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Maloney fired as general manager of Coyotes

Arizona missed playoffs for fourth straight season

by Jerry Brown / correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Don Maloney was fired as Arizona Coyotes executive vice president and general manager Monday, two days after the Coyotes missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Arizona president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc praised the work Maloney did during his nine-year tenure but said the decision was based on philosophical differences.

"We believe a change in leadership is needed in order to move our franchise to the next level," LeBlanc said. "Essentially, it is fair to say there has been a difference in philosophy in regards to how the ownership group would like to manage the operation moving forward.

"We wish to operate in a different manner and under a different overarching philosophy. This is about a few key points moving forward: Collaboration, communication and the modernization of our entire processes."

LeBlanc said assistant general managers John Chayka and Chris O'Hearn will manage the hockey operations department until a new general manager is hired. LeBlanc said that person will be in place well in advance of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which will be held June 24-25 in Buffalo.

Video: Anthony LeBlanc addresses the media

Maloney was named the NHL General Manager of the Year in 2010 and guided the Coyotes through a tumultuous era of ownership changes and clashes with the city of Glendale over issues with Gila River Arena.

Arizona missed the playoffs in Maloney's first three seasons but got in three straight starting in 2010, including advancing to the 2012 Western Conference Final.

The Coyotes are in the midst of a rebuilding project and improved by 11 wins and 22 points this season from 2014-15 when they finished last in the Western Conference.

Rookie forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair combined for 38 goals and 96 points, and a highly touted crop of prospects, headed by centers Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak, could join them in Arizona next season.

"This year had some success. It was a good next step," LeBlanc said. "It has to do more with the overall ecosystem. This decision is not being made because it's the fourth year of not making the playoffs."

LeBlanc said the Coyotes have studied the model of the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League and see their operations structure as a model for their future.

"A model of success in which ownership, management, coaches and the team itself interacts with each other," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said criticisms that ownership did not put enough money into the product were "somewhat short-sighted," and that Maloney had resources available that could have been used more wisely.

He pointed to the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators as teams that are in the bottom-third in the League in spending but made the playoffs this season.

"There is an absolute difference between spending money and spending money wisely," LeBlanc said. "We don't think our track record has been particularly stellar on that front.

"If you look over the last year, the Coyotes have absolutely been in the discussions in regards to either recruiting or attempting to recruit highly-touted free agents or re-signing players. Money was available to be spent and was not the reason transactions did not occur."

LeBlanc said Coyotes owners, with a background in technology and finance "are a strong believer in new trends that are emerging in sports, analytics being a big part of that. There are a lot of things that we can steal from other businesses."

LeBlanc said Chayka, 25, brought in for his analytical knowledge, was an upgrade for the organization this season.

"I really got to witness it in [our] war room in Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, the sheer amount of [analytical] knowledge he brings," LeBlanc said. "But it's not the be-all, end-all. We're not going to turn ourselves into a Wall Street firm and have 25 young kids crunching numbers. But there is a fine balance and that's what we're going to try to find."

LeBlanc said coach Dave Tippett and his staff would return next season. Tippett did not comment Monday.

The Coyotes were packing up their lockers Monday when the news broke of Maloney's departure.

"Don was the person who signed me and took a chance on me to be the starter here," goalie Mike Smith said. "He signed me to a contract that I was secure in with my family and I owe a lot to him and I'm sad to see him go.

"But it's a result-oriented business and when you don't make the playoffs for four years … someone takes the fall for it."

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