The decision was agonizing.
Moving forward for all parties, it’s hoped this conclusion is influential.
There is little doubt in the mind of Phoenix Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett where he would like to coach. The resolving issue lay with the ultimate destination.
Last Friday, Tippett announced he’s returning to the desert and signed a reported five year contract worth a reported $10 million to coach the Coyotes. Now that Tippett has committed, he needs to use his influence to make sure key players remain with the franchise.
The unresolved saga of the Coyotes franchise represented a clear factor in the direction of players, coaching and management. With ownership unclear, the burden of heavy financial losses hanging like a dark cloud, an uncertain fan base and apathetic local media, the actors in this terrible narrative weighted their future.
General manager Don Maloney took the first leap of fate when he signed to continue as the team’s GM. Then, assistant general manager Brad Treliving signed as did goaltending coach Sean Burke.
Slowly, participants put on blinders and became oblivious to the surrendering franchise nightmare. With Maloney’s initial act, others followed and now players must be convinced.
Of immediate concern is the signing of free agents goalie Mike Smith and defensive forward Boyd Gordon. Each is considered an important component of a team which achieved under Tippett but failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring.
“We knew the signings had to happen for us to go to the players,” Maloney said after a news conference Monday to announce Tippett’s signing. “This opens a new dialogue for us and gives credibility to what we want to do here.”
While the immediate, geographical destination of the Coyotes remains unknown, Tippett’s signing should allay fears about franchise stability. Sure, debate continues to rage on about the quality of the franchise, whether the Phoenix market can and will sustain an NHL team and whether new ownership can endure an economic free fall.
Through Tippett’s coaching capabilities and his reputation as “a players coach.” he was able to translate his version of honesty, commitment and dedication. Now, these attributes are tested as Tippett tries to spread his influence to Smith, a key component of this franchise.
“We’ve emphasized the importance of staying and (Smith) sees what Don, Brad and myself have done,” Tippett said. “Mike says he still wants to wait and see how this all pans out.”
In the present period of franchise uncertainty, Tippett acknowledged there was interest in his service. Still, he wanted to see what Maloney would do and whether an investment with Phoenix remained in his best interest.
During a news conference Monday afternoon to announce his signing, Tippett said he remained committed to a franchise whom he helped bring to the brink of the Stanley Cup Final last spring. In reaching the Western Conference Final round against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the Coyotes reached the highest playoff level in franchise history.
Now that Maloney, Treliving and Tippett are on board, the ownership merry-go-round is about to stop, and pieces may be in place to fully concentrate on hockey matters.
“This creates a level playing field,” Tippett said. “This is where we have stability and have a passionate, hard-working group ready to move forward.”
Tippett cited captain Shane Doan, defensemen Derek Morris and Keith Yandle, along with forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata as representing the core of a franchise which is clearly capable of winning.
In the weeks since the Coyotes season ended without playoff participation, Tippett said he did not delve into offseason preparation. Realizing the uneasy state of the franchise and his contract expiration on July 1, Tippett said he was in “a holding pattern.”
Now with hockey management on board and the ownership question about to be resolved, Tippett said he is already thinking about training camp. First, the Coyotes will hold a minicamp the second week in July, and Tippett said he is ready to conduct activities.
“In the last week, things came together,” he pointed out. “Now, training camp will get done soon.”
In four seasons under Tippett, the Coyotes were 156-96-42 and qualified for the playoffs three times. His winning percentage of .602 is the highest of any head coach in franchise history.
Going into next season, Tippett’s 427 career wins with Dallas and Phoenix trails only Detroit’s Mike Babcock (445) for the most victories among active coaches.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.