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BREAKING: Rick Tocchet Has 5-Year Deal to be Coyotes Head Coach

Rick Tocchet. By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

(Updated 8:31am) Redemption. After waiting seven years for another chance to be a head coach, and working to put errors of the past behind him, Rick Tocchet will get that chance in the very place some past troubles occurred. The hard-nosed Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach will be the next head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, as early as today.

League sources familiar with the situation told PittsburghHockeyNow.com the deal was close to is final and would be for “a significant term”. The deal could be as long as five years.

The Penguins organization which lost Assistant General Manager Jason Botterill to Buffalo, players Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley to free agency and Marc-Andre Fleury to the expansion draft, will lose another cog in the machine.

Financial details of the contract discussions have not been disclosed.

Tocchet played for the Coyotes from 1997-2000 and helped lead the club to a pair of playoff appearances in 1998 and 1999. After two seasons as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche, Tocchet joined Wayne Gretzky‘s Coyotes staff in 2005-06.

Tocchet’s coaching career was derailed later that year when he faced charges for financing a high-stakes gambling ring, which included hockey affiliated participants from across North America. He served two years probation and returned to coaching in 2008.

Tocchet took over the Len Barrie-Oren Koules owned Tampa Bay Lightning, 16 games into the 2008-09 season after Barry Melrose was dismissed. Tocchet struggled in the first year with only 19 wins in 66 games before improving to 34 wins in his second year.

However, fighting within the ownership group led to an NHL brokered sale of the team in 2010. New owner Jeffrey Vinik terminated Tocchet following the 2010 season. Tocchet did not coach again until the 2014 season when friend Mario Lemieux and the Penguins hired Tocchet as an assistant coach.

Coyotes

On the ice, the Coyotes have assets. However, where that ice will be in the near future is in question. The Coyotes and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have been fighting for a new arena and have used the threat of relocation.

The Coyotes arena deal and lack of revenue will present a challenge for Tocchet. The surrounding chaos won’t be easy, but it is a winnable situation.

On the ice, the new coach will inherit plenty of young, talented players but a team which has not made the playoffs since 2012. Dysfunction in the organization led to the ouster of GM Don Maloney last year for 27-year-old John Chayka. Head coach Dave Tippet was fired last month, after seven years behind the Coyotes bench.

Chetlin Pechersky // pittsburghbraces.com

At the NHL Entry Draft last month, the Coyotes filled a pressing need when Chayka sent top end prospect Anthony DeAngelo to the New York Rangers for first-line center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta.

Tocchet, who worked with the Penguins young players like Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel, will have a young line-up sprinkled with legitimate veteran talent. Max Domi is poised for a star turn, as is rookie Dylan Strome, who dominated the OHL for the Erie Otters (75 points in 35 games). For good measure, Clayton Keller was one of the top offensive talents taken in the 2016 draft (7th overall).

Stepan, 27, led the Rangers resurgence last season with 55 points in 81 games.

Tocchet will also have a competent blue line, featuring Oliver Ekman-Larsson. From www.dailyfaceoff.com, here is the potential Coyotes lineup:

The Coyotes tanked in 2017 with the fourth-worst record in the NHL. Domi suffered a severe sophomore slump from 52 points in 2016 to 38 last year. Expected top line winger Anthony Duclair hit the skids with only 15 points in 58 games. Duclair was demoted to the AHL for 16 games, midseason.

SEE ALSO– Necciai: Jarred Tinordi. Penguins Have Another Blue Line Project

Tocchet

Tocchet will need production from Domi, Duclair and perhaps a strong rookie campaign from Strome to succeed.

We are about to find out how much Tocchet learned from Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan and the Penguins balanced analytics approach. How much will Tocchet revert to physicality or puck possession? Will Tocchet unleash the Coyotes offensive talent or work from the blue line?

Tocchet has waited a long time for the chance. He’s earned it, but it could be his last.

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