Coyotes hire Rick Tocchet as head coach

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Tocchet, who has experience as both a player and an assistant coach with the Coyotes, will replace Dave Tippett as the 18th head coach in franchise history.

Tocchet, an assistant coach with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the past three seasons, signed a four-year contract with the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Tocchet will be introduced at a press conference at Gila River Arena at 1 p.m. Thursday. The press conference will be streamed live on FOX Sports GO.

“Rick was the best candidate by a wide margin,” general manager John Chayka said.

Tocchet, 53, had nearly two years of head coaching experience with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008 to 2010 — compiling a 53-69-26 record from 2008 to 2010 — but says the three years spent on the Penguins staff has made him much more prepared for a head coaching position.

He won’t have the luxury of coaching a Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on the Coyotes, but he sees potential to develop their young talent into consistent winners.

“Everybody knows it’s a young squad,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of players that were stars as juniors and they’re coming together now. That’s the attractive part for me. Chicago went through it, Pittsburgh went through it, you’ve got to through this process to win. I looked at the roster and said there’s some potential to really grow this into something big.

“I love working with young guys. You can be an impact on their careers. I think that’s a big responsibility that I take very seriously.”

Chayka said Tocchet’s communication skills were a crucial selling point.

“He’s one of the best communicators I’ve come across not only in hockey but probably professionally as well,” Chakya said. “I think he can just relate to the players. He’s very firm. He can motivate. He can be aggressive in his approach, but he can also be that big brother kind of approach with our young players and I think that’s going to be helpful moving forward.”

When asked to describe his communication style, Tocchet said it was difficult to label.

“You just can’t pound hockey into a guy’s head,” he said. “Sometimes less is more. A lot of times when I communicate with a player, they’ll kind of dictate how long they’ll be in the office. Communicate to me is a flow. It just kind of happens. That’s one of my strengths.”

Tocchet had an 18-year NHL playing career and was a four-time NHL All-Star. He totaled 440 goals, 512 assists and 2,972 penalty minutes while playing in 1,144 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. He won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Penguins in 1992.

He played 213 games with the Coyotes from 1997 to 2000 — accumulating 64 goals, 66 assists and 371 penalty minutes — and was an assistant on Wayne Gretzky’s staff for the 2005-06 season.

“I’ve seen this hockey market at its best,” he said. “It’s an exciting hockey market. I think it’s a little bit underrated sometimes because of the situation they’ve been put in, but I think there’s a lot of value there. The attractiveness was the young nucleus of players. The lifestyle in Arizona. I’ve lived there for seven years. I just want to be part of this thing moving forward.”