Wayne Gretzky may be the only recognizable name left in Phoenix today, after the Coyotes took the broom to the bulk of the front office staff of the woeful Desert Dogs on Wednesday.
Gone are long time friend Ron Barnett who had been the teams GM, assistant GM Laurence Gilman and senior executive vice-president of hockey operations Cliff Fletcher.
Barnett was Gretzky's long time agent and joined the Coyotes when Gretzky became a part owner and eventual head coach of the franchise. Gretzky will take on his job as well as those of the others fired on a temporary basis, while the Coyotes seek out a new team of managers to guide the team into 2007-08.
While it's expected that Gretzky will remain behind the bench next year, the resumes will begin to arrive from those looking for a challenge. The Coyotes were last in the NHL's western conference this year and featured a line up of young rookies and aging veterans which never seemed to mesh together on the ice very well.
It will be interesting to watch which names come forward for the position of GM, one to keep an eye for might be Pat Quinn, former GM of Toronto and Vancouver in recent years. He is said to have a good relationship with Gretzky and may provide the kind of stability in the upper office that the team will require to climb its way back into the win columns in the Western Division.
Depending on the fate of the Ottawa Senators, Gretzky's old coach John Muckler may want to trade the heat of the Ottawa scene for the heat of the Arizona sunshine.
And since Mark Messier has already nominated himself as heir apparent to Glen Sather, perhaps a parachute can be packed for Slats to land on a sand dune.
There very well may be other names out there anxious to put their stamp on a team and try to make hockey work in the desert.
Though short of putting the coach back into uniform, Phoenix is definitely a major rebuilding project, which will require patience from all.
Coyotes clean house
Wednesday, April 11. 2007
Wednesday, April 11. 2007
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Coyotes have cleaned house.
The NHL club announced Wednesday that GM Mike Barnett, assistant GM Laurence Gilman and Cliff Fletcher, senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, have all been fired. Head coach and part-owner Wayne Gretzky remains on board and will oversee all aspects of hockey operations in the interim.
"Our entire organization wishes each of them good luck in their future endeavours, and we sincerely thank them for their contributions to this franchise," Jeff Shumway, the Coyotes chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The organization will conduct a complete and thorough search for a general manager."
The Coyotes finished last in the Western Conference this season with a 31-46-5 record, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Barnett became Coyotes GM in August 2001, leaving the player agency business. He was Gretzky's longtime agent.
Fletcher joined the Coyotes in February 2001. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, Fletcher was GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1991 to 1997 following 19 years as GM with the Calgary Flames.
Gilman had served 13 seasons with the Coyotes — previously Winnipeg Jets — organization.