Words still have meaning, despite sublime social media evidence to the contrary, and in the sports world this couldn’t be more accurate. Of course, the sports world has its own syntax that makes “reading into things” a pastime worth paying attention to.
Enter Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and his quote to TSN 1200 in Ottawa about players who could be on the move. “Shane Doan is not going anywhere. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a player we would certainly be very reluctant to part with,” he said.
Translation? Oliver Ekman-Larsson is up on the blocks!
Even NHL.com began with the headline “Ekman-Larsson could be on block for Coyotes,” before downgrading the lead in the actual article to the more innocuous “Coyotes’ Ekman-Larsson expects changes soon.”
The Coyotes could trade Ekman-Larsson, the 23-year-old defenceman with four years to go on a six year deal worth a reasonable $33 million. Maloney seems rather high on his player, calling him a “terrific talent” in the same TSN interview.
But he’s no Shane Doan, which means he doesn’t garner the same level of franchise protection. As with most players on all teams, he’s up for discussion. What that translates to is that Maloney entertains offers but has no intentions of actively pushing the defenceman on to the “block,” as NHL.com would have it.
Any player could be on the block.
Another angle to this is that Maloney could be mentioning Ekman-Larsson specifically in order to get the player going. The Coyotes find themselves on the outside looking in and probably won’t be gearing up for a big Stanley Cup run, but there are clear reasons to light a fire under Ekman-Larsson in order to push him to that next level.
As far as what the player thinks, he believes a change is in the wind.
“We haven’t been successful so obviously change is going to happen,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We have a great group of guys but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t get the success you’re working for. That’s where we’re at now, so we have to do something about it.”
Going into Friday night’s action, the Coyotes find themselves a dismal 13th in the Western Conference, 15 points out of a post-season berth. They’re 29th in goals against per game and 27th in goals for per game.
Does that mean change is in the air? Likely. Does that change mean Ekman-Larsson is on the block? Maybe. Aren’t words fun?