsdorf and Ice Edge Holding groups but on a general basis rather than specific operating methodology. Both groups expressed to me they like the team, like where we are heading and support the plan we have in place.
Shane Doan is a franchise player. What does he need to do as a team leader during this time of uncertainty, and have you asked him to do anything specific with training camp around the corner?
A: Shane is a great pro and understands we can only react to what we can control. He is the model for how we want all of our players to approach the game. I have had regular communication with Shane and he has had regular communication with our players.
You’ve made a few signings during the off-season. How do you sell the Phoenix market to free agents considering with what’s going on right now?
A: Phoenix is a great sports town. Like all other non-traditional hockey markets (i.e. Anaheim, Carolina, Tampa Bay) you need to win to build a successful franchise. We feel we are close to winning as do the free agent players we have signed. In addition to our fantastic Arena, Phoenix is one of the nicest places to live in the country so I did not have to sell our situation, even with all the uncertainty.
On the ice, things looked great last season until around the All-Star break. How would you describe what happened?
A: We were too young and ran out of gas in the stretch drive. The bulk of our forward group was made up of first and second year players. With the additions of Vrbata, Upshall, Lombardi, Pyatt, Fiddler and Prucha to our forward group, our young players (Mueller, Hanzal, Boedker, Turris, Tikhonov, Porter) will be able to continue their maturation yet we will not live or die based on their play.
Looking back now, why didn’t Olli Jokinen work out for your team?
A: Given the youth of our team, we needed Ollie to be Crosby, Malkin and Datsyuk all in one player. Ollie is a good NHL player yet we are very happy with the return we received - Lombardi, Vandermeer (via a later trade) and a 2010 1st round pick.
Many people overlook the immense young talent your franchise has. Obviously, players like Turris, Mueller, Tikhonov, and Michalek are all key to a strong season. Where do you see these players in their development, and how critical are they in a quick rise to the top?
A: Peter Mueller showed us two seasons ago he can be a top offensive player in the NHL. He took a little step back last season but I do expect him to have a breakout year in 2009/10. Michalek is one of the best defensive defenseman in the Western Conference. We need to nurture players such as Turris, Tikhonov and Boedker into consistent top NHL players. We expect them all to improve with their physical maturation.
A best-case scenario is one like Pittsburgh, where youth rapidly matures into a championship team. Where do you feel the Coyotes are in the rebuilding phase, and what factors affect the team’s playoff chances?
A: Our goaltending needs to be consistently better. We will improve in many small areas (face-offs, penalty killing, goals against) while our young players continue to physically and mentally mature. I am excited about this team and our playoff changes this season.
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