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Tocchet Likes Fit with Coyotes

New Head Coach Rick Tocchet knows Arizona well from past stints with team

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE -- Rick Tocchet returned to the Coyotes for a third stint on Tuesday when the team announced him as the franchise's 18th head coach.

Tocchet, 53, played for the Phoenix Coyotes from 1997-2000, and then served as an assistant coach for the club in 2005-06.

"I know the market," Tocchet said. "When I was there it was a fun place to play, and I also coached there, and I know the direction that they want to go. So, it was an attractive job for me. Plus, there's only 31 (head coaching) jobs in the NHL … If you mix that all in it was a fit for me."

RELATED CONTENT: Tocchet on SiriusXM NHL Network

Tocchet comes to the Coyotes fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins, for whom he served as an assistant coach. He views the Coyotes, who haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011-12, as an up-and-coming underdog team.

"It's a young squad," Tocchet said. "You've got a lot of prospects, players that were stars as juniors, and they're coming together now. That's the attractive part for me. Chicago went through it. Pittsburgh went through it. You've got to go through this process to win and when I looked at this roster, there's some potential to really grow this into something big." 

Tocchet said his job interview with Arizona lasted between four and five hours. During it he made a detailed presentation about his style of coaching and the way he wants the young Coyotes to play.

"He came in and was the best candidate by a wide margin," General Manager John Chayka said. "Obviously, coming off two Stanley Cups there I think what he learned during that time has been immense. Pittsburgh has many talented players, but they also have an environment that harbors winning. He has been a big part of that working with players ... The key is we had a lot of coaches come in here and say something similar, but he had a plan to do it."

Tocchet played 1,144 NHL games, including 213 for the Coyotes. He said that experience helped him as an assistant coach in Colorado, Phoenix and Pittsburgh, and as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-10.

"I've played on the first line, I've played on the fourth line, I've not dressed (for games) and I've played a lot of games, so I can relate to players," Tocchet said. "That's something I always want to be as a coach - somebody who can relate with players."

Chayka is confident the Coyotes, young and old, will respond to Tocchet.

"Make no mistake, he has a real leadership presence," Chayka said. "He walks into the room and owns the room. He has a presence that way and demands the highest degree of excellence and has a real presence about him. At the same time, he has created a niche for himself in being a communicator and being a guy that players can talk to about not only hockey but also things outside of hockey."

Tocchet said Coyotes fans can expect the team to play a "fun style," and the players can expect a "partnership" between them and the coaching staff.

"I don't want to take the stick out of guys' hands," Tocchet said. "We have some creative young players here so I want them to be creative and I want them not to think too much ... You have to give players freedom, especially in today's NHL, to play. But I'm not going to sell the farm. It's not going to be three-on-one's all night. That's not going to happen. I think you have to be calculated, and the one thing with these young guys is they're sponges. They want to learn. They want to learn how to practice. They want to learn how to play. We'll give them video to show them stuff and then a lot of repetition. I want to stay out of their way, too. It's their room. It's their team. I'm there to help them. I'm just a big believer in that. I don't want to be the guy that's in the room all the time. I want these guys to be self starters."

The Coyotes spoke to approximately 25 coaching candidates about the job and ultimately interviewed five. The team did its due diligence on all of them, and Tocchet's reputation stood out.

"We talked to everybody, going back to his Tampa Bay days and here in Arizona, but most recently during his time in Pittsburgh," Chayka said. "The reports back about his relationships with players couldn't be any better. It was very clear when talking with him that he couldn't be any more demanding or critical when needed and he has the highest of expectations and is someone that wants to win at all costs. He has great relationships; players love playing with him and the term 'best coach I ever played for' was used so much that it almost became a tagline. But again, it was followed up that he wants to win and will do whatever it takes to win."

He added: "I think he knows the market, knows where we are at and knows how good we can be and wants to make his mark. It could've been the easiest thing for him after winning two Stanley Cups as an assistant coach to just sit back and go back to Pittsburgh for another year and see where it goes with his career. He is taking a chance on us and I respect that and it's something I want for him to make a difference here."

The Coyotes begin their season in less than three months so Tocchet must act quickly to assemble a coaching staff. He's looking for coaches who work well with young players and who are good communicators.

"I want to make sure that we get the right guys, for sure," Tocchet said. "… I don't want 'Yes Men' … I want a guy who is going to challenge me, too."

Arizona finished 27th in the NHL standings last season with 70 points.

Tocchet, who signed a four-year contract, is preaching patience.

"There's some really high-end talent here, (but) this is a long process and we've got to embrace it," Tocchet said. "I don't know what's going to happen (this season), but I know one thing - we will get better, especially the young guys. I'm very confident in that."

Video: Welcome Home, Coach: Tocchet's Career Highlights

 

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