Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Phoenix Hires GM Don Maloney

The Phoenix Coyotes have selected Don Maloney to replace Mike Barnett as their GM. Barnett had been fired earlier after Phoenix missed the playoffs.

Maloney is possibly a solid choice as GM. He was the New York Islanders GM from 1992 to midway through the 1995/96 season when Mike Milbury replaced him. His term as GM was uneventful for the Islanders. He didn't make any huge positive or negative moves. His biggest success was at he draft when he selected some talented players including Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and Wade Redden, who Milbury promptly traded away. Since then, Maloney has been in the New York Rangers head office, most recently serving as assistant GM and director of player personnel. He is given a lot of credit for the Rangers recent successes (if you consider a 15th place finish this season a success).

The problem in Phoenix had not been the identity of the GM. He wasn't the man making many of the decisions. The man in charge had been part owner and coach Wayne Gretzky who has stocked the team and front office with his friends instead of the most qualified choices. If that trend continues, it doesn't matter who is the GM because Phoenix will not succeed.

Maloney may be another friend of Gretzky hiring. He was in the Rangers front office when Gretzky was playing there. He has been an assistant GM on some of the Gretzky-ran Team Canadas. Hopefully, for Phoenix, Maloney will be in charge instead of Gretzky. If he is, then he might succeed. If he isn't then Phoenix should fail.

Here is the TSN story about Maloney's selection by Phoenix.

His term as GM was uneventful for the Islanders. He didn't make any huge positive or negative moves.

Wow, you'd get strung up on Long Island for saying that. Maloney decimated the Islanders: broke up the heart-and-soul team that made the '93 Conference Finals (Ferraro, Thomas, Hogue, Turgeon, et al); drafted "the better Lindros"; traded for Kirk Muller who refused to play in NY. Maloney is so hated in Isles country some even now think he was a spy sent by Rags to ruin the team.
Lets face it. A Ray Ferraro, Steve Thomas, Benoit Hogue, Pierre Turgeon team was not a serious Stanely Cup contender. Breaking that up would have happened under any GM. They were a 6th seed in 1993 who had missed the playoffs for two straight years before and they fluked their way to the semi-finals but they were no great team. Hard to blame him for drafting Brett Lindros - it was concussions that ruined him. Especially when Maloney has a good draft record overall. Although this isn't saying much, there hasn't been an Islander GM since Maloney who did as good a job as he did.
If Maloney was doing such a hot job as Isles GM, then why'd he get fired? The team he inherited may not have been Cup-worthy, but it was far better than the one he "built". He got terrible value for each of those pieces: Thomas for Wendal Clark, Hogue for Eric Fichaud... fans howled with outrage at each one of his new moves. Any draft success was down to the dynasty-era scouting dept.
Palffy came up full time the year after Maloney frittered away Turgeon; depriving the hockey world of seeing that pairing is a capital crime all by itself!
I am not claiming Maloney did a great job as Islanders GM. He didn't. It was at best unspectacular and unimpressive, but it wasn't an awful job either. Hockey people are often hired and fired. Its not a sign of incompetence. Its become a right of passage. Its very hard to find anybody who has been employed in the NHL for a long period of time without being fired at least once.
The man OK'd the fishstick jersey. I should rest there, but there are actual hockey reasons why Maloney was a poor GM in Uniondale.

The Ferraro/Thomas/Hogue/Turgeon team had four PPG players (Derek King went 38-38=76 in 77 games, which is close enough). As a result, they outscored opponents 335-297 on the season.

The defense was Krupp, Norton, Malakhov, Lachance, Pilon, Kurvers, and Kasparaitis - not "elite" by any means, but solid enough to build with. They had reasonable checkers (Flatley, McInnis, Green, Fitzgerald). They even had an entire roster with no player older than 30. Lachance was 20, and still promising; Turgeon was 23; Malakhov, 24; Hogue, 26. Even Ferraro and Thomas were under 30.

If anything was missing, it was the difference in the Montreal-Isles series - goaltending. Exit Glenn Healy, who played very well for New York, and enter Ron Hextall. People remember the series against the Rangers; they forget that Hextall's play is all that got them there. But after just one season they gave up on him, too, and blew up the team.

The Isles dealt their two most skilled players (Turgeon and Malakhov) in return for the malcontent Muller (never in Turgeon's class as a scorer) and Matheiu Schnieder (whom they only kept longer than 78 games). Both, btw, were older than the guys they replaced. The Isles then spun the goalie-go-round: Fichaud. Tommy Soderstrom. Tommy Salo (far the best of the lot, but by then stranded behind a gutted and demoralized team - and then Milbury ruined him too).

Not that Mad Mike hasn't been worse, or that some of this doesn't fall on ownership for refusing to pay for any of the developing talent the Isles actually had... but remember, Maloney hired Milbury as coach in the first place. Those few years really set the team back, in terms of talent and reputation.

And I have to say, it's silly to say that no GM since has done as well, since until this year, Milbury WAS the only GM since. It's not like four other guys made everything worse.

So far, Garth Snow's moves have been as good as can be expected, given the albatross of Yashin's contract and the skimpy defense corps he inherited, so I'd say that he's at least even with Maloney, who started with a better team that had a much better reputation.

Heck, given Sillinger, Witt, and Poti's play this year, I'd even give Neil Smith better marks for his 40 days than Maloney.
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