GLENDALE – Dave Tippett earned his 500th victory as an NHL head coach on Friday night as the Coyotes defeated the Calgary Flames, 2-1 in overtime, at Gila River Arena.
After the game, the players presented Tippett with the Game MVP belt that usually goes to the player who makes the biggest impact in a victory.
“Players win games, coaches don't win games,” Tippett told reporters about reaching the milestone. “I've been real fortunate to work with some great players and be around a long time.”
Tippett began his NHL head coaching career in 2002-03 with the Dallas Stars. He came to the Coyotes in 2009-10 and is already the franchise’s winningest head coach with 229 victories.
“I still enjoy it,” Tippett said. “When you win you’re still really happy when you win and when you lose you’re not happy. It’s a good sign that it’s still that way after this long. Five hundred really is just a number, but you also have to look at it as a milestone of a combination of a lot of real good players.”
Only 22 NHL head coaches have won 500 games.
Giving Tippett the Game MVP belt was a no-brainer for the players.
“Five hundred wins speaks for itself as to his success as a coach and what he brings to the table,” forward Mikkel Boedker said. “He’s had the guys ready to go on his page since he got here and that speaks volumes. And he takes care of everybody. He’s never too busy to take a minute to talk to you if you have something on your heart. He’s just a real good person and a real good coach.”
Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, who played for Tippett in Dallas and now with the Coyotes, agreed.
“He’s been around for a long time and he’s been doing a good job for a long time,” Grossmann said. “(He’s been) keeping guys accountable night after night, but he still has a good feeling around the locker room and around the bench. I think that goes a long way. The guys really respect him.”
Rookie Max Domi said he feels fortunate to have Tippett as his head coach so early in his career.
“He knows what it takes to win,” Domi said. “As a young player, it’s nice to have a coach like him to look up to and to learn from.”
• Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, leads all NHL defensemen with 19 GWGs since he entered the league in 2010-11. He also tied Teppo Numminen for first place on the franchise’s all-time GWGs list among defensemen.
• The Coyotes won 38 of 58 face-offs. Martin Hanzal led the way with 14 wins and Antoine Vermette was right behind him with 13.
• The Coyotes improved to 7-1 vs. Pacific Division teams this season and have outscored them 28-14.
• On a night the Coyotes wore their original uniforms to celebrate the team’s history, Arizona played without long-standing captain Shane Doan on Friday.
Doan took part in the morning skate but a nagging lower-body injury kept him out of the lineup for a second straight game.
Tippett said Doan is “very questionable” for Saturday’s home game vs. Ottawa.