GLENDALE -- Steve Sullivan continues to quickly climb the ladder in his post-NHL playing career.
Sullivan, 42, recently was named Assistant General Manager for the Coyotes. The promotion comes after Sullivan spent the past three seasons anchoring the team's player development staff. Last season was his first as Director of Player Development.
Sullivan retired from playing after the 2012-13 campaign, his 16th in the League. He skated in 33 games for the Coyotes that season. While he knew he wanted to continue his career around the game, becoming a key cog in the team's management staff wasn't exactly on his radar.
"I definitely didn't see this coming, but I knew I absolutely wanted to stay in hockey," Sullivan said. "I think if you're lucky enough to play a long time in the League, you obviously have to have a passion for it, and that doesn't just stop when you retire. I had no idea in what aspect I wanted to stay in hockey, whether it was coaching or development or even broadcasting, but I knew that I did. In what area, I wasn't sure exactly. This just evolved through opportunities."
Sullivan plans to remain heavily involved with player development as Assistant General Manager. Under his watch, the Coyotes have established a strong core of up-and-coming players, many of whom made their debuts in the NHL this past season. The team's rookies combined to produce 110 points in 2016-17, second only to Toronto.
A big part of Sullivan's new gig will be managing the Tucson Roadrunners, Arizona's affiliate in the American Hockey League. The Roadrunners posted a 29-31-8-0 record in 2016-17, their first year of operation.
"You look at our team having success and it's about being able to develop from within," Sullivan said. "Our scouting staff, led by Tim Bernhardt, has done a fantastic job of drafting, so making sure we can continue developing those players and giving them opportunity will be the key moving forward. We did a great job in Tucson the first year, on the business side and on the hockey side. It was a trying year, obviously, with the Craig Cunningham incident. It was very emotional for our players and staff, but everything is in place and good to go. We don't need to make major changes at all. It's more about understanding where the holes are and what we will need for our young players to continue to develop with some great veterans, and getting some good people to help those young guys."
Sullivan has enjoyed working with Coyotes General Manager John Chayka. While Chayka's primary focus is on analytics, Sullivan brings a former NHLer's perspective into the mix. Sullivan notched 290 goals and 457 assists in 1,011 NHL games with New Jersey, Toronto, Chicago, Nashville, Pittsburgh and the Coyotes.
"We're both open-minded and both enjoy as much information as possible and that's why we have a really good relationship," Sullivan said. "I'm a former player, but I'm not that old school where I think there is no place in today's game for analytics. Information is power and we are using that to make ourselves better."
Chayka, Sullivan and the Hockey Operations Department are finalizing preparations for next month's NHL Draft, which is snugly sandwiched between the NHL Combine and expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights and then the team's annual Prospect Development Camp. It will be a busy time indeed, but Sullivan is confident the staff is prepared.
"I think we're in a great place and have a great stable of young players coming up," Sullivan said. "Whether those players are playing for us here or playing for us in Tucson, it's our job to make sure we are allowing them a chance to succeed and giving them the necessary time to develop. Every player is different and it's not the same path for everybody, so it's about getting them to buy into what their individual path is going to be."