Coyotes, Tocchet agree to part ways
Welcome to the AZ Coyotes Insider newsletter. My plan is to publish stories four to six times per week. By subscribing, you’ll be supporting independent, accountable journalism. Subscribe now so you won’t miss a story.
Note: This story will be fluid as more information comes in throughout the day, so check back for updates.
Coach Rick Tocchet and the Coyotes have mutually agreed to part ways, the team has confirmed. Tocchet just concluded his fourth season as the Coyotes coach with an overall record of 125-131-34 in four seasons as Arizona’s coach. The team made the playoffs one time (2019-20) in his four seasons. His contract is set to expire on June 30.
“After meeting with Rick, we have agreed that a coaching change is in the best interest of the club,” GM Bill Armstrong said in a statement released by the club. “This was a very difficult decision, but we believe that it is time for a new direction and new leadership. Rick is a very good coach and an incredible person, and we sincerely appreciate all his hard work and dedication to the Coyotes the past four years. We are grateful for everything that he has done for our organization and wish him the best of luck in the future.”
When Armstrong arrived last summer, he said that this season would serve as an evaluation period for every level of the organization, including the coaching staff.
At the same time, Tocchet was taking the same approach. He wanted to know the direction and timeline of the franchise. He probably wanted a raise over the $1.5 million salary that was among the lowest in the NHL, and he wanted more control over personnel decisions. With a new ownership group, it was unlikely that he was going to get it.
Tocchet was not available for comment, but he did release a statement through the club.
“It’s been an honor to coach the Coyotes the past four seasons,” said Tocchet. “I have great respect and admiration for all the players I coached in Arizona, along with my coaching staff, the medical staff, the equipment managers, the PR staff and the team services staff. They are the best in the NHL, and I appreciate all their help and hard work. I also want to thank the fans of the Valley for all their support. I have loved living, playing, and coaching in Arizona and this place will always be special to me.”
Tocchet wants to keep coaching and my sense is that he will have that opportunity, whether it’s as a head coach with a handful of teams that will likely have openings this summer, or as an assistant.
Tocchet is not the only Coyotes coach whose contract is up after this season. Sources said that goalie coach Corey Schwab and assistants Cory Stillman and Jay Varady are also on expiring contracts. Assistant Phil Housley has one more year remaining on his contract.
The search for the eighth coach in franchise history is expected to begin shortly. I’ll have more on that as the search unfolds, but I get the sense that the Coyotes are looking for a young, up-and-coming coach to grow with this group. I do not expect veteran coaches such as John Tortorella, Claude Julien, Bruce Boudreau or Gerard Gallant to be in consideration.
Per a source, the Coyotes would like to have a coach in place by the NHL Draft on July 23–24.
If you’re looking for some names who might be in consideration, here are eight:
St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, who won a Stanley Cup with Armstrong in St. Louis in 2019. Van Ryn was the Coyotes development coach in 2016-17, and he coached the Tucson Roadrunners from 2017-18, giving him familiarity with many players in the system.
Providence College coach Nate Leaman, who guided the United States to a gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championship with a 2-0 win over host Canada.
San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson
New York Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert
Ottawa 67s (OHL) coach André Tourigny
Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Larsen
Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) coach Brad Lauer, who was Armstrong’s IHL teammate in Cleveland
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) coach Scott Gordon, who was Armstrong’s assistant with the Providence Bruins
Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter: @CraigSMorgan