GLENDALE, Ariz. — One of Dave Tippett’s best anecdotes from his playing days involves his former coach with the Hartford Whalers, Jack Evans.
Tippett made his living and built a solid reputation as a diligent checking forward, but while he was in the midst of a goal-scoring drought, Evans, a man of few words, offered this counsel.
“‘Tip, I love the way you’re checking. You’re checking your ass off,'” Tippett recalled Evans saying. “‘Just let me give you one bit of advice. When you check a guy, you don’t have to give the puck back to him just so you can check him again.'”
At the risk of ascribing too much meaning, the anecdote perfectly illustrates Tippett. There’s the genuine humility of a former role player who isn’t afraid to admit that role — or his failings. There’s the blue-collar approach that he has transferred to his coaching and now demands from all of his players. And there is the ability to learn and incorporate outside perspectives.
Puck possession is all the rage in the NHL, and you won’t find a more ardent preacher of its importance to success than Tippett, whether it’s in his talks to the media and players, or in that now-legendary statistical analysis he utilizes to break down the game and search for potential areas of improvement.
“He has his own way of analyzing players, which is in contrast to the more traditional norm of video and scouting and what you see,” general manager Don Maloney said. “It’s a real tool for us to use, not only with our own people but when we look at a free-agent group.
“He’s a big believer in odds and percentages. In a league that’s so tight and so competitive, maybe that little edge makes a difference.”
There are too many influences to cite when Tippett assesses his amalgam of coaching philosophies and tactics.
“I’ve played for a lot of great coaches and played with a lot of great teammates who are now coaches,” said Tippett, who was a Whalers teammate of Chicago Blackhawks coach and close friend, Joel Quenneville. “From every coach you pick up a little bit, whether it’s tactical or mental concepts, but in the end, you have to mold it into your own person.”
Whatever the tipping point, it is difficult to argue that Tippett has achieved success as a coach in spite of the fact that he’s never landed one of the NHL’s marquee jobs.
He won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s best coach in 2010-11. He’s never had a losing season in 10 seasons behind the bench. He has the second most wins of any coach in the NHL since the 2002-03 season (427). He’s led the Coyotes to the three highest point totals in franchise history, their first division title and their deepest playoff run, when they advanced to the Western Conference Final in 2012.
On Monday, the Coyotes held a press conference at Jobing.com Arena to announce that Tippett had signed a new deal that is believed to be similar to the five-year $10 million deal Alain Vigneault signed with the New York Rangers.
Tippett’s signing has myriad ramifications. It’s a boost for the current players who have bought into and executed his systems so well. It’s important to the bottom line because the fan base believes in Tippett, so should the ownership saga be resolved within the next week, the club could see a boost in season-ticket sales. Finally, his presence will aid the team greatly when it looks to re-sign its own free agents like Mike Smith and Boyd Gordon, or sign other teams’ free agents.
“It’s certainly a big selling point,” said Maloney, who brought assistant GM Brad Treliving and goalie coach Sean Burke along for a meeting with soon-to-be free-agent goalie Mike Smith and his agent, Kurt Overhardt, last week in Vancouver. “You need your head coach in place. You need your staff in place before you try and convince players to sign with you.
“Dave is a very player-friendly coach in the sense that they know what to expect, whether you’re Shane Doan or the 23rd man on the roster. I think he’s got a real great feel for today’s player and how to prod and push. The proof is in the performance of the team the past four years.” Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter