When the average hockey fan analyzes the job performance of the Arizona Coyotes‘ head coach Rick Tocchet, it’s a mixed bag. His overall record behind the Coyotes’ bench is less than impressive. He’s gone 101-105-28 which is a less than sparkling .491 points percentage. During his three-year stint in the desert, he has only taken the Coyotes to the playoffs this current season. That more than likely wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a global pandemic cutting the season short. The team was not headed to the postseason when play was halted.
Are Rick Tocchet’s Days Numbered in Arizona?
Tocchet took over for Dave Tippett who had a reasonably good points percentage of .520. Tocchet signed a four-year contract in July 2017. That means after this season, he has one more year on his contract. Is it time to change head coaches?
Rick Tocchet’s first year as head coach of the Coyotes was less than glorious… or effective. The team went 29-41-12 good for 70 points and a dismal eighth place finish. His previous head coaching experience was limited to coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. His less than flattering record of 53-69-26, or a points percentage of .446 somehow got him the Arizona job.
He was also with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach for three seasons starting in 2014 helping Pittsburgh win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
After the less than productive first season behind the Coyotes’ bench Tocchet got his squad going the next two seasons. They narrowly missed qualifying for the playoffs in the 2018-19 season gathering 86 points but it wasn’t enough to take them to the postseason. His 33-29-8 record this past season got the team 74 points and an 11th ranking in the Western Conference qualifying round.They managed to defeat the Nashville Predators in four games of a best-of-five series. They also allowed their star goaltender Darcy Kuemper to be peppered time and again by a flurry of shots on net.
Reality Has Set in
The Coyotes moved onto the “real” playoffs facing a fast, talented Colorado Avalanche team. Thus far they are down three games to one, and the prospects of moving forward in the postseason look glim at best. Again, their failure to produce offensively has been their downfall. And again, they are allowing way too many shots on Kuemper to be successful. In Game 3, he actually faced 49 shots and still kept his team in it to win 4-2.
Things were off the charts for Game 4. Looking terrible by allowing the Av’s firepower to take over and giving them power play after power play was their demise. Losing 7-1 was a disgusting display by an NHL team, especially in the playoffs. Blowouts like that are rare, yet Tocchet’s team wasn’t prepared or even competitive. That’s on him and his coaching staff. Now one game shouldn’t determine a head coach’s future plight, but getting outplayed so significantly makes one wonder if it’s time for a new head coach.
There’s Plenty of Qualified Head Coaches Out There to Replace Rick Tocchet
Let’s go through the list of available head coaches in the NHL.
The former head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and most recently the Vegas Golden Knights is a respected, successful coach. For some reason, his tenure for the three teams he coached lasted three years each. It’s still quite a mystery why after taking the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first year, he was let go after 49 games.
Could Gerard Gallant be a good choice to coach the Coyotes should Rick Tocchet be given his walking papers? Without a doubt. To form a team and coach them to be in the Finals takes an astute ability to deal with players. He had misfits who other teams discarded and shaped them into a near champion. His winning culture shows him with a points percentage of .550 and a playoffs percentage of .545, far exceeding anything close to Tocchet’s numbers.
While it’s still uncertain if Mike Babcock even is interested in coaching, he would definitely be a premier choice if the Coyotes’ management could coax him out of not coaching. He established himself as a head coach with plenty of success. Something the Coyotes’ organization needs. His lifetime coaching points percentage stands at .608 with a playoffs percentage of .549. Let’s just say the league and it’s fans would notice the Coyotes a bit more and take them more seriously if Babcock was behind the bench.
A veteran head coach of 18 years, Peter Laviolette is out there for the taking. He has been fairly successful with a points percentage of .588 and a playoffs percentage of .524. Still all good numbers as far as taking a team like the Coyotes places they’ve hardly been before… the playoffs. His six years with the Nashville Predators where he accumulated a 248-143-60 record or a points percentage of .616, demonstrates his winning culture.
The Coyotes Unstable Front Office
With former general manager John Chayka gone, Rick Tocchet has to be wondering what interim general manager Steve Sullivan intends to do with his future as head coach. Whether Sullivan remains as general manager or not, the Coyotes’ front office has been making more headlines than the team on the ice. Will Sullivan retain Tocchet even if the Coyotes are unceremoniously thumped out of the first round? Then, Sullivan needs to put together a roster for whomever the head coach will be going forward. That head coach MUST get results from his players.
New owner Alex Meruelo and new CEO/President Xavier Gutierrez have to be considering where the team goes from here. They have multiple decisions to make including getting an arena solution for the team.
The future of the Arizona Coyotes is at stake here. Let’s hope the correct decision is made as far as the head coaching job is concerned. Rick Tocchet has not been terrible, yet to move this team to an elite status something needs to happen. And, we all know it’s usually the head coach’s fault when things go downhill.