Coyotes made GM change to get to 'next level'

Posted at 2:24 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-11 20:22:52-04

It was simply a matter of creative differences. 

That's the nutshell version of what Arizona Coyotes president, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc said Monday after the Coyotes announced that long-time general manager Don Maloney has been relieved of his duties

"We believe a change in leadership is needed in order to move our franchise to the next level," LeBlanc said, adding "it is fair to say there has been a difference in philosophy" as far as how to move the team forward.

"We don't believe in just being a playoff team; we believe in being a championship team"

Maloney served as the Coyotes' general manager since 2007 and was the NHL General Manager of the Year in 2010. 

The Coyotes missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season but made significant improvements in 2015-16. After finishing the 2014-15 season with a Western Conference-worst 56 points, they earned 78 points this season and were in playoff contention for most of the year.

But LeBlanc said the differences in vision between Maloney and the ownership group were just too great, and the process of searching for a new GM has already begun.

"At the end of the day, once you spend time together and see how people operate, you make a decision that maybe it'd be for the best to move in a different direction," he said. "We've had many a debate internally about what we need to get to that next step as an organization.

"We've said it all along: We don't believe in just being a playoff team; we believe in being a championship team," LeBlanc added, citing the example set by the Arizona Cardinals, which advanced to last season's NFC Championship game after posting the best regular-season record in franchise history.

"There is a difference between spending money and spending money wisely"

LeBlanc acknowledged Maloney made some tremendous personnel moves during his nine seasons as Coyotes GM. But LeBlanc was sensitive to criticism that the Coyotes didn't spend enough money going after top-level NHL talent during Maloney's tenure.

"We understand that we are being accused today in the court of public opinion of not putting enough money into this program ... I'm here to tell you that is somewhat shortsighted," he said. "There is a difference between spending money and spending money wisely."

LeBlanc noted a number of teams that made this season's Stanley Cup playoffs are among the bottom of the NHL in terms of overall player payroll, while each of the four highest-spending teams failed to advance to the postseason.

With that said, LeBlanc said the Coyotes will look to acquire some top free agents during the upcoming offseason.

"I do anticipate we're going to be active in free agency," he said, but noted "we're just not going to spend money for the sake of spending money, that's for sure."