John Chayka Checks Out on Coyotes Before Reboot

Okay, so this Arizona Coyotes thing is just as Arizona Coyotes as it gets, right??

John Chayka quits the team days before the playoffs, this after another team requested to talk with him about a job and after owner Alex Meruelo and his team took over contract discussions with Taylor Hall. Seeing the writing possibly on the wall, Chayka bails and now the team is going to the league to see what they can do with his contract.

It’s hard to believe that Meruelo was said to be a fan of Chayka and his style, which lead to Chayka having his contract extended. Then Chayka goes and does this because the ownership group started to micro-manage talks with a pending free agent; which has to be an odd situation considering the Coyotes are almost at the cap limit as it is with Hall’s contract going to bring in much more that the $6M he’s getting now.

Obviously, Chayka is going to be blamed for the money issues– he is the GM afterall. But wouldn’t he have to get clearance from Meruelo or previous owner Andrew Barroway to even get the money for those moves??

When Chayka came in, he was the wunderkind of this new movement toward analytics some NHL teams were making. At just 26, Chayka came from an analytics company called Stathletes founded by himself and his sister Meghan. However, for Chayka; the only playoff appearance a team under his watch has seen is this one with the expanded playoff format, as they were fifth in the Pacific prior to the pause.

Are the Coyotes jackasses for undercutting the job of their GM in contract talks?? Sure, especially when he’s not present to get a write-off dinner out of it. Is Chayka a quitter and may have screwed his team over with the contract given?? Well, the numbers don’t really lie.

Is it a shocking surprise that it’s Arizona having to deal with this?? Kind of, especially when they looked to be going in the right direction for long-term growth. It’s almost a shame that it’s going down like this and playing out as chaotically as it is prior to the NHL Reboot. But so it goes with the Coyotes.

Does Domingue Desertion Signal Some Worse Happening in Arizona Personnel Wise??

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Louis Domingue/Photo via Syracuse.com

The on-ice product for the Arizona Coyotes isn’t the best. We all know that and the numbers can attest to that. However, with the story the Louis Domingue shared with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Power Play Podcast shows that maybe they’re failing more off-the-ice than people want to admit– not just in community relations and all of that, but with the handling of players overall.

Raw Charge on SBNation did a great job of recapping the episode hosted by Matt Sammon with clips from Brian Engeblom interviewing Domingue. It was a great tale of his time in the QMJHL with Patrick Roy, to him in constant Coyotes’ limbo, to him almost quitting hockey at 25. Yet, one thing stood out amongst the horrors of the Arizona experience for the young netminder:

For a good week and a half, I was left without ice or a gym or any support from the team. I was just home waiting for a call. They told me to rent my own ice [chuckles]. I was there – I gave call to my old friend Shane Doan. He came out with me on the ice in the afternoon with his son.

I rented the ice at midnight just to shoot pucks and skate around because I was tired of being at home.

Listen– it’s one thing to hang a guy in limbo by not sending him down to the minors right off the waiver wire, but to not even give him access to the team facilities when he’s STILL UNDER CONTRACT TO THE TEAM seems a little bit insane to me. Sure, I get it if you don’t want to send him to Tucson and throw a wrench in the solid season they’ve been having thus far with Hunter Miska in net and Adin Hill coming back around again. But why not loan him out somewhere. Obviously, he wasn’t in the plans, so do something like what Buffalo did with Matt Moulson and send him somewhere that needs/wants him.

Goaltending is a fickle thing made up of “What have you done for me lately??” around every turn, especially when it comes to teams that don’t have a proven starter who deserves the tenured leeway in order to succeed as a whole. Domingue had a rough go and with rough goes in Arizona overall– the goaltending will be the focus. Looking at his stats since getting into the Tampa Bay organization (11-4-0, 2.07GAA, .921Sv% in Syracuse), it just takes actual guidance and solid coaching in order to make a goalie who’s on the edge of oblivion to become an above-average goalie.

On the flip side– what the hell Coyotes’ organization?? There are problems all over the place with this team as a whole, then you hear this stuff and wonder if they do this with everyone. You look at how this situation and how the situation with Anthony Duclair went down and you wonder how there’s not more of an exodus or even worse stories coming from this team….and I’m sure there’s going to be more horror coming out as people start to set sail from there.

Now, I don’t know what the NHL can do with team business, but it seems insane to me that a CONTRACTED PLAYER is locked out of his team’s rink or gym because he was put on waivers and they didn’t want to send him to the NHL. Yes, they didn’t want him to get hurt because he’d be untradeable, but at the same time– how do you expect him to be desireable to other teams when he’s not playing ANYWHERE– AHL, ECHL, SPHL– to be displayed for anyone.

There seems to be something just not right with the Coyotes’ front office when it comes to dealing with their players. The way they set it up has been dragged every which way, especially with the analytics vs. non-analytics debate and the youth/inexperience of John Chayka when it comes to building said team. Whether it was Domingue and Duclair being ruined by a system that didn’t care to help make them better or if they just didn’t fit into the team’s plans– these stories and the hearsay coming from it makes you wonder what’s left to come out of the desert when it comes to player personnel.

Deserted Win Column

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The Arizona Coyotes are bad. Like….very bad. After 10 games, they still remain winless and only have one point to their name this year, an OT loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. With one more loss, they will match the 1943-44 New York Rangers with 11 losses to start a season.

On paper, this team isn’t bad. Hell, rookie Clayton Keller is almost better than advertised with seven goals and 11 points in the first 10 games, Max Domi has been a solid set-up man with seven helpers, but everyone else seems a little disjointed. You never know what to expect out of Anthony Duclair– though he seems to have found his scoring touch briefly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has contributed offensively, but defensively is a bit of a wreck, while the goaltending is right back in a sorry state thanks to Antti Raanta’s injury and the likes of Louis Domingue and Adin Hill not being able to pick up the slack.

It is a young season and I did say panic shouldn’t happen until 20 games in, but in dire situations like this where they haven’t had a win yet in the first month of the season– something needs to change and quickly in order to right the ship. But what will do that?? Is it as simple as Raanta coming back to right the ship?? Are the players not buying or getting Rick Tocchet’s philosophy?? Is the John Chayka vibe wearing thin already??

Whatever it is…it’s not the look that Coyotes wanted. A team that was already something of a punchline for fans that don’t live in Arizona is just making things worse with this start. If it’s just Raanta being out and he comes back to a big win-streak, then it’s a simple fix. If they play .500 or sub-.500 hockey when he comes back, then you look at Chayka and if he goes into some kind of sell mode…which will be hard when the things teams want to buy are your building blocks for a better future.

That all said– hang tight Coyotes fans…there’s something better on the horizon. I mean…there has to be right?? I mean, after all the crap you’ve been through– that light at the end of the tunnel is just fireflies and not a train, right?? Right??