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Tocchet out as Coyotes coach after four seasons

Arizona needs 'new voice in dressing room' after finishing fifth in Honda West Division, GM says @NHLdotcom

Rick Tocchet is out as Arizona Coyotes coach after four seasons. No replacement was named.

Arizona finished 24-26-6 this season and failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the eight-team Honda West Division.

"He had been here for four years, and the fact that we didn't make the playoffs (this season) all formed into a little bit of a decision," Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said Monday. "Most coaches don't last four years, to be honest with you, so we had to evaluate that. At the end of the day, we were looking for a new voice in the dressing room.

"Rick is a good coach, and he's not going to wait long for a job, but for our guys we need a new voice in the dressing room."

Tocchet's contract expires June 30. He was 125-131-34 for Arizona after he was named coach July 11, 2017, replacing Dave Tippett.

"It's been an honor to coach the Coyotes the past four seasons," Tocchet said Sunday. "I have great respect and admiration for all the players I coached in Arizona, along with my coaching staff, the medical staff, the equipment managers, the PR staff and the team services staff. They are the best in the NHL, and I appreciate all their help and hard work. I also want to thank the fans of the Valley for all their support. I have loved living, playing, and coaching in Arizona and this place will always be special to me."

The Coyotes made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season after finishing 11th in the Western Conference with a .529 points percentage (33-29-8). They defeated the Nashville Predators in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round.

"It'd be naive to not think some changes are probably coming," Coyotes forward Conor Garland said. "You didn't make the playoffs, so that's what happens. Unfortunately, we lost 'Toc' yesterday, which stinks, he was very good to me. ... We talked at the start of the season about trying to make me an 18- to 20-minute player and we worked pretty tirelessly this year to help me there and I thought I made a lot of strides. Obviously it wasn't good enough. He's one of the nicest people in hockey, he's a great coach and he'll be back in the League shortly. It stinks when you know you missed the playoffs and you didn't do your job as players and somebody else has to pay the price."

It was the first time the Coyotes had qualified for the playoffs and won a postseason series since 2011-12.

"After meeting with Rick, we have agreed that a coaching change is in the best interest of the club," Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong said. "This was a very difficult decision, but we believe that it is time for a new direction and new leadership. Rick is a very good coach and an incredible person, and we sincerely appreciate all his hard work and dedication to the Coyotes the past four years. We are grateful for everything that he has done for our organization and wish him the best of luck in the future."

Prior to being hired by the Coyotes, Tocchet was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins for three seasons. Arizona was his second job as NHL coach (Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-10).

"It's obviously hard to see somebody leave," captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. "Toc did a great job here, I feel like he made this team better and he's a great guy, a great coach. I wish him all the best and I don't think he's going to have a problem getting a new job."

Tocchet played for six teams in 18 NHL seasons, the last in 2001-02. The forward scored 952 points (440 goals, 512 assists) in 1,144 NHL games and won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1992. independent correspondent Alan Robinson contributed to this report

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