GMDM: The Don Maloney era


Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, lovingly known to Coyotes fans as GMDM, has been at the job since 2007. He won admiration first with his team, then across the league, winning GM of the Year in 2010.

Maloney has a lot more to his resume, though, than being a key cog in the Coyotes ascent to the 2012 Western Conference Final. For some, he may even be most well known as a pitchman.

Yes, that’s Maloney as a member of the New York Rangers, appearing in a commercial for Sassoon Jeans. It might be best not to talk to him about this.

All kidding aside, though, Maloney actually began what would be a pretty solid career with the New York Rangers, playing alongside his brother Dave. It began in 1979 with a season where he would put up 73 points in 79 games, and took off from there. Don spent 11 seasons with the Rangers, three of which he spent as an assistant captain, before winding down his career with the Whalers and Islanders.  He ended his career with 564 points in nearly 800 NHL games. All those minutes with the Rangers earned Maloney a spot at number 26  in the top 100 Ranger greats in a book written by Russ Cohen.

Maloney’s playing career certainly paved the way for his success as GM of the Coyotes, and his tenure got off to a roaring start. The Coyotes had the third pick in the 2007 entry draft, and with that pick selected Kyle Turris (ranked the number one North American skater by central scouting at the time, ahead of some guy named Patrick Kane) Of course, we all know how that worked out; but later that year, Maloney made up for it in a different way.

“He is a solid building block in the foundation of this franchise and we look forward to a great future for Kyle with the Coyotes” – Don Maloney on Turris; 6-22-2007

In Nov. 2007, Maloney picked up a goalie off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks. This goalie may have been a little too into the universe- but he would prove to be one of the biggest keys to the Coyotes’ success. Ilya Bryzgalov, for all his eccentricities, would help the team immensely during the first several years of the Maloney/Tippett era.

Bryzgalov went on to finish second in the voting for the Vezina Trophy during the 2009-2010 season. That season, the Coyotes finished with a franchise best 107 points before falling to the Red Wings in game seven of their first round playoff series.

Maloney’s success continued the next season with the signing of Ray Whitney. Some said the 38-year-old was on his last leg, but  Whitney had a couple of huge seasons and was a big piece of the Coyotes’ success. Since his departure, the Coyotes and Maloney haven’t been able to replicate the lighting in a bottle that was “The Wizard.”

Other notable big time moves by Maloney include acquiring Lee Stempniak via trade (Still trying to figure out where he was hiding in the playoffs), and the re-signing of Radim Vrbata in 2011. Still, the biggest and best move Maloney has made in his tenure may have been the signing of a little known backup goalie who had been waiting to get his shot at a full-time starting job in the NHL.

You probably know who I’m talking about- the man on the bad side of the butt goal himself; Mike Smith.

Smith, of course, has gone on to be a fan favorite and was quite possibly the biggest key to the Coyotes’ success on their journey to the conference final against the Kings. That series, however, was the top of the mountain- recently, Maloney has been more miss than hit with his moves (outside of the draft, which has been a big success, as chronicled by Adam Pierce).

You may recall some noteable poor choices- the re-signing of Matthew Lombardi, the signing of Gilbert Brule, the trade for David Rundblad, and of course, the big Mike Ribiero experiment. Maloney was signed to a long-term contract extension prior to last season, and should be around for awhile- but after missing the playoffs the last two seasons, his job is no longer as iron-clad as it once was.

“”We have a strong core of talented people, both on and off the ice, who are committed to building a championship team and a first class organization. I would like to thank NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly for their tremendous support these past few years.” -Don Maloney  after signing his contract extension

Over his years with the team, you have to imagine that Maloney has earned himself a few extra seasons at the helm. He has gotten so much out of  a team with a payroll that ranks near the bottom of the league- under him, the Coyotes have earned three playoff appearances, and last season nearly became a fourth.

The biggest upside that Maloney has in his favor is how well he and the Coyotes’ brass have drafted over the last few seasons. Shouldn’t Maloney get a chance to see those prospects show their worth in the big leagues? If by then the Arizona Coyotes aren’t back in the playoffs, then- and ONLY then- may it become time for a change of leadership.

Comment below with your thoughts on GMDM’s best and worst moves.