Pack Mentality: New Era for Coyotes Hockey

When the 2016-17 season ended, there was no question that the Coyotes were going to make some changes in the offseason. What no one necessarily expected was a total revamping of the Yotes from top to bottom. With a long tenured captain no longer a part of the organization to a new head coach, here’s what you need to know about the last month surrounding the Coyotes:

June 16 – Front Office Changes

The Coyotes announced that they would be making front office changes. President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc and President of Hockey Operations Gary Drummond stepped down from their duties. Owner, Chairman and Governor Andrew Barroway named Ahron Cohen Chief Operating Officer and began a national search to fulfill LeBlanc’s role, a replacement for Drummond was not a priority at the time.

June 17 – Smith Trade

The drama begins here. Goalie Mike Smith is traded to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Brandon Hickey, goaltender Chad Johnson and a conditional third round draft pick. In six seasons with the Coyotes, Smith was 128-132-41 with .961 save percentage in 321 games for the Yotes.

June 19 – Thank you, Captain

It’s been just over one month that the Arizona Coyotes announced that they would not be renewing Shane Doan’s contract for the 2017-18 season. At the end of last season, Doan was pondering a return to the ice or retirement. The Coyotes made it easy by sharing they were choosing to move in a different direction.

Doan’s agent had told Arizona Sports a few days before the announcement that the Captain was leaning towards returning, so it was a big surprise when Doan got the call. Ultimately, Barroway said the decision to revamp the team was to go with a young group of guys and he felt moving forward with a primarily young group was what was best.

When Barroway introduced new head coach Rick Tocchet and CEO/President Steve Patterson earlier this month he shared that he wished he had handled the Doan situation differently.

“What happened with Shane, I’ll have to take some responsibility for,” Barroway said. “I think we made the right hockey decision with Shane, but in retrospect I should have flown out and met with him myself and told him. For that, I am sorry. I apologize to Shane and the fans.”

June 22 – Tippett Departure

The Coyotes and head coach Dave Tippett mutually part ways. The rebuild of the team was fully put into motion with this change. Barroway said in a statement that the two had “philosophical differences” on the rebuild and therefore thought it would be in the best interest of both parties to go separate ways.

June 23 – Draft Day

The roster changes continue. Prior to the start of the 2017 Draft, the Coyotes traded defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Shortly after that trade, the Yotes aquired center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta from the Rangers in exchange for Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in the Draft.

So, the Coyotes have three new players before the Draft even began. Since the Yotes gave up the seventh overall pick in the trade with the Rangers, the Coyotes’ first pick was the 23rd overall pick. With that pick, the Yotes selected defenseman Pierre Oliver-Joseph out of Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

The Coyotes would go on to select eight more players in the 2017 Draft.

Filip Westerlund – 44th overall from Frolunda Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League
Mackenzie Entwistle – 69th overall from Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League
Nate Schnarr – 75th overall from Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League
Cameron Crotty – 82nd overall from Brockville of the Central Canada Hockey League
Noel Hofenmayer – 108th overall from Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League
Michael Karow – 128th overall from Youngstown of the United States Hockey League
Erik Walli Walterholm – 190th overall from Sweden

June 27 – Assistant Coach, Playfair Leaves Yotes

With the departure of Tippett, assistant coach Jim Playfair and the Coyotes decide to go different ways.

The full coaching staff rebuild commences.

July 11 – A Familiar Face Returns

After two quiet weeks from the Coyotes, the hire of head coach Rick Tocchet is announced.

Tocchet played with the Coyotes from 1997-2000. He coached under Wayne Gretzky in 2005. Tocchet was previously the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-10, then spent three years as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2014-17.

At his introductory press conference Tocchet expressed that he was a “loyal guy” and appreciated the opportunity to come in and develop the young core the Coyotes have.

Before addressing the media for the first time, Tocchet walked into the Coyotes dressing room and to his surprise, saw winger Brendan Perlini taping up his stick.

“I said, what are you doing, training camp’s not ’till another 80 days,” Tocchet said. “But that’s what I like, he’s taping his stick, he’s here, it’s still two months away.”

Tocchet described the young players as “sponges” that just take it all in and are ready to learn.

“There’s going to be some bumps along the way, but I want these guys to be creative and I want these guys to play free and I think that’s important here,” Tocchet said. “The process of it is going to be a good process and hopefully one day we can lift the Stanley Cup.”

July 12 – Patterson Hire

Former Arizona State Athletic Director Steve Patterson is hired as President and CEO. Patterson has previously been a part of many stadium projects across the country and the hire was a statement move by the Coyotes showing that they mean business in the potential move from Gila River Arena.

July 26 – Coaching Staff Complete

The Coyotes come full circle with the signing of John MacLean and Scott Allen as assistant coaches on Tocchet’s staff. MacLean was previously an assistant with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2011-14. He won a Stanley Cup in 2003 as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils. Allen was an assistant with the Florida Panthers last season. He is entering his 22nd season as a professional coach.

What now?

The Coyotes have been finalizing deals with players in the last month amidst the hub-bub, as well. Most notably, the Coyotes signed defenseman Adam Clendening to a one-year contract and both center Nick Cousins and Jordan Martinook to two-year contracts. Several two-way contracts were also signed, including goalie Marek Langhamer and center Tyler Gaudet.

With a good group of experienced players, a young core, and a new front office and coaching staff, the Coyotes are officially ready for this new era.