It wasn't long ago that the Arizona Coyotes were finally shedding their past reputation and becoming a perennial playoff contender.
Beginning in 2009, the historically woebegone Coyotes went on a three-season hot streak that culminated in a division title and a run to the Western Conference final in 2012. (Yes, you can look it up: the Phoenix Coyotes were within three wins of playing for the Stanley Cup. Really. No, I'm not pulling your leg. Stop laughing.)
The most astounding thing of this run is that the Coyotes pulled it off totally under the cloud of their owner wrapping the team up in a neat little package and intending to dump it on Jim Balsillie's doorstep, only for the NHL to swoop in and grab the package at the post office before it made it to its final destination of Hamilton, Ontario.
Never mind winning the Jack Adams Trophy, which he did in 2010; for navigating that minefield, coach Dave Tippett deserved to have the damn thing named after him.
This year, though, the Coyotes have fallen back into their previous futile ways. Sixth in the Pacific Division, fifteen points out of a wild-card playoff spot, the Coyotes are already playing out the string in much the same way as the Hurricanes. Their leading scorer is a defenseman, Keith Yandle. Only four players have scored double-digit goals. Goaltender Mike Smith has completely lost his way, and he is backed up by something called Louis Domingue, who I'm not sure even Mrs. Domingue was aware is an NHL goaltender.
With the exception of the goaltending, does this sound at all familiar?
Ron Francis could stand to take a cue from Coyotes GM (and 2010 GM of the Year) Don Maloney. Following a conversation with new majority owner Andrew Barroway over the All-Star weekend, Maloney announced to the world via Pierre LeBrun that the Coyotes are open for business, and the likes of Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek, Martin Erat and a few others are on the block. Interested parties may inquire within.
For Maloney, it doesn't matter that the Coyotes are three years removed from a deep playoff run and have one of the best coaches in the game. He knows that this is the team's chance to unload some of the dead weight that may have been instrumental in that conference final appearance but is of minimal value to the team now.
Maloney, predictably, told LeBrun that it's a reset, not a rebuild, an understandable caveat for a team that can't afford to be seen spinning its wheels, lest the vultures (presumably driving Mayflower trucks) start circling the franchise again. Whatever he wants to call it, he knows that this is a lost season and is ready to cash in by selling his assets off to the highest bidder.
Francis doesn't have the luxury of quite as many tradeable assets approaching the trade deadline. Only Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Sekera will command any respectable return, so unless Francis is willing to move - and another team is willing to take on - a non-expiring contract (Nathan Gerbe? Ron Hainsey? Gulp...Cam Ward?) the return won't be great for the Hurricanes.
Still, it's February and the Canes are 20 points out of a playoff spot. In the same position 2,000 miles away, Maloney isn't allowing the Coyotes to spin their tires in the desert sand. As the trade deadline approaches, Francis should be similarly proactive.