Arizona Coyotes players share their thoughts on former coach Rick Tocchet
Monday was the Arizona Coyotes’ annual release day. The players came to Gila River Arena for talks with the front office, to tidy up the things they wanted to take to the locker room and to exchange goodbyes with their teammates for the next few weeks or for good.
It marked the official end of the Coyotes’ 2020-21 season which only started in January.
In an offseason that promises changes under the leadership of general manager Bill Armstrong, the biggest came on Sunday. The club and head coach Rick Tocchet has agreed to separate after the four seasons of Tocchet at the head. The search for a new coach has started.
Armstrong said he would consult with former Coyotes captain Shane Doan, now at the team’s front office, for help finding the next head coach. He would like the new coach to be able to push the core of Coyotes players to the next level.
The hiring will be the Coyotes’ biggest decision of the offseason. For now, however, Monday has also been devoted to appreciating Tocchet for his time with the organization.
“Unfortunately we lost ‘Toc’ (Sunday) which stinks,” said Coyotes forward Conor Garland. “It stinks when you miss the playoffs and you’re not doing your job as a player and someone else has to pay the price.”
Garland said Tocchet was instrumental in helping him increase his playing time.
Forward Phil Kessel and Tocchet date back to when Tocchet was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kessel a player there.
“He’s a good friend of mine and I think he’s a great coach and a great person,” Kessel said. “It’s part of the business, but I love him, and I think he’s done a good job here.
“I’m sure a lot of teams will be interested in him.”
The players talked about the type of person they found Tocchet. Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said it was difficult to see anyone leave.
“He loves the game. He just wants to get better every day, no matter if he’s a player or a coach,” said Ekman-Larsson. “I feel like he improved all the players and the guys around him.”
Center Nick Schmaltz said Tocchet will get another peek somewhere and wished him the best. He said the Coyotes’ game was “too high and low” this season.
– Garland (United States), forward Michael Bunting (Canada) and goalkeepers Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill (Canada) have all accepted invitations to play for their respective homelands in the IIHF World Championship tournament in Latvia later this month.
– Schmaltz said he was feeling better after an accident where he was hit in the jaw with a puck that missed the goal during pre-game warm-ups last week. He was in concussion protocol and missed the last four games of the season. Kuemper said he was not at 100% when he returned from a lower body injury at the end of the season after missing 19 games, but felt well enough to return. Armstrong said F Tyler Pitlick was set to return from an injury at the end of the season, and D Jakob Chychrun said he was hampered by a wrist injury from two months ago and that ‘he would have her reassessed.
– Kessel is this season’s nominee for the Arizona Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and performance. dedication to ice hockey. Kessel, who led the Coyotes with 20 goals and 43 points and played all 56 games, returned from a 2019-20 season in which he played from injury and tallied 38 points in 70 games. He has passed 900 career points and led his consecutive streak of games to 900. “I was just gone, right? This year I tried to train hard, work hard and find who I am. was and I had an OK year, ”Kessel said.
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