Arizona Coyotes Should Fire Rick Tocchet and Hire Gerard Gallant

Rick Tocchet

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or quarantined of late you may have missed the news. By all accounts, the Arizona Coyotes seem to be in a rebuild. We’re not talking about a mild rebuild. We’re talking they may trade star players Oliver-Ekman Larsson and Darcy Kuemper kind of rebuild. It perhaps signifies that the ownership and management of the team are considering to rock the boat, or at least get the life vests ready. Does that include throwing head coach Rick Tocchet overboard?

Rick Tocchet Could be Fired

As so succinctly stated by none other than Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic: (subscription required)

“Rick Tocchet, Arizona. Geez, who knows what the future holds there, right? The Coyotes did briefly talk to Tocchet about an extension before Return to Play, I’m told, but both sides decided to wait until after the season to re-convene. Since then, GM John Chayka and the club parted ways rather acrimoniously. So until a new GM is hired, who knows on the coaching front, but also, who knows what Tocchet himself wants? The Coyotes might be in player payroll cutting mode, it might not be the best coaching gig out there over the next few years.”

To the average hockey enthusiast, that could mean whoever is selected as the new general manager of the team may or may not want to keep Tocchet around.

Pro’s and Con’s of Keeping Rick Tocchet

The pluses are minimal but do exist. While Tocchet started out with a dismal 29-41-12 (.427 points percentage) record in his first season 2017-18, he has recuperated a bit since then. In the last two seasons, he has gone a combined 72-64-16, or a .526 points percentage. By no means is he setting the head coaching records on fire, but there is progress. And, the way the team had been performing and dealing with so many outside distractions, it is a plus in his favour.

And, let’s not forget that the team FINALLY made it to the postseason. Now, the way they got there may be a bit distorted… but they did indeed get to the first round of the playoffs. The path that got them there was pure luck. The 24-team play-in series was the only way this team even had a shot at the real postseason. What happened then was nothing short of disastrous as they embarrassed themselves in the last two games against the powerful Colorado Avalanche by a combined score of 14-2. Yes hockey puck fans, that is NOT a typo or misprint. Injuries have seemed to be a big factor since he has taken over too. At times, the Coyotes have been up there with some of the most man-games lost in the league.

Tocchet’s Challenge

Tocchet was primarily brought on to work with the young players and develop them into seasoned veteran hockey players. While he managed with what was given to him, did he really get Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, or Barrett Hayton to the point where they can be relied upon as go-to guys on the offence? Not really.

He has even at times admitted that some of the team’s shortfalls could be something he or his coaching staff is doing wrong. Commendable, but does it bring results? If this team is considering a rebuild will Tocchet really want to be around for that? It can be more than exhausting and frustrating. He may decide he wants out… who knows?

The Positives of Hiring Gerard Gallant

Look, Gerard Gallant took a collection of every other team’s rejects and marched them to the Stanley Cup Final. Is that not a good positive on his resume? Then, since that initial season’s success, he still got them to the playoffs the next season and was unceremoniously fired after going 24-19-6 this season. He was replaced by Peter DeBoer who went 15-5-2 to get the Vegas Golden Knights to another postseason finish.

It’s no surprise that Gallant is being considered for other head coaching openings, including the Washington Capitals. Whether he’d even be around if and when the Coyotes get a new general manager and wish to change who’s in charge behind the bench is another matter completely. He would certainly have what it takes to get this team going. Tocchet’s success has been limited while Gallant’s is recorded. You go with the guy who can get you wins and Gallant has proven he’s that guy.

If Gallant can get a team of rejects to the Cup Final, he can get the Coyotes to be a more respected and successful team. Tocchet gave it his best, and it hasn’t worked.

It may be time for a change.

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Embed from Getty Images