The announcement was not unexpected when it came today. Wayne Gretzky has resigned as the coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
While it was inevitable and in the eyes of most fans, a desired outcome, it's a terrible tragedy that the game's living legend gets hauled out to the curb like yesterday's trash. The shabby treatment that Gretzky has received throughout this bankruptcy procedure is simply inappropriate given his contributions to the game and standing in the sport. It will take some time for these scars to heal. Living legends deserve better.
And today Dave Tippett was named as the Coyotes new coach.
That's amazing news. Amazing good in that Tippett is a highly qualified and respected bench boss. One of the best in the NHL. A coach who can positively impact the fortunes of this team. Once Tom Renney was off the board, Tippett was my first and only choice for the job. Amazing in another way -- hard to believe that Tippett is taking the Phoenix job when other plum positions in the NHL (did someone say Philadelphia?) may be open in the next few weeks. Will be very interesting to see what kind of contract length he gets.
Let's not sell short our good fortune here. This is a great move for the Coyotes. Tippett's presence should make this team a playoff contender. He's that good.
Tippett also played with Ulf Samuelsson, Doug Sulliman and Don Maloney in Hartford. That familiarity will certainly help bring the staff together and probably went a long way towards bringing him here.
And given the swiftness in how today's news is developing it's obvious that this move has been under discussion for several weeks.
Ulf Samuelsson has been the acting coach of the Coyotes. By most accounts he's done a good job preparing the team for the season. He has a future as an NHL coach, just not right now.
Earlier this week, the Coyotes made a couple of other very positive coaching moves. In light of today's news, one can assume these changes were all coordinated by GMDM.
Sean Burke takes over as the goaltender coach for the NHL club. Incumbent Grant Fuhr has been kicked upstairs and will work with the team's prospects as well as scout goaltenders for the franchise. We speculated earlier that Burke would and should join the coaching staff if Samuelsson took over as head coach. Didn't quite work out that way but we're sure Burke will add a lot to the team. It's a good and necessary move.
Improved goaltending is the number one priority for the Coyotes this year., Ilya Bryzgalov has been horribly inconsistent since he joined the team two years ago. In 2007-08 he came to Phoenix mid-season and authored a tremendous hot streak before tailing off at the end of the year. Last year he was good some nights and awful on others. While the Coyotes have a lot of holes to address on their roster, it all starts with goaltending. If Bryz doesn't play consistently well this year, nothing else will really matter.
Fuhr, a Hall of Fame goaltender and by most accounts a great guy, didn't seem to be impacting Bryzgalov's play either mentally or otherwise. Burke is a strong personality and is physically similar to Bryzgalov.
And Dave King has joined the team as an assistant coach. King is an experienced NHL bench boss (at Calgary and Columbus) and has a long reputation as one of the great teaching coaches in hockey. He was in charge of the Canadian national program for many years and has coached at all levels of hockey. While King is not a big name or high profile coach, he is deeply respected within the hockey world and admired as a coach and leader. He's seasoned, a renowned technician and has a great reputation for developing young players. He may turn out to be the biggest addition to the team this off-season.
With all that has gone on this summer, the Coyotes have been at the lowest point this or any franchise can experience. Making a smart and impactful move like this is the first step on what could be a very nice climb back to respectability.