Phoenix Coyotes: Coach Dave Tippett's Start Shows Wayne Gretzky Wasn't So Great

Ken ArmerSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2009

No one can deny the skill and domination by Wayne Gretzky on the ice, but behind the bench as head coach in Phoenix he was a bit of a joke.

His hair began to make him look more like Ellen DeGeneres and he was always playing the crybaby on calls. Additionally, he was supposed to be the savior of the Coyotes, the Great One leading his team to a championship, yet the Coyotes slipped deeper into the standings and bankruptcy.

Yet, a sun run may be rising in the desert with head coach Dave Tippet. After being let go by the Stars, Tippet was one of the best coaches available and Phoenix immediately snatched him up. And with a start like the Coyotes are having this season, it's no wonder.

In 2005, Gretzky became coach of the Coyotes and during his stretch behind the bench, the Coyotes were usually not a team to be feared. The Coyotes finished higher than last in the division only once during Gretzky's tenure. That single time was last season, when the limping Los Angeles Kings had a worse team than the Coyotes. (Hard to imagine, but true.)

Gretzky deserves all the adoration one can give for his on ice talent, but as a bench boss, he showed such skill on the ice doesn't transfer off.

Ken Hitchcock, head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, probably wouldn't be so pretty on skates. Even with the fact that "Hitch" never played the game himself, he is still one of the top coaches in the sport and even led the 1999 Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup.

I can't say whether it's Gretzky's Ellen DeGeneres haircut, or whether his mind just can't see the game from behind the bench, but I can certainly say he won't be remembered for his time as head coach.

Tippett, on the other hand, has turned a young team that would likely be dead last in the West under Gretzky into a potential sleeper come spring. The Coyotes have had the pieces for the last couple of years and under Tippett's system and coaching talent, it finally seems the Legos are coming together in Glendale.

While Tippett's great defensive hockey mind and early winning record may not keep the team in Arizona, it is certainly a step in the right direction to a rise out of the basement and a possibility to show the NHL and its fans that hockey does belong in Arizona.

In time, maybe the Coyotes fans will remember the good old days and begin filling up the arena, regardless of its location. Regardless, Tippett may be the desert dogs' last hope at survival in Arizona, and thus far he doesn't appear he will fail.


Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for He can be contacted at