Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Paul Betit email@example.com
PORTLAND - It began with Portland Mayor Nicholas M. Mavodones Jr. presenting Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney with a key to the city.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer Don Maloney, the Phoenix Coyotes GM, introduced himself Thursday to Portland, along with the Pirates new GM, Brad Treliving, left, and Coach Ray Edwards.
It ended with a workman removing the banner of the Buffalo Sabres from the rafters of the Cumberland County Civic Center and hanging the banner of the Portland Pirates' new NHL parent in its place.
In between, more than 100 fans listened as Maloney, Phoenix assistant general manager Brad Treliving and new Pirates coach Ray Edwards talked about their plans for the AHL team during a 90-minute meet and greet Thursday at the Civic Center.
A little more than two weeks ago, after the Sabres said they were moving their minor league operation back to Rochester, N.Y., it was announced that the Coyotes were switching their AHL affiliation from San Antonio to Portland.
"The commute to Phoenix is a little longer but we're willing to sacrifice that to be in the right development situation," Maloney said. "We're not the Rangers. We're not the Maple Leafs. We have to develop our players."
For the last four seasons, the Coyotes were affiliated with the San Antonio Rampage, but Maloney, a former New York Ranger, said San Antonio was just not the right place to develop players.
"What really attracts me to Portland is knowing the external pressure to perform here," he said. "If you're going to have a bad night, people are going to let you know and that's probably the way it should be."
"The sport and the game matters here," Treliving said. "We have to grow our own players, and part of that development is being in an atmosphere where it matters.
"All the experiences the players go through during their time in Portland we think are going to make them better people, better players, and hopefully really good NHL players."
According to Treliving, who will serve as general manager of the Pirates, the Coyotes are at the start of a good development curve.
"When we first got into Phoenix four years ago, there were a lot of young players who were drafted and were stuck right into the National Hockey League," he said. "Now that we've been able to build a little bit of depth -- and each year your depth gets a little better at the AHL level -- you're able to bring your young players along at the pace they needed to be brought along. Our mission and goal is to have every player who plays in Phoenix spend a little time in Portland."
During the past two weeks, the Coyotes have signed several veteran free agents who are likely to end up with the Pirates.
"We're trying to build the team from the goal out to the center of the ice," Treliving said.
"I think the goaltending is going to be strong," Maloney said. "I think our defense is going to be real good down here."
But Edwards said the Pirates won't simply be playing a defensive style of hockey.
"When I say defend, I don't want you to think we're going to sit back and wait for them to come at us and play defense," he said. "It's up-tempo. It's pace. It's fun to watch, I guarantee you."
The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and the club is owned by the NHL. Phoenix has signed a five-year agreement with the Pirates but a change of ownership won't alter that.
"There are two groups looking at the team, very creditable ownership groups," Maloney said. "We're very optimistic we're going to stay in Phoenix for a long time. If we don't, and we move somewhere, we're still going to be here. Our affiliate will still be here in Portland."
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at firstname.lastname@example.org