Coyotes GM admits tanking for shot at McDavid last season

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Tanking for a high draft pick is often suspected, but rarely does an NHL general manager confess to doing it.

That's essentially what Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney did Monday. Maloney was asked by Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt to explain how Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson placed 17th in Norris Trophy voting last season.

"It's really reflective of our team," Maloney said. "Last year, we plunged. I did not do much to help our team (in) the last two months. If we were going to be bad, my attitude was, let's be real bad. There was a pretty big prize for being really bad."

The Coyotes' 56 points and 24-50-8 record were better than only one team - the Buffalo Sabres - but the third-worst Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery and the right to select that "pretty big prize," Connor McDavid, first overall.

"All that being said, it was a miserable last six weeks for every player, including Oliver and anyone who had to go out there, because our chances of winning were so slim," Maloney said.

"We basically had a minor-league roster. But (Ekman-Larsson) continued to do his thing and he's always been a top minutes played (player) at his position. I think there's still more growth and upside."

The Coyotes have plenty of upside as a team, with Ekman-Larsson on the verge of a career-best campaign, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair already contributing, and third-overall pick Dylan Strome averaging over two points per game in the OHL.

Still, Maloney's refreshing honesty might not be considered as such by the league.