If you’re one of those freaks like us that hopes one day hockey management might be moved out of the caves and stop being afraid of the sun, there’s a part of you that wants the John Chayka’s of the world to succeed. Someone is going to have to be first through the wall. It’s not Kyle Dubas in Toronto, who apparently is locked in a dark room 20 hours a day and is only let out to bathe and eat. There aren’t really any other stat-boys in GM chairs or even listened to by those in the GM chairs. The Florida experiment crashed and burned already and now Dale Tallon is trying to light the ashes on fire.
The early returns on Chayka aren’t wholly promising, though not a clear disaster either.
Chayka’s first draft saw the Coyotes with two first round picks, and both have been mainstays in the NHL this season. Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun have both flashed being top line/top pairing talent at times as well. So on that end, that’s a success. But it takes more than getting first round picks right. No other pick from the 2016 draft has come up for air yet, and neither has anyone from the last draft. Fine, whatever.
Chayka got a chance to set a new direction for the team when he got to hire his own coach this past summer. Dave Tippett finally had enough of losing in the desert and organizational chaos. And on the evidence we have so far, Chayka whiffed on this one to the point where he Javy Baez’ed and fell down. While Rick Tocchet might not have a ton of talent to work with, it’s got to be better than this. The Yotes are the worst team in the league, and basically their underlying numbers say they should be. They can’t even pin it on goaltending, as Antti Raanta has been fine when healthy, though his fill-ins haven’t been. Still, there have to be better trends for us to conclude that Tocchet has any idea what he’s doing after another “huh?” stint in Tampa. Then again, there might not have been too many coaches lining up to take over what has been a basketcase organization for a decade now. Though you could also argue that would be the perfect setting to give a younger, non-old boys club candidate a chance.
Worse yet for the Yotes, he’s not developing the young talent that’s there. Max Domi had a very promising rookie year two seasons ago. He had an injury-marred one last year. He has three goals this year, and now there are whispers that the Yotes are kicking the tires on finding him a new home. Anthony Duclair asked out as he didn’t want to be a part of this mess anymore. Dvorak and Rieder look to have stalled out a bit. It’s not enough.
Chayka’s trades and signings have been…strange. Yes, Duclair asked out and that handcuffs a GM a bit. But for an older player like Richard Panik who’s going to continue to be Richard Panik? At least take on someone else’s project so there’s hope. Alex Goligoski has been nothing short of a disaster. Derek Stepan has been ok, and if he’s here to just be an example to younger kids that’s fine. He at least grifted Tallon for Jason Demers, and if he really wants he can probably cash that chip in at the deadline too. Again, he decided to get older by swapping out Connor Murphy for Niklas Hjalmarsson, perhaps at the behest of Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But now he might have to ship out OEL, too. And just what the fuck is Zac Rinaldo doing here at all?
So far, OEL has made no noise about wanting to leave. If he were to, this deadline is when his value would be at its highest. A team acquiring him would get two playoff runs with him before he breaks the bank at 27. Otherwise you’re getting 75-cents on the dollar. Or you’re keeping him, but then you’d better draft really well and soon.
The Coyotes, if they’re on an upswing, don’t appear to be on nearly as quick of one as other rebuilding teams like the Avs or Devils. At some point this has to be kicked into high gear. Are you doing that if you lose all of Domi, Murphy, and Duclair? Is Keller enough?
And we wait for our hockey Billy Beane some more…
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