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What We Learned: The best general manager in the NHL

By Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

By any measure, Don Maloney worked Bryan Murray pretty good this weekend.

He somehow traded known-malcontent Kyle Turris, who admittedly had a very moveable contract, to Ottawa for David Rundblad, a highly-regarded and very young rookie defenseman, and a second-round pick that's probably going to end up being pretty high.

Of course, if we're being completely fair, this wasn't entirely the result of Maloney being phenomenal at his job. For some reason, the media has spent much of this season treating Turris's holdout not as it actually was (a sub-mediocre player asking for an absurd amount of money over a silly term) but as though this was a legitimate talent whose absence from the lineup was somehow having an adverse effect on his team.

Somewhere along the way, Turris became a guy who just needed a little bit of help to unlock his potential, whatever that might be. He'd posted a career high of 11 goals and 14 assists in 65 games last year, though he did so on just 11 minutes or so a night. Theoretically, given extra time could result in that number increasing significantly. But the magic of what Maloney did here is to maximize and take advantage of the hype surrounding Turris's holdout, which presumably came simply because no one holds out that long any more.

Wrangling a second-round pick on top of a 21-year-old former first-rounder (whose biggest mistake in Ottawa seems to have been not being as immediately good as Erik Karlsson) that's supposed to be able to lug the puck in a manner not unlike Sergei Zubov. Adding him to a D group that already has Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson could make the Coyotes' backline terrifying in two or three years.

Maloney let the Senators (and reportedly two other teams) come to him, even after repeatedly insisting that Turris wasn't going anywhere, and in fact telling the center himself that he wasn't being traded the morning before the swap was made. But the Senators, resolute in wanting to acquire Turris in an attempt to acquire every foundering young talent in the league, were not to be deterred.

Not that fleecing Bryan Murray in a trade is especially praiseworthy in and of itself. The tragicomic way in which he mismanages his organization's assets is well-documented. But what makes Maloney exceptionally good at his job is that he has built from having a very successful team on a shoe-string budget in 2009-10 and has continually been improving it even if the odds have continually tilted away from his favor.

(Coming Up: Why does Pierre Gauthier still have a job?; Barry Trotz, villainous character; Dan Boyle's fantasy team-hampering injury; Sean Couturier hit with a puck; Pegulaville losing its sunshine; Sutter time in LA; Tom Renney is obsessed with Ales Hemsky's stick; Mike Green's importance to the Capitals; the rare Erik Johnson goal; Selanne is a pro, but one Jets fan is delusional; the goal of the weekend; Elias makes Devils history; Stamkos should fear Kessel; and a terrible trade proposal for Shea Weber.)

Let's not forget, this is a team that is, at any moment, about 24 hours away from getting moved out of the desert and to who-knows-where, and it must be incredibly difficult to attract free agents to play there. This is particularly true given that Phoenix's budgetary restrictions are widely known to be quite severe (for instance, the Coyotes were 29th in the league when they won 107 points and their division in 2009-10). And in a way, getting that kind of success under budget has even held him back further.

Had the Coyotes not made the playoffs last year for the second consecutive season, Maloney almost certainly would have offloaded outgoing world-class goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for more than the third-round pick his negotiating rights eventually garnered.

But having faith in his own club — and Dave Tippett's system, specifically — led him to enter this season with the tandem of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera between the pipes. Everyone laughed, said it was a remarkably deft decision. Defensive systems work great when you have an excellent goaltender, but Smith and LaBarbera are anything but.

He also has gone about trying to lock up some of the team's better players for the future while not trying to weigh it down too heavily for new ownership. Yandle and Martin Hanzal are on the books for the next four and five seasons, respectively, both at fair, affordable rates, and one suspects that there will be more of the same in the future for the younger member of the team's core.

So here we are, with the Coyotes admittedly ninth in the West, but also just two points out of both a playoff spot and the division lead despite a really poor team shooting percentage of 8.3. This team could very well go on a strong run here, put together more than a few wins and make a very strong case for itself when it comes to the postseason.

If the Coyotes qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season, Maloney is going to have had a hell of a lot to do with it. And even if they don't, he's building a really strong set of youngsters who could become a low-cost force in the NHL for years to come.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Here's what a team player Teemu Selanne is -- all anyone can talk about is that he made his return to Winnipeg, and the adoration was so overwhelming that no one even noticed how awful the Ducks were in the 5-3 loss. "The hard, cold fact is the Ducks (9-18-5) are bad, managing to stay out of the league's basement only because Columbus is bad, too." Ouch. (And Columbus at least has 17 points in its last 17 games, which is way more than you can say for the Ducks, who have just 10.)

Boston Bruins: Decent enough return to the lineup for Zdeno Chara -- Gordie Howe hat trick and a 6-0 Bruins win over the Flyers. The Bruins' goal differential broadens to a league-leading plus-47, which is 12 better than the No. 2 Red Wings.

Buffalo Sabres: Another pitiful performance from the Sabres in an 8-3 loss on Saturday and even Terry Pegula's seemingly eternal optimism for the team looks to be on the wane. "We saw some great goaltending tonight, didn't we? If they think they played well, we've got more problems," he said.

Calgary Flames: What a great headline in the Herald yesterday: "Flames finding all kinds of ways to lose." Ain't that the truth?

Carolina Hurricanes: Prior to playing in Sunday's contest with Florida, Jay Harrison had missed the previous 10 games due to a concussion. Always good to see a guy come back after that.

Chicago Blackhawks: Coming into last night's game, the Blackhawks had killed their previous 19 penalties, a sign the PK is seriously improving after giving up NINE goals on 13 chances a few weeks back against Vancouver and Edmonton. 'Course, both goals they gave up to Calgary last night were on the power play, so nothing's perfect.

Colorado Avalanche: Here is the rare Erik Johnson goal, spotted in the wild.

That's his first since March 16 of last year, a run of goalless 39 games.

Columbus Blue Jackets: In recent weeks the Jackets had been playing a lot better than their record indicates and that was reflected in the five-game homestand they just wrapped. They went 1-4-1 despite allowing just six goals in the last three games of that stretch, and the only win they got came in the shootout. They're just not scoring anywhere near enough.

Dallas Stars: Could Jordie Benn soon join his brother Jamie on the Stars' NHL roster? People watching his play in the AHL sure seem to think so. He has seven goals and 14 points from the blue line in just 23 games this year.

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Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Cory Emmerton had a goal and an assist in the Wings' season opener (a 5-3 win over Ottawa), then went from Oct. 7 to Dec. 15 without another point. Then on Saturday, he put up two goals and an assist in an 8-2 win over LA. So every two months or so, you can pencil him in for a big, big night.

Edmonton Oilers: Ales Hemsky flatly refuses to change his stick despite Tom Renney's preference. Said the extremely mature Hemsky: "I don't like his stick either. We have that in common," Hemsky said. "And I don't like his skates." Serious one-upsmanship right there.

Florida Panthers: Real nice coast-to-coast goal by Sean Bergenheim. Off the end-boards and in, nothing but net.

That was his third goal in the last two games. Then he left in the second period with an unspecified injury.

Los Angeles Kings: Sutter-to-LA is officially all but official. How long do you think it takes him to get in a fistfight with Dustin Penner?

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are missing four of their top six forwards right now and have recalled Jed Ortmeyer and Chad Rau to fill in the gaps. Fortunately, Mikko Koivu and PM Bouchard are at least practicing with the team.

Montreal Canadiens: Hey how come Pierre Gauthier still has a job? As most people will recall, Jacques Martin didn't build this roster of high-priced duds, but he got the axe? The Kaberle trade should have been the last straw.

Nashville Predators: Ken Hitchcock called Barry Trotz a "villain," but it's an affable rivalry. "He's a great guy but he's a villainous character, and he's got no sympathy for me and I have no sympathy for him. None. And he can't coach forever. He's maybe got 20 good years left here and that's it. "

New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias is now the Devils' all-time leading goalscorer which you'd think would be a bigger deal.

Maybe one of the most underrated players of his era. He's really great.

New York Islanders: Frans Nielsen scored the shootout winner against Minnesota, and — this is gonna shock you — he did it on the backhand.

New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik scored twice on Saturday, running his career total to 300. Imagine how many he'd have if he could have stayed healthy in Minnesota. Maybe 400 already?

Ottawa Senators: "Did Brian Lee make David Rundblad expendable?" No, Bryan Murray's gross incompetence did.

Philadelphia Flyers: Man, if I'm on the Flyers these days, I completely avoid coming within 10 feet of any of my teammates. What a horrible string of injuries caused by friendly fire. The latest victim is Sean Couturier.

Phoenix Coyotes: Those laughs of glee you hear coming from Phoenix almost certainly belong to Dave Tippett who's going to get the most out of David Rundblad and turn the kid into a scoring machine.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Beautiful buildup on this Evgeni Malkin goal.

San Jose Sharks: Unless you have Dan Boyle on your fantasy team, you probably haven't noticed him this year. That's because he's been absolutely terrible. Turns out he's had a broken foot all season and has only really recovered in the last week or two. He has four points in his last four games, not coincidentally.

St. Louis Blues: It's weird when you know a team is doing very well but then you have it contextualized with one mind-blowing stat. Here's one now: In Ken Hitchcock's first 18 games behind the bench for the Blues, they allowed just 22 goals. Then somehow they went out and gave up four against Columbus and still won somehow.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos scored for the fourth time in three games on Saturday to take the NHL lead in goalscoring, and somewhere in Toronto, Phil Kessel is making a voodoo doll with 91 on the back. Amazingly, Stamkos is doing this with Martin St. Louis on the shelf.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are talking about extending Ron Wilson. Why in the hell would they do that?

Vancouver Canucks: There were two disallowed goals in Saturday's Canucks/Leafs game, and as it happens, the officials got both calls absolutely correct.

Washington Capitals: Mike Green traveled with the team to Denver but didn't skate. He has only played eight games this year, but Washington won ALL of them. Meaning they're 8-14-1 with No. 52 out of the lineup.

Winnipeg Jets: Chris Mason is pretty quietly having a strong season as the Jets' backup. He's 4-2-0 in eight appearances and his stats are better than Ondrej Pavelec's (though the reasons for the latter point should be obvious).

Gold Star Award

Evgeni Malkin lit up the Sabres for a hat trick and two assist, so I guess that's pretty much going to be enough to seal this up.

(Honorable mention, though, goes to the kid Mike Millbury shook around a little bit, who asked his kid, "What are you going to do now, tough guy, hit me with a shoe?!" Hilarious.)

Minus of the Weekend

There's not a person in the world worse than the one Jets fan who had a sign saying that the city forgives Teemu Selanne. There's nothing he has to be forgiven for.

Play of the Weekend

Man what a goal outta Jordan Eberle.

That's not even fair.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "PrV" wants to help his beloved Oilers.

To Edmonton:

Shea Weber
To Nashville: Jeff Petry

2012 1st Round Draft Pick

Looks great!

Signoff
I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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