GLENDALE -- New Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet is expected to visit Gila River Arena later this week to make final preparations for a symposium he's scheduled for next week with his new coaching staff.
Tocchet, who was named the franchise's 18th head coach on July 11, will stress an all-hands-on-deck approach to assistant coaches John MacLean and Scott Allen, goalie coach Jon Elkin and video coach Steve Peters.
"It's going to be a team thing here," Tocchet said. "Obviously somebody's going to have more input on the PK and power play because I'll give them autonomy in those situations, but the bottom line is we're going to be a staff that's going to share a lot of the responsibilities."
Tocchet is taking over behind Arizona's bench after spending the past three seasons as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh. The Penguins, of course, won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.
"The Pittsburgh situation was outstanding," Tocchet said. "Our staff was outstanding and we won a lot of hockey games the past two years with a lot of different personalities, and that really helped, too. You have to have different personalities to win and connect, and that's something that I want to bring to the Coyotes for sure."
Tocchet is in the process of relocating to the Valley. He's lived here twice before, once as a player for the Coyotes from 1997-2000 and again as an assistant coach in 2005-06.
In Tocchet's three seasons as a player in Phoenix, the Coyotes earned 82, 90 and 90 points, respectively, and reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs each season. He ranks playing for the Coyotes as one of the highlights of his 18-year NHL career.
"We had a close team and the fans were great," Tocchet said. "We used to really pack them in down at America West (Arena), and we were very close to getting to the next level. So I have fond memories as a player (in Phoenix). It's a great lifestyle."
As an assistant coach under Wayne Gretzky, Tocchet helped coach the Coyotes to a 38-39-5 record in 2005-06. During that season he got his first taste as an NHL head coach when he subbed for Gretzky after Gretzky left the team for 10 days because of the death of his mother. The Coyotes posted a 2-3-0 record under Tocchet during that time.
A dozen years later, Tocchet is ready to work behind the Coyotes bench again, although this time the team's roster is loaded with young players as opposed to veterans. Plus, he'll be the head coach, not an assistant.
"The intriguing thing for me is I love working with young guys," Tocchet said. "I think you can be an impact on their careers. I think that's a big responsibility that I take very seriously … I don't want to change as a person and I don't think that because you carry a title of head coach all of a sudden you have to be distant from your players. My style is there's a partnership. That's just my style. I have no problem if a player calls me at 9 o'clock (at night) and has a thought. That doesn't bother me. Obviously you use the assistant coaches as a conduit to it, but I think there's a partnership in today's game with the player."
Communication will be key. That's why Tocchet has reached out to the players via phone calls and texts a month or so before training camp.
"It's hard to explain the way I communicate," Tocchet said. "When you call a guy in the office, you just can't pound hockey into a guy's head. I think sometimes less is more. A lot of times when I communicate with a player they'll kind of dictate how long they'll be in the office … I think that's one of my strengths. A guy can come into my office and I can feel the flow of the meeting and how I can get this guy to go a little bit. I've sat in that guy's seat before and I think that really helps."
Tocchet is eager to help return the Coyotes to prominence within the Arizona sports scene. He remembers the energy surrounding the team in the late 1990s/early 2000s when making the playoffs came regularly. The fan base, he recalled, played a key role in that success.
"It's like anywhere, if you win they're going to come and if you play an exciting brand of hockey they'll come," Tocchet said. "You have to make your fans believe in something, that you're going in the right direction and that things are progressing where you have a chance every night to win. I think that's what the Coyotes fan is craving. I think they see that we have some young talent here and they can see that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. With Hockey Ops and with Andrew (Barroway) in place, I think what they see is that this can work."