Arizona Coyotes' Rick Tocchet - photo by Norm Hall/Arizona Coyotes

Rick Tocchet’s Impact On Arizona Coyotes Far Reaching

Published On September 20, 2017 | By Jason Harrison | Editorials

While the Arizona Coyotes seek to return to playoff contention, new head coach Rick Tocchet is fresh off of back-to-back Stanley Cup victories. Might his impact be more far reaching than expected?

If you look up “optimism” in the dictionary there’s no passage about the Arizona Coyotes to be found.

You might find the team under “listless” or “besieged”, but despite all of the sun in the desert there haven’t been a lot of blue skies in Coyotes’ history.

Rick Tocchet is looking to change all of that.

In an interview with Alex Prewitt of SI, Tocchet laid out his philosophy moving forward in one quote.

“The way this team is built with youth and speed on the wings, we have to pick the pace up. We’ve got to be relentless on the puck if we’re going to be relevant in the league. A lot of stuff I do is puck possession, a lot of onus on the puck carrier. I’m a big believer in that.”

In his search for a new coach after the departure of Dave Tippett, I can imagine John Chayka’s reaction to Tocchet telling the Coyotes’ general manager the same thing.

“Say that again, please?” Chayka probably asked. I’d bet it was music to his ears.

The impact of Tocchet’s approach on the team’s stars and up-and-comers is obvious.

Names like Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Anthony Duclair will be cut loose in a way that they’ve never experienced before.

Youngsters like Brendan Perlini, Clayton Keller, and Dylan Strome will find themselves on a team catered to their skills instead of operating directly counter to their nature.

It might be that the unsung heroes, the “glue guys”, also receive some unexpected benefits from the team’s new approach.

Puck possession and offensive zone time will be a new thing for Yotes fans.

Tipp’s teams weren’t just bad at it in recent years, they were among the worst in the league. Considering it’s importance to a team’s chances at winning each night, the marriage of John Chayka and Dave Tippett never really made sense. Tocch’s quotes about his approach seem to align far better with their general manager’s plans.

After all, more time in the offensive zone makes the world ’round.

It gives the team’s dynamic offensive talent a chance to do what they do best. The shift in possession also better suits Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski, the latter whom struggled tremendously in 2016-17 due to his ill fit in Tippett’s system. I don’t think Jason Demers will mind playing for Tocch, either.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the decrease in defensive zone time should shift Antti Raanta‘s job from “be a superhero every night” to merely “be a decent goalie every night”.

If you doubt that a coaching change could so heavily impact all facets of a team, I’d suggest you look up the 2015-16 Maple Leafs.

They weren’t great, but they played hard, positive hockey under new head coach Mike Babcock after suffering under Randy Carlyle’s outdated style for several seasons. In Babcock’s second year, they became the most watchable team in the NHL with names like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Alexander Nylander leading the way.

Arizona is primed for that level of change beginning this season.

In Tocchet we trust.