Dave Tippett on board with Coyotes’ direction
There won’t be any statements forthcoming from the Coyotes on this particular topic. They’ve got enough on their plates thanks to the NHL Draft, free agency and that strange bedfellow of a business partner, the City of Glendale.
For Coyotes fans, however, a sigh of relief is likely in order today. Coach Dave Tippett will be back in the fold this season and says he’s back on board — for the time being — with the direction the franchise is taking.
"Don (Maloney), myself and all of the management staff have worked very hard to put a plan for our organization going forward," Tippett said Sunday evening by phone. "I look forward to continuing to grow this organization and put the challenges of last year behind us."
When the Coyotes’ season ended on April 11, Tippett tied his future with the team to a two-pronged commitment by ownership and management.
— The Coyotes would need to be active in free agency and the trade market to ensure their ability to compete for a playoff spot during the 2015-16 season.
— General manager Don Maloney would have the requisite budget and blessing to be active in those two markets.
In May, Coyotes president, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc addressed those issues:
"The good news right now is from a budgetary perspective, the agreement the owners came to is the one we needed to come to," he said. "We need to spend some money. Our budget will be higher than what it was last year."
It wasn’t until some philosophical differences in the financial direction of the team were ironed out recently within the ownership group, however, that Tippett became convinced that the team was headed in that direction.
Sources have indicated that the Coyotes are willing to spend to the middle of the cap this season, but ownership does not want to put a hard ceiling on the number. It wants to remain open to opportunities that may present themselves.
While fans have wondered if Saturday’s trade for Nicklas Grossmann, which included the contract of retired defenseman Chris Pronger, was a way to get the Coyotes to the cap floor of $52.8 million (they are still approximately $14 million below it according to generalfanager.com, the expectation is they will be well above it once Maloney has finished rounding out next season’s roster.
Nobody is expecting the Coyotes to match the spending of big-market teams or approach the cap ceiling of $71.4 million. As it enters its third season at the helm, IceArizona is still tackling the laborious and complex task of getting this franchise’s financial house in order. Regardless of naive desires for immediate gratification, that process takes time when you consider the predicament this franchise was in just two summers ago.
On the flip side, losing hockey doesn’t help the bottom line. The Coyotes are generating more non-hockey related revenue for the City of Glendale than they ever have (not to mention tax revenue from the surrounding businesses at Westgate), but on-ice revenue was predictably down last season after the team finished last in the Western Conference standings.
Ownership and management know they overestimated the ability of last season’s roster, even if they had to navigate a perfect storm of injuries and subpar performances. They know they need to do more to compete for a playoff spot and attract new fans. They know they need to match the competitive drive of their coach.
IceArizona always expected Tippett to return this season because he is under contract, but there were questions of whether Tippett could exercise one of the out clauses in his contract designed to protect him from future instability or relocation. There were questions about whether commissioner Gary Bettman might let him walk away to another post because of all he has done for and meant to the league and this franchise during its rudderless era. There was even the possibility that Tippett might walk away and take time off.
All eight of the NHL’s coaching vacancies have been filled, so there is no team left for Tippett to coach aside from the one to which he is under contract for the next three years. Whether he remains committed in years to come will depend on ownership’s continued commitment to the current direction and, perhaps, the outcome of the team’s legal case with Glendale.
For now, Tippett is back to that narrow focus that defines him.
"We had a very successful draft and I’m looking forward to our prospects coming into camp next week," he said. "There’s still lots of work to be done; still lots of holes to fill."