Under pressure: John Chayka

john chayka leaves coyotes

This is part of Arizona Coyotes day at PHT…

After just being named the general manager of the team earlier this summer, John Chayka is obviously not on the hot seat. The pressure he might be facing is not one that has anything to do with job security. It has to do with the fact he might be the most-watched general manager in hockey and have every move scrutinized to a degree few other GM’s get, and it’s all going to come down to his age, his experience, and his background.

Even though he has only been managing the team for a few months he is already one of the most fascinating front office executives in the league.

He is the youngest GM in hockey (only 27 years old), was just hired by the team a year ago, and comes from an analytical background. His rise to one of the top positions in the league has been rapid and stunning, and his first summer assembling the team has been a promising one. He takes over a team that has a tremendous collection of young talent in Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and also added Alex Goligoski to that group. It’s a team that looks to be on the rise.

But even with the NHL going through a bit of an analytics revolution in recent years, with teams hiring (and firing) different consultants and analytics experts, there is still a lot of resistance and pushback to it both within the league and outside of it.

And because Chayka was labeled as an “analytics” guy the moment he joined the Coyotes organization, that tag is going to stick no matter how much or little it plays into the team’s decision-making. Every move he makes is going to be scrutinized from both sides with an avalanche of, “that’s a real analytics move right there,” or “you can’t make this move because it doesn’t take into account leadership or heart, and that’s the problem with analytics” commentary.

The Coyotes made a bold move to hire him, immediately make him the assistant general manager, and then promote him one year later to replace Don Maloney, a GM that has had a lot of success in the NHL.  Given their situation not being able to spend to the cap, they need to make bold moves. They are not going to win doing things the way everybody else does, and Chayka is definitely an out of the box move. Plus, anything that doesn’t involve recycling the same people with the same ideas is a good thing. The NHL needs some new ideas and some fresh approaches.

But his tenure in Arizona and the success or failure of the team, whether it’s fair or not (and it’s not), is going to become a major barometer for the use of analytics in hockey and its role. That is a lot of pressure.