To say that Max Domi has been good at this year's World Junior Championship is a bit of an understatement. The young forward has scored twice and added an assist in Canada's two victories. That understandably is prompting some to wonder why Domi was "not good enough" to make the team out of training camp. Although the decision to leave him off the opening night roster is a little more complicated than a question of sheer talent, it was in the best interest of the Arizona Coyotes that Max Domi be sent back to the OHL this year.
Domi's demotion to the OHL shouldn't be construed as a lack of confidence in his ability from management. The notion that head coach Dave Tippett or general manager Don Maloney don't want to use perhaps the most dynamic offensive talent the team has drafted in years is, to put it bluntly, absurd. What seems to have happened is that the Coyotes brass got caught between two choices and froze. As our own Jaime Eisner puts it:
After season two, the franchise had a decision to make. 1. Try to re-sign their veteran forwards, bring some more vets into the fold and take a shot at one last playoff run for their captain and fan favorite Shane Doan. 2. Put the youth movement in full force, starting the season with prospects Henrik Samuelsson, Lucas Lessio, Tobias Rieder, Brandon Gormley and maybe even Max Domi and Tyler Gaudet somewhere in the starting lineup, in an effort to rebuild as quickly as possible with a handful of quality prospects.
Instead of going with options one or two, the Coyotes chose option three – do neither.
The indecision, though aggravating, could be fairly easily solved. If management was right and the team was good enough to compete for a playoff spot immediately, then nothing had to be done to the roster. If they were wrong and a youth movement was indeed necessary, then it could begin with players like Tobias Rieder and Brandon Gormley who were already starting in the AHL.
While clunky, the decision they made seems to be the right one. Domi was not going to win the Selke Trophy as a defensive forward, or the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender. Both have been significantly bigger problems for Arizona this year than the offense. Would Domi have made them better offensively? Probably. Would it have been enough to compensate for their defensive struggles? Doubtful.
So Coyotes management opted instead to preserve a year of Domi's contract and hope that their other young players would be good enough to step into a role if needed. Meanwhile, Domi gets another year to tear through the Canadian Hockey League and work on whatever Tippett and company want him to without the rigors of NHL life. It's frustrating, but it's also the right call.