GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dave Tippett exudes a Zen-like calm in most conversations with the media. It must be serving him well in these chaotic times.
Tippett will become the most attractive coaching candidate in the NHL in two weeks, but he can’t talk to teams while he is still under contract through June 30 with the Phoenix Coyotes. His stated preference is to stay in Phoenix, but he has no idea if the team will be in Phoenix in another month, he has no idea if its ownership will be stable and solvent enough to make the necessary improvements the roster requires, and he has no idea where the team might be headed if it does leave Arizona.
To top it off, the list of coaching vacancies is dwindling. The Colorado Avalanche introduced Patrick Roy as their coach three weeks ago, the Edmonton Oilers hired Dallas Eakins last week, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave Dan Bylsma a two-year extension a day later and, on Saturday, news leaked that the New York Rangers will hire deposed Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to replace John Tortorella.
That leaves the Canucks and Dallas Stars as the only clubs looking for teams. Would Tippett be a fit?
Some have pigeonholed him as a defensive-minded coach who wouldn’t know what to do with offensive firepower, but Tippett pointed out in a recent radio interview on XTRA Sports that he had plenty of firepower the last time he coached the Stars with the likes of Mike Modano, Jason Arnott, Jere Lehtinen, Brenden Morrow and Bill Guerin. His Houston Aeros also led the IHL in scoring in 1999, when they won the Turner Cup.
If he were to leave Phoenix, Vancouver would offer an intriguing array of stars led by Henrik and Daniel Sedin. It would also be a pleasant culture shock for Tippett to play for a cap team that goes all in every year to win hockey’s ultimate prize — because it has the money, the fan base and the corporate sponsorships to do so.
On the flip side, the Sedins will both be unrestricted free agents after next season. Will they re-sign? They’d be 34 when the 20014-15 season starts, and some have speculated they might return to their homeland of Sweden. Without them, the Canucks would become an ordinary team in a very demanding market fresh off a couple of Presidents’ Trophy wins — not the ideal circumstances for a new coach.
In Dallas, Tippett would be reunited with director of scouting and player development Les Jackson and a number of other familiar, friendly faces. His youngest daughter, Natalie, still lives in Dallas. There are many hockey insiders who believe former GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s decision to fire Tippett in 2009 was a mistake. In six seasons in Dallas, Tippett won two division titles, never had a losing record and missed the playoffs just once.
If Tippett does stay with the Coyotes and they happen to relocate to Seattle, Tippett has a daughter (Nicole) and two grandsons there, making the city an attractive landing spot. But the first choice is staying here in the Valley to finish what he started and continue working with a group of executives and players he says he truly enjoys.