PHILADELPHIA – Don Maloney is being rewarded for what he called a “nightmare”—guiding the ownerless Phoenix Coyotes to the most successful regular season in franchise history.
He was named the winner of the NHL general manager of the year award Wednesday.
Maloney’s biggest move was hiring head coach Dave Tippett, who guided the Coyotes to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Phoenix posted a 50-27-5 record for 107 points and set franchise records for wins and points in a season.
“It’s certainly humbling,” Maloney said after a day-long GMs meeting at a down town hotel. “It was more a reflection of the organization’s success, starting with a great job of coaching.
“And the players were able to rally against a tough situation internally.”
Maloney helped steer the Coyotes through an uncertain and turbulent off-season in which the NHL ended up financing the club. A seemingly endless process of finding an owner still shows no sign of a resolution.
“The nightmare continues,” he said with a laugh. “I spent a lot of time with (NHL deputy commissioner) Bill Daly working out how we’re going to operate in this period.
“It’s agreeing to a player budget and then we have a lot of free agents, so we’ll talk to him and see who we can sign and where we’ll have to look. It’s really no different than the other 29 teams.”
This season, he also added several players to the team’s roster, including Radim Vrbata, Jim Vandermeer, Adrian Aucoin, Taylor Pyatt and Robert Lang.
At the trade deadline, Maloney acquired Lee Stempniak, Wojtek Wolski, Petteri Nokelainen, Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider. The Coyotes went on to finish fourth in the Western Conference before losing to Detroit in the first round of the post-season.
Now the challenge will be to repeat this season’s success or even go farther. The Coyotes were knocked out in the second round after a tight series with the veteran Detroit Red Wings.
“We certainly want to build on last year,” he said. “We still need to win. We got to the playoffs, which was our goal, but next year it’s winning that counts.”
Maloney accepted the award at the annual GMs meeting at the Stanley Cup final. George McPhee of the Washington Capitals and David Poile of the Nashville Predators were also considered for the honour.
Maloney, 51, joined the Coyotes in May 2007 following 10 years in the front office of the New York Rangers.
Voting for the new award was conducted among the 30 club general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media at the end of the regular season.