Yesterday, the NHL’s general managers deemed Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney the best GM of the 2009-10 season. This makes Maloney the award’s first recipient.
The story states that Maloney beat out two other finalists: Nashville Predators GM David Poile and Washington Capitals GM George McPhee. (I have to admit that I’m surprised Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli wasn’t one of the final three. His move to land two first round picks for Phil Kessel could very well change the makeup of their team for years.)
Here’s a quick rundown of the moves Maloney made. I’ll discuss a few of the high points in greater detail.
Maloney, in his third season as General Manager of the Coyotes, steered the club through an uncertain and turbulent off-season, charting the course for the most successful regular season in franchise history. His biggest move was hiring head coach Dave Tippett, who guided the Coyotes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002 by posting a 50-25-7 record for 107 points and setting franchise records for wins, points and home wins (29) in a season.
Maloney added several players to the Coyotes roster over the summer, acquiring Radim Vrbata, Sami Lepisto, Lauri Korpikoski and Jim Vandermeer through trades while signing veteran free agents Adrian Aucoin, Vernon Fiddler, Jason LaBarbera, Taylor Pyatt and Robert Lang. Those players joined a veteran core that already included the likes of Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, Zbynek Michalek and Ilya Bryzgalov.
With the Coyotes already enjoying a breakout season, the acquisitions of forwards Lee Stempniak, Wojtek Wolski and Petteri Nokelainen plus defensemen Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider at the Mar. 3 trade deadline propelled the club to even greater heights as Phoenix won nine consecutive games following the trade deadline (Mar. 4-21) to tie a club record.
After the jump, I’ll look at some of Maloney’s best moves.
1. Hiring Dave Tippett as their head coach
Honestly, many hockey writers thought the Tippett hiring was a coup for the Coyotes, although I felt like he’d be in over his head in a tough situation in the desert. Still, few would have guessed just how wildly successful the former Dallas Stars coach would be. He transformed the team from a dreary Gretzky-coached mess to a squad that made the San Jose Sharks sweat out a Pacific division title race and gave the Detroit Red Wings fits in the first round of the playoffs.
2. Trading for Ilya Bryzgalov
OK, Maloney brought in “Breezy” during the 2008-09 season, but in reality it’s silly to judge a general manager by a single season when years of moves make an impact. Bryzgalov is far and away the team’s most indispensable player.
3. Acquiring Lee Stempniak
Maloney made some shrewd moves in the summer, but getting Stempniak during the trade deadline was one of the few moves in that frenzy that actually paid dividends for the teams involved. Stempniak played some amazing hockey as a Coyote.
The thing is, Maloney’s greatest challenges are probably ahead. The team has a host of free agents (including Stempniak) and isn’t out of the ownership woods just yet. All that aside, Maloney deserves the first ever award as the NHL’s best general manager.