Why Don Maloney received first-ever GM of the year award

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maloney.jpgYesterday, 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.


tippett.jpg1. 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.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.