Breaking News: Wayne Gretzky steps down as Coyotes Coach

Was going to post a blog about the Habs/Bruins preseason game, but this strikes me as more important... I might get something in about the Habs for tonight, if not, certainly a game review/thoughts/notes tomorrow.

So, Wayne Gretzky has officially stepped down as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes... I can't say I'm surprised, if I were him I wouldn't want my name associated with the mess that is the Phoenix Coyotes either. And since both the NHL and Balsillie told him to F-off, might as well step down and do something useful with his time.

It's really sad that the Coyotes have been reduced to this though. Not only is their team in shambles, bad on the ice and their future completely uncertain, but now the only important name willing to associate themselves with their organization has decided he doesn't want to be a part of the mess.

I don't feel sad for Gretzky though. He has his money, his fame, and new opportunities will present themselves at every turn. I'm sure a lot of teams wouldn't mind having one of the greatest players of all time in their management team, if Gretzky wanted to go back to coaching or try GMing.

Those who I feel bad for, are the players. Shane Doan, a great veteran who deserves a shot at a cup, and all the young players who are basically playing for nothing, they don't deserve this. Both they and management are in limbo now, and can't do anything until all this crap is settled, and it truely is a shame. I hope they at least have the decency to trade Shane Doan to a team that matters, as I don't see how even he would want to be a part of that organization, despite his history with the team.

More on this as the details become available (not pulling an Eklund). For now, here's the story from TSN:

The Phoenix Coyotes saga took another dramatic turn on Thursday, as Wayne Gretzky has stepped down from his post as the team's head coach.

"This was a difficult decision that I've thought long and hard about," Gretzky said in a statement. "We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected. Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don't fit into their future plans, I approached General Manger Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach. Don has worked hard and explored many options. I think he has made an excellent choice, and so now it's time for me to step aside.

Gretzky, who joined the Coyotes as a managing partner in 2000, was named head coach of the club in August of 2005 and signed a five-year contract to continue to serve as part owner, managing partner, alternate governor and head coach the following year.

The Coyotes never made the playoffs during their four seasons with Gretzky behind the bench. From 2005-06 to 2008-09, he had a 143-161-24 record for a .473 winning percentage.

"The Coyotes scouting staff has put together a great group of young and talented players who are going to improve tremendously over the next few years," the statement read. "I'm proud of the team we've assembled, the organization with which I've been associated and the thousands of dedicated fans who have never wavered in their support of this young team. I'm confident that the best is yet to come for hockey in Phoenix."

This development comes as Judge Redfield T. Baum continues to mull over a decision on the fate of the NHL franchise. On Wednesday, lawyers representing Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie strengthened their case for the team, saying Balsillie has pledged to keep it in Glendale this season if he wins an auction for the financially troubled club.

Gretzky had been absent since the start of Coyotes training camp last week and a team spokesman said Gretzky wouldn''t participate until his contractual situation was resolved. Interim coach Ulf Samuelsson has taken over and the club has also hired veteran coach Dave King as an assistant.

"I want to thank every staff member of the Phoenix Coyotes, past and present. It was a real pleasure to work with each and every one of you," the statement said. "I've always said that Phoenix is a great sports city and deserves nothing but the best. I still believe that. As a young boy, I learned to play hockey in Southern Ontario, and I know what great fans they have there. It's my hope they too will have an NHL franchise in the not too distant future.

"I often said it was the greatest honour and privilege I could imagine to be able to play in the National Hockey League. I feel the same way about being an NHL coach. I've loved the four years I spent coaching the Coyotes. Not a day went by when I took it for granted, and I will miss the competition of the NHL dearly. It was an honour to hold the position, and I will always consider myself especially fortunate to have had this opportunity."