Last offseason, the Penguins practically lost no one. They kept their roster almost completely intact and kept on rolling. This offseason has been the complete opposite. The Penguins have already lost a number of players such as Bonino, Kunitz, Daley, Fleury, and Hainsey. Today, they lost a key member of Mike Sullivan’s coaching staff, Rick Tocchet.
Tocchet was rumored to be heading to Arizona a couple weeks ago, but today the Coyotes made it official. They’ve signed the three-time Stanley Cup champion to a multi-year contract to make him their newest head coach.
Leaving a championship team like the Penguins had to be hard for Tocchet, and I’ll never hold that against him. He earned the opportunity to be a head coach after his excellence as an assistant to Mike Sullivan here in Pittsburgh.
I hope Tocchet succeeds to the fullest, and I think he will. The Coyotes have brought in a bunch of talent this offseason in Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. They also have a superfluity of great young prospects coming up through the pipelines. Not to mention, they have one of the most underrated defensemen in the league in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Tocchet is just what the Coyotes need to help teach these young stars how to win.
Tocchet has been instrumental in helping players that are “hard to coach” everywhere he’s went. In Tampa Bay, Tocchet revitalized Steve Downie and had him playing exceptional hockey alongside Steven Stamkos. In Pittsburgh, Tocchet was the guy who could get through to Phil Kessel. Kessel has been known as a streaky scorer in his career. When he’s not scoring, he can get frustrated at times. Tocchet was the one guy who was always credited with getting through to Phil.
This type of coaching could be career-changing for a young player in Arizona like Anthony Duclair. Duclair has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, but he struggled mightily last season. A coach like Rick Tocchet might be just what the doctor ordered for Duclair and the rest of Arizona’s young stars.
Tocchet will be missed in Pittsburgh, but I’m excited to see him get his own shot in Arizona. Best of luck, and thanks for everything, Rick.