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Maloney's 'Exit Day' Press Conference Transcript

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

EDITOR'S NOTE: On April 13, 2015, Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney answered questions from the media regarding the 2014-15 season and the team's future:

On the 2014-15 season:

Maloney: "Well, I think it was well-documented, we entered this past season with certain expectations of competing for a playoff spot. A lot of things had to go right, obviously they didn’t and when it became clear that we were not in any way, shape or form a playoff contender we decided to change course and to get as many young assets as we could acquire to make ourselves better. So, I’m not going to spend a lot of time doing an autopsy on the season publicly. We’re going to spend the next few weeks really taking a hard look at everything in the organization, from the management to the coaching, the training staff, how we treat the players to how we work in the off-season- all that kind of stuff, and improve. When I talk about going forward we will be introducing some younger players into our lineup but that doesn’t mean that it's going to be 15 younger players. We know, to compete in the West, you need some good, experienced leadership. I think some young players could bring us energy and the quickness that we lack, but we have some other holes to fill. When I talk about a three- to four-year plan, to me that three-to-four year plan is to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, not just make the playoffs. When I say that, it’s Chicago, it’s LA, it’s Detroit, but we are in a building mode, but I think the Calgary Flames are in a building mode, I think the Ottawa Senators are in a building mode, and they’re in the playoffs this year. So, just because you say you’re in a building mode doesn’t mean you can automatically say, 'Well, we’re not going to be a playoff team.' I think that has to be the focus. We’ve got a long way to go. The one thing we were good at was being very bad this year. So, we have to do a better job, and that starts with me."

On whether miscalculations were made before the season started:

Maloney: "We needed a lot of things to go well… Obviously, there were some economic reasons why we did some things. (Vancouver Forward) Radim Vrbata is a terrific player, he’s an All-Star with a team in our division, we couldn’t keep him. Would he have made us a better team? Sure… I thought going into the year that our defense would be a strong suit of ours. I thought the personnel we had and the mix had the talent there. But we had a very difficult time defending, keeping the puck out of our net. So, an area of strength was not an area of strength. Obviously, our offensive struggles were well-documented. So, we have a number of areas that we have to address, but I also think that it’s not all gloom and doom either. I do believe that when you start out with a stud defenseman in (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson, I think over the last four-to-six weeks Mike Smith reverted back to the form that we expect out of him, every night giving us a chance to win. If we get a healthy Mikkel Boedker and Marty Hanzal and plus, the economic flexibility. We do have lots of flexibility here. In the weeks ahead we’ll finalize our operating budget, our hockey budget and do our best with what we have available to fill the holes we have… I look at our team, I think we could use more experience on our blueline to give us a little more better ability to protect our goaltender a little bit more, to protect our net. I think some of the young people that we’re going to introduce are going to bring some of that speed and energy up front, but we also have to look at adding more than that. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us."

On the goal of making the postseason next season:

Maloney: "We’re going into this off-season with giving ourselves a chance to be a playoff team next year… But it’s not going to distract us from where we want to be three or four years from now, meaning we’re not going to sell off a first-round pick for a 32-year-old defenseman. That’s not going to happen. But we may use some of our assets required to fill some holes to support some of our younger people. So, we’ve got lots of time to work it out and I know it’s a very difficult end of the year, especially for Dave Tippett and his staff. They’re in the trenches every night, they had to put that team on the ice every night and try and win. That’s the job, that’s what they get paid for. So, we didn’t have much success doing it, but we know that we can do a much better job of giving him a better team to coach."

On the changes that need to be made to the roster:

Maloney: "We had a great run a few years ago, barely missed, but this became crystal clear what we need to do. If I had to look back, there probably isn’t anything I’d do a darn bit different. I think we needed to get the kind of assets we required at the trade deadline. The people that we sent out of here were good players for us, but two of the three are free at the end of the season as well. So, we acquired assets that we now have in our hand that we can use to make this team better, but the game has gone to youth and speed and skill and talent, and I think back to last summer, even going to training camp. I thought we had this great chemistry and mix, but you need talent, you need ability, you have to score and you have to defend, and we didn’t do a very good job in any of those areas. We can be better."

On how difficult this season was for him:

Maloney: "Unfortunately, I’ve been through it before, which I’m not really proud of, but in my year with the Islanders we had a similar year. But you also get key pieces coming out of the year, there’s rewards for being bad. But this year was exceptionally difficult. I really think more so on the coaching staff, training staff, players. They’re all proud to be a Coyote. (Shane Doan) is proud to be a Coyotes Captain. He feels probably as responsible as anybody to be with a team that has a chance to win. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to put a team on the ice that represents the city, the state and we were poor. But there’s good days ahead."

On his relationship with Head Coach Dave Tippett:

Maloney: "It’s the same reason you don’t make decisions after games in regards to trades; it’s raw, it’s emotional and Tip is as competitive as anybody. So, any of these comments that he makes after a game ends, not that there’s not truth in some of the things, but I think Tip is like myself. We’re builders and I think we both have a long-term belief in what it’s going to take to have success here and we’re going to have to work together to make it happen. Some of the comments that were made in the heat of the moment after another particularly draining defeat, I take that with a grain of salt."

On his team’s flexibility going into the off-season:

Maloney: "We need all the help from every level that we can get in regards to how we evaluate our players. Not only our players, but what we have in our minors to what we have in our system to what we have around the league. The good thing is that we have flexibility; financial flexibility, some room in our cap and some assets that we can use to maybe fill holes that can make us a little more competitive, but without straying away from where we want to be in three to four years from now, and that to me is the goal."

On the team’s draft and cap situations:

Maloney: "I think we’re in a good spot, especially when you read that the 5% inflator might not be added. I think the better the cap the more it helps us because we have flexibility and there’s a number of teams that don’t, it’s the exact opposite. I’ve already had calls today about players and teams are quite concerned about where the cap is going to be. So, like I said, we want to be where the good teams are going to be, where the teams that compete for a Cup every year are, and we can’t get there without getting top, young assets. We all know at the start of this draft, next Saturday night there’s a pretty big lottery. We’re sitting there in pretty good position. If we stay where we’re at or win, it’s a home run; if we don’t there’s still terrific players available. I don’t see a player that’s going to come in next year and help us, per say, but we’re still going to have another top, young player to add to our group."

On this summer’s free agent market:

Maloney: "I just look at the free-agent market, there’s not a bevy of players that are going to be out there, free for picking. We’re going to have to be selective in what we do. But again, look at what Nashville did this past off-season, they added three or four experienced players with very, very favorable contracts that fill in holes for them. That’s probably part of our strategy, using an asset or two to maybe make a trade for a player, that will be another strategy, and certainly looking at the free agency market."

On his evaluation of the roster:

Maloney: "In the weeks ahead we’re going to work on our own roster. We haven’t sat down with the coaches to get their real, true evaluation yet of our own players. But I look at our blueline as an area that I thought was strong, on paper it looked like it would be strong going into the season, I just think that we have to move the puck better and we have to defend better. You look at the teams that have success, it’s those teams that can get the puck and get it up ice in a hurry and get it out of trouble, those are the teams that have success. So, we weren’t as particularly as strong as we needed to be and even defending around our net and just protecting our goaltenders a little more, that’s something we have to look at. We’ve got some work to do."

"Until we fix that it will be very difficult to have any type of sustainable success. So, we’re looking. We’re looking in Europe on short-term deals, who could potentially come over here and fill a role, but there’s some options out there, too, in a sense of some of the players that have been mentioned to me over the course of the last couple of months in regards to deals. If you look at our center at the end of the year, we have to be better, we know that we have to be strong through the middle. That’s an area that needs to be addressed like the defense."

On whether the centers in the system could win a roster spot in camp next season:

Maloney: "I don’t see that. Christian Dvorak had a terrific year this year, he was one of the top scorers in the OHL, but he just turned 19 years old. Now could he come in and surprise us? Ryan MacInnis, we just signed him, a big strong center iceman, could he come in and wow us? I’m not planning for it, no."

On Shane Doan:

Maloney: "The idea that we have to have Shane drag this team along for another five years, that’s not going to happen. I think Shane could be a very valuable part of this team going forward; in front of the net, on the power play, along the boards, he’s one guy that shows up every night. Maybe he has to go from 19 or 20 minutes a game down to a little lower in your lineup. But there’s no question to me, he can still play, he can be a contributor. It’s up to us to bring him some better players to take those minutes that he always plays against the top defenders on the other team. He’s done it for 15 years. So, I know he’s frustrated with this season, but almost everybody is. That’s why you need to take a deep breath and give it some time. I told Shane when I talked to him very briefly this morning that I’m going to Europe next week and when I get back we’ll get together and we’ll figure out how to make things better."

"It’s harder when you’ve been a top player in this league for a long time and really been able to enforce your will in the games...(Florida forward) Jaromir Jagr is a terrific talent, (he) just signed a new contract, he’s not a star in 82 games but he’s a very good player and in some games he’s great and in some games he’s not so good, and that’s the same thing with Shane. There’s still a lot of life left in his game as far as I’m concerned and we certainly want him back."

"Unless you know something different, he’s got another year of his contract. I can’t imagine a player not wanting to play because there’s nothing better. Like I said, I think mentally this season it’s been very draining on so many people, and I’ve always felt that in these type of years all the bad things get overemphasized and you have to be careful. Even the evaluations in just the last six weeks since the trade deadline, I don’t put a lot of stock in them myself because they’re meaningless games, so you have to be careful that you’re not over-valuing a guy or undervaluing."

On the top two players in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft:

Maloney: "Everybody knows Connor McDavid is the real deal, he is so terribly talented and good… And you have to look at those Crosby’s that come into the league or those Malkin’s, it takes a couple years for even them to get their roots and lead a team. And I think Jack Eichel is close as well. He is a really talented, strong, first line All-Star level centericeman, and once you get through those two then there’s a line, and the line being there’s development needed. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a player or two in that next group that won’t be on par with those (top two), but right now it’s clear, especially with anybody who has seen those prospects play, that those two are head and shoulders above. And it’s partly the position, center ice is so hard to find, and when you get potential franchise centers staring you in the face it’s pretty attractive."

On possibly selecting third in the draft:

Maloney: "I’ve been out a lot over the last month and there’s half a dozen guys that could be candidates for that position. I don’t think it’s locked in stone, that third position, which gives us, again, it gives us flexibility, because there are one or two of those that we like more than the other. So, maybe if we get what we want maybe we trade down a slot or two. So, we have to look at those options once we find out where the balls end up in the lottery, but there’s some good players that can help us. Maybe not next year, but not that long thereafter."

"There’s a Mitch Marner kid that’s just an electric, exciting (Johnny) Gaudreau-level player. How good would it be to play like that next to your potential star winger that can excite people. We need a front-line player, ideally. It’s hard to find centerman, it’s hard to find top defensemen, it’s hard to find star wingers."

"Really, where we’re at right now, that’s the general consensus. We’ll see what Saturday brings us and then if we end up sliding to the third pick it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from there because there's lots of good options. Even the Chicago first-round pick that we have, right in that 20 to 25 range, if we’re in that range, it’s a great draft. Even our first pick in the second round, we think we can get potentially get a top two-line player. So, it’s all good… It doesn’t help us today or potentially not next training camp, but we talked about that three-to-four year period, that’s when it’s really going to pay off."

On Mikkel Boedker’s contract status:

Maloney: "I’ve been in discussions with his agent and we continue to arm wrestle trying to get something done. So, these things are never as quick or easy as you like, but it’s just part of the process."

On whether any player stood out down the stretch:

Maloney: "I look at Tobias Rieder. To me, he was, of all the players, you talk about somebody that we hoped would be an everyday NHLer at some point this year, but I think he brought the kind of speed and quickness and some offensive flair that we lacked. And I just think for a player like him, this is his first time in the NHL, if he can take that next step and continue to develop his finishing skills, he’s got the makings of a 20-50 point guy kind of thing… Mike (Smith) rebounded, I thought, in the last four to six weeks back to the level we needed him at and obviously, Oliver (Ekman-Larsson) continues to evolve as a premiere player in this league. Mark Arcobello, I give him a lot of credit, he came in here and got some opportunities. Some players, there’s a lot of ice up for grabs, he got himself noticed and was able to score some goals for us… I thought Kyle Chipchura, of all the forwards for the last 40 games, was probably as consistent as anyone we had because he just played the game and played hard. So, I’ve got some work to do."

On Klas Dahlbeck and John Moore:

Maloney: "I probably should have added (Dahlbeck) to that group… It was very interesting meeting with him this morning because I thought his self-evaluation was excellent because he said there was times when I really did some good things and then in the next game I really didn’t do some good things and he’s the type of defender that’s strong, that can skate, he has that hockey strength that can push people out of the way that we need as a young player. He’s going down to Portland to join them now. So, he has to continue to separate himself from the minor league call-ups to the regular NHLers and those players can do it all the time; every practice, every game, they come out there and you know what you’re going to get. So, I’m really happy with his game. I thought John Moore came in and did some really good things. Again, he has to go from being maybe a fifth, sixth, seventh guy; can he muscle himself into a top-four role? He certainly has the physical tools for it. So, there was some hope in some of these younger players that they can get better. And that’s really what bothered me this year going into the year and as the season progressed, was that I didn’t see any hope. I didn’t see where the improvement was. How were we going to compete with some of these other teams in the division and the conference with this old and aging group that wasn’t getting the job done. So, we had to make a change."

On what players are joining the AHL and World Championship rosters:

Maloney: "Jordan Swarz, Henrik Samuelsson, who was here, Klas Dahlbeck went down and obviously Louis Domingue… The three Americans, Connor Murphy, Mark Arcobello and John Moore joined the US team (for the World Championship). Obviously, Oliver (Ekman-Larsson) is joining the Swedish team, Tobias Rieder is joining the German team and Martin Erat is joining the Czechs. That’s all I know… Mike Smith is joining the Canadian team."

On Viktor Tikhonov (?):

Maloney: "I talked to him a few months ago and they’re waiting for the season to end over there (in the KHL) and then he’s going to do an evaluation of what he wants to do and what his contract status is. Basically, if he gets an all-World contract over there, he’s staying there. If he doesn’t then he’ll entertain the idea of coming back. We’ll see."

On Sean Burke’s status with the organization:

Maloney: "His position with us is going to be evaluated in the weeks ahead."

"I gave him permission (to talk to other teams). At the time I thought it was confidential, but anyone that wants to do a formal interview has to seek permission."

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