A sixth straight home loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Following Thursday’s listless 4-0 defeat to L.A. at Gila River Arena, the Arizona Coyotes shook things up in a major way (by Coyotes standards, anyway) on Friday: Kyle Chipchura was waived, Rob Klinkhammer was traded and David Schlemko was sent to the minors.
On their way up? Andrew Campbell, a 26-year-old defenseman that’s appeared in just three NHL games and 22-year-old Jordan Martinook, the club’s second-round pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft who’s yet to make his big-league debut.
Those two will join the likes of Connor Murphy (21 years old) Tobias Rieder (21), Brandon McMillan (24), Michael Stone (24) and Brandon Gormley (22, on injured reserve) as some of the young faces on the active roster.
The shakeup shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Coyotes held a team meeting following last night’s embarrassing loss and, on Saturday, GM Don Maloney reportedly threatened to ship out some of the team’s players.
It’s the most definitive move Maloney’s made in recent months.
The organization has repeatedly flip-flopped on philosophy this season; in September, Maloney said Arizona would make a “concerted effort” to give young prospects a shot at making the NHL, and gave a sobering preview of what he expected for the year.
“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” he said, per Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.”
That approach didn’t last long.
In early October, the club scrapped the proposed youth movement — sending first-rounders Max Domi to junior and Henrik Samuelsson back to the AHL — because, according to Maloney, the Coyotes “need to be a playoff team.”
“We just think for our franchise right now, we have to be competitive,” he explained, per the Arizona Republic. “We need to be a playoff team. That’s what’s going to get people excited and in the building.
“Nobody has an appetite to just throw in the towel.”
In late October, Maloney flip-flopped again. He said the team was “not anywhere good enough,” adding “we need to get better or things are going to change around here.”
Last week, the GM seemed to be at his breaking point with his struggling team, one that currently sits second from bottom in the Pacific Division and 13th in the Western Conference.
“When you take a hard look at where you’re at relative to the competition and when you take a look at what’s happening around the league, I think that’s where we need to take this team,” Maloney said, per FOX Sports Arizona. “The team speed and tempo and pace that we play at it is not as high as it needs to be. The way you get more quickness is generally with younger players and you see that all around the league.
He added, “The last three to four years, we’ve been reaching down to older, veteran players and that’s how we started the season, but we haven’t gotten the results we had hoped to get.”
Given today’s moves, all eyes will probably turn to two of Arizona’s key assets: Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle. Vermette’s a UFA at season’s end and already at the center of trade talks; Yandle’s rumored to have been on the block for what feels like three years, and is only under contract for one more season.
All of this, of course, comes with the franchise purchase by Andrew Barroway still looming. The transaction will reportedly be approved soon, at which time Arizona could make even more moves in an effort to further embrace the youth movement — or, make a potential foray into the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes.