Former Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney was hired as a pro scout by the Calgary Flames this week.
His decades of executive experience include his first crack at being at the helm of an NHL team, when he was the GM of the New York Islanders from 1992 to 1995.
That job in particular was an experience from which he learned.
“The first time I was quite young – 33. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, to be honest with you,” admitted a candid Maloney during a Wednesday appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960. “I was completely flying from the seat of my pants. I cringe at some of the decisions I made. They were all for the right reasons. But really, I think taking a step back, after getting told to leave the Island and never return – and then I worked 10 years in New York with Glen Sather and had some success toward the end there. And then another nine out here in Arizona.
“I just think you can’t buy experience. You have to live through it. You hope you make better decisions the second time around. I know if I ever get another chance, I’ll hopefully learn from my past errors.
“It’s a cliché, but the bottom line is there are no shortcuts in this game. You can’t cheat the system. You have to put in the work. You have to grind it out. You have to get the games. Watch games. Study games. Analyze games. Open your minds to analytics and what they can bring to the table. Hopefully you have a good staff around you that have that common goal.
“I’m regenerated. I’m excited about getting back into the rinks.”
Maloney’s assessment of his time with the Islanders matches up with what their then-COO offered up via The New York Times in 1995 following his firing of the GM.
“Unfortunately, Don Maloney is probably better qualified to be a general manager in this league now than he was four years ago,” said Ralph Palleschi then. “He earned his master’s degree in hockey at the Islanders.”
Maloney, incidentally, did go on to win the NHL’s inaugural General Manager of the Year award in 2010 while with the Coyotes.
His nearly-decade long Arizona tenure was certainly not boring.
“It’s been well-chronicled, we had our share of trials and tribulations,” chucked Maloney. “It’s amazing to think back. When I came in, Wayne Gretzky was the coach and managing partner, and probably the main reason why I was hired here in the first place. So Wayne was here for two years. Then we hit the bankruptcy and all the fallout for three or four or five years. They all start to run together with me. And then this new ownership group.
“I felt for the most part we were all about survival here. It wasn’t a long-term plan. It was all trying to get through the day. We were obviously a lower-spending club. You never try and equate spending with winning, but at some point you have to spend to a certain level to have success. That’s the reality. There’s outliers, of course. There’s a team that might be a lower-spending team that might win a round or two, but to have sustained success, you have to be able to spend like the big boys.
“So long story short, I thought we had some success. The last few years, I mean we missed the playoffs four years in a row. I’m the manager. Somebody had to be responsible. I am responsible. I do think the Coyotes are on the right track. I think they have a stable of young players that if they continue to progress, they could be a team to be reckoned with in the future.
“But that’s all in the past now. I’m a Flame, and I’m looking at the Flames players and saying, ‘How are we going to beat those Coyotes?’ That’s my focus right now.”
Source: Sportsnet 960/ Transcript: Nichols