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GM Maloney discusses Coyotes success on NHL Hour

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Entering Thursday night's game in Florida, the Phoenix Coyotes held a 43-22-5 record, good for 91 points and fourth place in the Western Conference. For a franchise that hasn’t tasted postseason play in eight years and which faced a very uncertain future just six months ago, this qualifies as an unquestionable success story.

Speaking as a guest on Thursday’s NHL Hour With Gary Bettman, Phoenix GM Don Maloney said that while the extent of the Coyotes’ turnaround might be a bit of a surprise, he believed coming into the season that his team was destined for better times.

"At the end of last year we were 8-3-1 in our last 12 games, and I really thought in the offseason that we improved in the areas that we really needed to improve in," Maloney said. "We knew going in we had limited resources in the sense of chasing the higher-end stars in the game, so what our approach was to really look at needs.

"Phoenix is a great city and it’s a great sports city and can be a great hockey city. But it’s no different than the place we’re in tonight, Florida, and Tampa and Atlanta. You have to have success. You have to get to the playoffs. You have to win. You don’t have to win the Cup every year, but you have to show the fans that yes we know what we’re doing, yes we’re going to get in the playoffs, yes we have a chance to win in the playoffs."
-- Don Maloney

"We had the worst faceoff team in the League last year, so we signed Vernon Fiddler who’s a terrific faceoff player and very good on the penalty kill. Our penalty-killing was second-worst in the conference. Our power play wasn’t very good, so we were able to sign a veteran like Robert Lang to a relatively modest contract.

"So it wasn’t any great big moves, but all in all I thought coming out of the offseason into our season, I thought we’d be better."

With the Coyotes being sold to the League, which intends to resell to an owner who will keep the franchise in the Glendale area, one question involved whether the team would be able to spend enough money to be competitive.

At the trade deadline, Maloney was able to bolster their roster heading into the playoffs by adding forwards Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski and defensemen Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider.

"It really has not been any different than the two prior seasons" in terms of the financial end, Maloney said. "There was a budget negotiated last May that as long as I stayed within that budget I have the authority to make whatever deals I could."

Overall, he said everyone involved with the organization has handled the tumult of the past year admirably.

"In all candor, I really give (coach) Dave Tippett and his staff a lot of credit," Maloney said. "From the day he walked in here we were able to take all of the external challenges we had -- the uncertainty of the ownership situation in our case -- and leave them outside the locker room and really just focus on we can control.

"Phoenix is a great city and it’s a great sports city and can be a great hockey city. But it’s no different than the place we’re in tonight, Florida, and Tampa and Atlanta. You have to have success. You have to get to the playoffs. You have to win. You don’t have to win the Cup every year, but you have to show the fans that yes we know what we’re doing, yes we’re going to get in the playoffs, yes we have a chance to win in the playoffs."

Tippett, who made the playoffs in his first five seasons coaching in Dallas, including an appearance in the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago, brought stability to the franchise as soon as he was named to replace Wayne Gretzky behind the bench.

"The most stress, quite frankly, I had was probably last September was trying to get Dave Tippett convinced to come and join us, because I thought he was the galvanizing coach that could bring this group together," said Maloney, who hired Tippett during training camp. "Once it was determined that Wayne Gretzky was not coming back, to me there was one option and there wasn’t a Plan B."

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