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Coyotes Hire ‘Difference Maker’ to be G.M.

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – The Coyotes announced the hiring of 26-year-old John Chayka as the eighth general manager in franchise history on Thursday at Gila River Arena.

It was an historic moment as Chayka has become the youngest general manager in professional sports history.

“I’m excited, I’m thrilled and I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Chayka said. “For me to come in and step into this situation is a blessing.”

The Coyotes considered 10-12 candidates for the position and Chayka, who recently completed his first season with the team as an assistant general manager focused on analytics, was a leading candidate from the start.

Anthony LeBlanc, Gary Drummond, John Chayka & Dave Tippett. Photo by Norm Hall.

Before joining the team, Chayka co-founded and served as director of hockey operations at Stathletes Inc., a hockey analytics firm that provides insight into player and team tendencies.

“The message to our players is that if there is something we need to do to help our organization win, we're going to do it,” Chayka said. “That's been the mandate from ownership on down to eliminate all excuses and maximize all of our players in an environment where they can grow, they can learn and get better. That's the vision.”

The Coyotes also announced that Gary Drummond has taken over as President of Hockey Operations, and that Dave Tippett has agreed to a new five-year contract to be Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations/Head Coach.

“John is the youngest GM in the history of pro sports and I think I'm probably the oldest guy ever to get his first hockey job," said Drummond, 65, who has been a co-owner of the team for the past three seasons.

Tippett said he believes Chayka is a terrific choice for the G.M. position.

“You meet a lot of people in the world,” Tippett said, “but there are some that you walk away and it strikes you that, ‘Hey, that guy is special.’ And I think Gary saw that in John and over the last year, I've seen those things in John that leads you to believe he's going to be a difference maker. When you have a difference maker on your team, it makes everybody better.”

He added, “Because of his age and the company he started, he gets painted with a very analytical brush, but what people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he's a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy. That intelligence leads him to make sure he has a balance, where there's an analytical approach, but there's a common-sense approach.”

The Coyotes plan to add an assistant general manager with NHL management experience before the NHL Draft on June 24.

John Chayka. Photo by Norm Hall.

“Experience is one of my weaknesses and I’m aware of that,” Chayka said. “That’s why we’re putting in place a group that addresses that... It’s not about collecting good players. It’s about collecting players that fit our system, that fit our blueprint. Dave Tippett’s going to be a big part of that blueprint. We’re in the process of defining that criteria and narrowing our scope."

He added, “We don’t need to make 10 moves. We need to find those one or two special opportunities and be prepared to execute on them. That’s our goal.”

Chayka said his first order of business as G.M. would be to have lunch with captain Shane Doan, who is mulling his future.

“I want to get together with him and really see where he’s at physically and we’re he’s at for next year,” Chayka said. “We’d be thrilled to have him on the ice. But also I want to get his perspective on things. He’s been around for a long time with a lot of successful teams and he’s been around for a lot of teams that haven’t been good enough. I want to know how we make this a destination for players to want to play in.”

Seven players from the season-finale roster, including Doan, are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Nine players will become restricted free agents. That’s a lot of decisions to make for the restructured hockey operations department.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of ourselves,” Chayka said. “We’re drafting seventh overall for a reason. We’ve grown since last year and it’s a big positive, but we also know that we need to be better and continue to grow. I put the onus on ourselves – the management group and staff – to improve our team.”

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