At this point, it’s uncertain if the Phoenix Coyotes are influenced by the current set of events.
Here are their Pacific Division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, battling for the Stanley Cup. The Kings’ teamwork, dedication, production, results, purpose and discipline are all the envy of the league.
But not quite the Coyotes.
In assessing his team after missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney wants to put his team on course, not as a look of the Kings, but using the Detroit Red Wings as his model.
In addressing reporters after the Coyotes were eliminated from Stanley Cup competition in mid-April and again June 5 after meeting with fans in a town hall environment, Maloney reiterated that he looks at the Red Wings as the blueprint for success in the NHL.
“That’s our model,” Maloney told reporters in mid-April. “They make the playoffs every year, they’re exciting to watch, they sell out their building every night and have a strong history of success.”
There are many things to like about the Red Wings but Maloney should take note of their drafting. Teams get better through the draft, and the Red Wings, historically, have built their success through the draft.
Currently, the impact players have all been drafted.
In the 1998 draft, the Wings took Pavel Datsyuk on the sixth round and the 171st player selected. Coming into this past season, Datsyuk is sixth on the Wings all-time scoring list. Not only has Datsyuk been one of the most prolific scorers in Detroit history, he is considered an excellent two-way player.
In 1999, the Wings took forward Henrik Zetterberg on the seventh round and the 210th overall selection. Coming into last season, Zetterberg was ninth on the Wings all-time scoring list.
In subsequent years, the Wings draft selections have made enormous contributions to the success of the franchise. These include defenseman Niklas Kronwall, a first round pick in 2000 and 29th overall. Also, they added forward Johan Franzen, who was a third round pick in 2004 and 97th overall and goalie Jimmy Howard, who was a second round pick in, 64th overall pick in 2002.
As well, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, all draft picks, continue to make important contributions on the current roster.
If the Coyotes are to use the Red Wings as their model, Maloney can best take a page from the Detroit blueprint for success and draft well.
When the Red Wings were established May 15, 1926, the NHL was in its infancy and the state of Arizona was only 14 years old. While a semblance of the old West still permeated the Desert Southwest, the Wings started to build a history.
First, Jack Adams brought minor success right after their founding, but the Wings began to flourish when James Norris, Sr., a grain millionaire, bought the team in 1932. From there, names like Sid Abel, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Mickey Redmond, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg flew into the history books, and now, the Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs 23 consecutive years.
At this point in their history, the Coyotes are far from a storied past and show only isolated pockets of postseason participation. Yet, the journey ahead begins with the first step, and if the Coyotes can learn and thrive from one of the most successful franchises in professional sports, they have taken a critical first step.
That leap could start with the upcoming NHL draft in Philadelphia at the end of this month and the signing of free agents this offseason. Yet, both events do not hold any prospect for immediate help.
When drafting now, players tend to take several years to develop, and team management tends to be more conservative when it comes to player development.
Plus, this year’s free-agent crop is light.
“It should be an interesting market,” Maloney told reporters right after the season ended in mid-April. “One team last season which benefited from free agency was Minnesota, and they went on to qualify for the playoffs. We don’t have those caliber players, like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, available this year.”
If the Coyotes are to gain any talent this year through the draft, they pick at No. 12 in the first round. Last June, at No. 12, they chose forward Max Domi, whom Maloney said will get a serious look in the fall training camp.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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