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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
I just spoke to Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney via telephone and congratulated him on winning the NHL’s inaugural General Manager of the Year Award on Wednesday.

“First of all, I’m very honored and humbled to receive this award,” Maloney said from Philadelphia where he is attending a meeting of NHL general managers and Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Having said that, I feel that everyone in our organization deserves recognition for what we accomplished together while going through all of the struggles the franchise went through off the ice.”

Don Maloney
Maloney made several key player acquisitions last summer – Adrian Aucoin, Vernon Fiddler and Jason LaBarbera to name a few – that resulted in the Coyotes posting a franchise record 50 wins and 107 points. He did all those moves, of course, while working on a league-mandated budget.

“The challenge last summer wasn’t convincing players to come to Phoenix, it was finding the right players who fit into our financial situation,” Maloney said. “We were able to do a good job of that and we also did a nice job of keeping all of the franchise issues out of our consciousness.”

Sensing the Coyotes were not fully equipped for a deep playoff run, Maloney acquired five more players – Lee Stempniak, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Morris, Petteri Nokelainen and Mathieu Schneider - just before the NHL trade deadline in March. The trades triggered a nine-game winning streak and paved the way for the team’s first postseason berth since 2002.

“The last few games before the Olympic break we started to become concerned about the way we were playing,” Maloney said. “Then, in our first game back from the break, St. Louis came into our building and pushed us around pretty good. That was troubling. But the key I thought was we didn’t panic, we just decided we needed to do some tweaking. Fortunately, some deals came our way that made sense and we didn’t have to give up any key assets.”

Maloney told me he felt the Coyotes were unlucky to draw the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs because Detroit was playing so well at the time. Still, the Coyotes pushed the Wings to seven games before being bumped.

"We are extremely proud of Don Maloney for earning this tremendous honor," Coyotes President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Moss said. "Don and his staff worked tirelessly throughout a difficult summer last year to build a playoff-caliber team and hire a world-class head coach in Dave Tippett. As the architect of a team that posted the most successful season in franchise history, Don was truly deserving of this award."

Don Maloney
Coyotes captain Shane Doan agreed.

"I'm glad that Don received this recognition," Doan said. "Obviously, the experts at the beginning of the year were wrong, and the moves Don made at the NHL trade deadline enabled us to finish fourth overall during the regular season while breaking numerous franchise records."

Before we hung up, I asked Maloney if he felt this off-season would be more challenging than last off-season considering the bar is set higher and he still is operating under a league-mandated budget.

“It should be right on par with last year,” Maloney said. “Although, unlike last year, we have our coaching staff securely in place in June instead of late September and we have a real solid goaltending tandem. In those areas, we are miles ahead of where we were a year ago.”

Maloney noted that he recently met with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and that a player budget for 2010-11 is in place.

“Now it’s a matter of sifting through who fits and who doesn’t,” Maloney said.
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