The Coyotes’ 2015-2016 season saw quite a bit of success. They had outstanding performances from rookies Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. Goaltender Mike Smith, who was out nearly half the season due to an upper-body injury, came back without missing a beat, winning 4-0 against the Oilers and posting two shutouts before the end of the season. For having missed those crucial middle 40 games, when most goalies are really starting to find their groove, Smith’s other stats weren’t too shabby either, finishing with a .916 SV% and 2.63 GAA. Captain Shane Doan scored more goals than he has since ‘08-’09, and Brad Richardson hit a career high 31 points.
Trade saw the departure of Mikkel Boedker, but veteran winger Alex Tanguay filled his skates nicely, finding an instant connection with his new line mates, Vermette and Duclair (the three combined for 9 points in Tanguay’s debut with the Coyotes). Whether or not Tanguay will stay with the Coyotes for the next season remains to be seen, but with such a great performance and natural chemistry, fans should certainly hope he sticks around. Good things happened this year for the Coyotes franchise. Yet, Arizona is still ending their fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth, 20 points behind in their division. As such, it’s not entirely surprising that Saturday’s reports from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman have put the future of Coyotes’ Head Coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney into question.
UPDATE: As of Monday, Don Maloney will no longer be working with the Coyotes organization. An official report from the Coyotes’ website stated that he was relieved from his duties without the Coyotes naming an interim GM. Dave Tippett still has two years under contract, and its believed that he would like to stay with the team at least until then.
Regardless of this season’s outcome, the consequence for Maloney comes as a bit of a surprise to some. Almost all of the Coyotes’ team building efforts and on-ice successes in the last seven years have been largely facilitated by Maloney and Tippett, with scouting efforts and input from on-ice leaders being taken into consideration as well. The whole team finally seems to be on the same page, and then we lose our GM. In Friedman’s report, he did note that “Dave Tippett and Don Maloney have done a great job under very difficult circumstances”.
Even more surprising is that the Coyotes are looking at building a new arena to attract younger followers and provide better accessibility to a larger percentage of Valley hockey fans. There is a potential NHL expansion on the horizon. It seems an odd decision that, at this point in the Coyotes’ restructuring efforts (going on since the much more successful 2011-2012 season), they would remove one of the key planners in building their roster. What’s done is done, as they say.