McConnell's Blog: Coyotes Riding Wave of Momentum
GLENDALE -- Momentum can be wonderful, especially when it comes to professional sports.
We’ve all been witness to it over the past several weeks in relation to the Coyotes, who’ve been riding the hockey wave (literally) for quite some time.
But if you go back to the week prior to Memorial Day, that wave began to build and the subsequent momentum it has created will go a long way in shaping the future and fortunes of the franchise.
“A leap of faith” has been a phrase long associated with the Coyotes organization. And it appears that faith, its hockey loyalty, is set to pay off in spades.
Maybe captain Shane Doan’s signing last summer was foreshadowing for better fortunes to follow for the franchise.
Photo by Norm Hall.
Such faith this off-season can be traced to May 24, the day Don Maloney signed a long-term contract extension to remain the team’s general manager. Twenty days later, Vice President of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving re-enlisted for another tour of duty as well. As it turned out, both decisions ignited a flurry of activity off the ice likely to shape the fortunes of the organization for seasons to come.
Maloney and Treliving’s “faith” became the catalyst for Head Coach Dave Tippett re-signing with the club for five more seasons. All three have enjoyed close professional and personal relationships, a fact that wasn’t lost on the team’s bench boss who’s guided the team the past four campaigns.
“I just felt this was the best fit because of the people you get to work with,” Tippett said. “We all have a similar vision for how we’d like to build this team. We put a foundation in place, but it’s about taking it to the next level.”
See where I’m heading?
Chances are, had Maloney decided to leave, Tippett would have done the same. The Coyotes bench boss appeared to have plenty of options earlier in the off-season and was often rumored as a candidate for most, if not all, of the open coaching positions around the League. In the end, he decided to stay.
And had either Maloney or Tippett decided to leave, chances are goaltender Mike Smith would have exercised his right to do so via unrestricted free agency. Instead, with all of the management pieces in place, Smitty locked into a new long-term contract likely to keep him with the team for the rest of his career. Obviously, his relationship with Tippett played a critical role, as did his close ties with goaltending coach Sean Burke, who also signed on to an extension earlier this summer.
As team management continued to create an off-season buzz with off-ice moves and player signings, they got the biggest boost possible last week when the Glendale City Council approved the new arena lease deal, ushering in a new, dynamic ownership team that’s committed to the success of the franchise in the Valley for years to come. The council’s approval wipes away four years of uncertainty and frustration and allows the team to compete for players on an even playing field with the rest of the league.
Welcome to Christmas in July.
The momentum continued last Friday on the first day of the free agency period when Maloney signed coveted free agent forward Mike Ribeiro to a long-term deal. Uncertainty off the ice was vanquished in favor of certainty at the center position.
And besides Maloney, who else played a major role in Ribeiro signing in the desert? Yep, you guessed it. Dave Tippett. It was his relationship with the playmaking center during their time with the Dallas Stars that made the move out west so appealing.
“Being able to have a coach (Tippett) that trusts you in different situations will make me play more comfortable and more freely to do what I have to do,” Ribeiro said on the day he signed.
Suddenly, the Coyotes are an appealing option for free agents, now that the team has stabilized on all levels. Couple this with the lifestyle of a world class resort destination like the Phoenix area has to offer, it’s no wonder why players will look closely at their options in the Valley in the future.
“There wasn’t a free agent or pending free agent in the marketplace that didn’t call us and want to talk about coming to Arizona to play hockey, and that’s the one thing I was really encouraged by,” Maloney said last week.
That’s great news indeed for an organization that knows a thing or two about loyalty and dedication to the product.