In hiring Dave Tippett to replace Wayne Gretzky as their head coach, the Phoenix Coyotes have done a philosophical about-face.
Gretzky had no coaching experience when he took over the Coyotes' reins four years ago, coming out of the NHL lockout.
Tippett, by contrast, is an experienced coach, having paid his dues in the minors, where he won a championship with Houston, before graduating to the NHL and averaging 47 wins and 105 points in his first five seasons with the Dallas Stars.
Tippett's only really bad season came last year when the Stars slumped to 83 points and missed the playoffs, largely because of long-term injuries to their best players (Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov) and the early distractions caused by Sean Avery's presence on the roster.
But Tippett is steeped in Hockey Canada's teaching tradition and looks as though he'll be a good fit to pilot a Coyotes team long on potential but short on everyday stars. With Tippett, plus new assistant coaches Dave King and Sean Burke, all graduates of the Olympic program, the Coyotes believe they have a staff in place to nurture their young corps of players.
"Looking around the league to see who was available, there was only one person that I thought was the ideal fit and that's Dave Tippett," said Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, who revealed that he had an "inkling," as early as last June, that Gretzky would step aside. "I've always liked the way Dave's teams played. … I thought they were structured, disciplined and they worked. The job of a coach is to get the most out of your players and prepare them for a chance to win every night.
"Dave has a quiet strength to him, an intelligence, and there's no learning period here with him. We all know the situation we're in. We're in a position to take advantage of Wayne's work. We're fortunate. We needed a coach, and we got one of the best."
Tippett embraced the challenge of coaching a team that will be subject to year-long speculation about its future, all of which can only be resolved once the ownership issues are settled in a bankruptcy court. In the meantime, Tippett's goal will be to shield the players from the boardroom dramas and keep their focus on hockey.
"The chance to come and build something was very exciting to me," Tippett said. "If it's any indication talking to the players here, I think we have a very motivated group.
"There are a lot of off-ice situations that we can't control. What we're going to do is concentrate on what we have to do on the ice, to earn the right to be a playoff team and earn the right to compete for the Stanley Cup. That's what we're all in the business for."