Leaders of the Pack
Dave Tippett and his coaching staff are creating a new era in Coyotes hockey
A new pack leader is ushering in a new era of Coyotes hockey for the 2009-10 season.
Dave Tippett was named the 17th head coach in franchise history on Sept. 24, 2009.
Tippett has brought to the franchise a style of hockey that’s based on defence and structure. He believes those are key blocks in the foundation of success for the Coyotes.
Tippett’s teams have been known for being defensively responsible. While his Dallas Stars teams finished in the top-10 in goal scoring three times in his six seasons as head coach, they also finished no worse than sixth in the league in goals against in five of his six seasons. And in three different seasons (2007-08, 2003-04 and 2002-03), they finished in the top three.
Tippett has a distinguished coaching resume that started with a head coaching stint with the International Hockey League’s Houston Aeros in 1995. He led Houston to two 50-win seasons. In 1999, Tippett lead his team to the Turner Cup Championship and was named the IHL’s Coach of the Year.
After Tippett’s tenure in Houston, he spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings made the playoffs all three seasons with Tippett on board.
The native of Moosomin, Saskatchewan was then named head coach of the Dallas Stars on May 16, 2002. In six years, Tippett compiled 271 regular season wins, two Pacific Division titles, five playoff berths and 21 playoff victories. Coming into the 2009-10 season, Tippett had been behind the bench for 492 NHL regular season games and 47 playoff games.
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski believes that Tippett’s “defense first” philosophy is being
“I think everybody has got to be on board, and sometimes if you don’t have everybody on board, it obviously doesn’t go the team’s way,” Jovanovski said. “But I think he’s done a great job to get everyone pulling the same way, and everybody buying into the system and making sure that there’s accountability in the dressing room.”
Jovanovski noted that Tippett is always prepared and always has a deep understanding of the opposition.
“We’ve got different tactics and different game plans implemented every game,” Jovanovski said. “He’s done very well for our team, and like I said, he’s a very prepared individual that knows what it takes to win games.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan gives the entire coaching staff high marks for the work they’ve done so far.
“They have kind of been through it all and seen it all,” Doan said. “We’re an older group of players in general, too. We had a lot of young guys on the team last year and this year it’s a more experienced group, and I think that we’re stepping in guys that have been around the league for a while and have responded great.”
Tippett isn’t leading the Coyotes by himself. He has the backing of a coaching staff that’s diverse in abilities and experience.
Tippett’s staff includes Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson, Assistant Coach Dave King, Assistant Coach Doug Sulliman and Goaltending Coach Sean Burke.
He’s now in his fourth season with the Coyotes and he oversees the teams’ defensive corps, which has been excelling at both ends of the ice in 2009-10.
Before his tenure in Phoenix, Samuelsson spent a season as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Hartford WolfPack.
Samuelsson also ran this year’s training camp for the Coyotes before Tippett came on board.
“Ulf did a terrific job providing organization and structure for the team during training camp,” said General Manager Don Maloney.
King was named head coach of the Calgary Flames in 1992 and led them to a 109-76-31 record with two division titles over three seasons. After that, he served as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens from 1997 to 1999, and as Director of European Scouting during the 1999-00 season.
On July 5, 2000, King was named head coach of the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. He helped Columbus to a home record of 19-15-4-3, making them the first expansion team since 1970 to post a better than .500 record at home.
He spent the past five seasons coaching professionally in Russia and Germany.
Sulliman's enthusiasm for the game is infectious, and his ability to bring a positive attitude into the dressing room during games, regardless of the situation on the ice, is a big plus.
Burke is in his first season as the team’s goaltending coach. He previously served as the team’s Director of Prospect Development since March 2008.
Burke spent 18 seasons playing in the NHL, including five with the Coyotes from 1999 to 2004. He also spent time with the New Jersey Devils, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. A three-time NHL All-Star, Burke ranks among the Coyotes’ all-time goaltending leaders in numerous statistical categories.
Because he took over as head coach just nine days before the season opener, Tippett said the immediate challenge was to get him and his staff on the same page right away.
“My first thought was to get the staff together, make sure we’re a cohesive group, make sure the messages that we’re sending into the dressing room are strong and precise,” Tippett said.
Tippett also said he and his coaching staff need to keep the players focused on hockey.
“The second part was to make sure there’s no focus off the ice (on ownership issues),” Tippett said. “We can only control what’s on the ice, and the business part of the game is off the ice, so we’ll let those people take care of it. We have to worry about playing.”
King said it’s important that he, Tippett and the rest of the coaches have good chemistry, just like the players.
“A head coach can give a lot of the structure, a lot of the details, but he can’t give it all, and sometimes you need another voice, a different voice delivering the same message,” King said. “And assistant coaches, that’s what we have to do, deliver the same message, and be consistent in our message. But we have to make sure we’re reinforcing the points he really wants to stress with our team play.”
Tippett believes that everyone in an organization needs to be pulling in one direction. And like his players, the coaching staff also has to have that collective desire to win.
“Just because we’re coaches doesn’t mean we’re not on the same team,” Tippett said. “We’re all trying to do this thing together. Everybody doing their part in the best way possible makes the group stronger, and that goes for coaches also.”
This is not the first time that the paths of the Coyotes coaches have crossed.
Tippett’s hockey resume extends beyond coaching. He played collegiately at the University of North Dakota and signed a free-agent contract with the Hartford Whalers on Feb. 29, 1984 to begin his pro hockey career.
While playing in Hartford, he served as the team’s alternate captain. Tippett also was captain of the 1984 Canadian Olympic Team and won a silver medal as a member of the 1992 Canadian Olympic Team, which was coached by King and featured Burke in goal.
In total, he spent 11 years playing in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Tippett played in 721 regular season games and notched 93 goals and 169 assists for 262 points and 317 penalty minutes. He concluded his playing career in 1995 as a player-assistant coach with the Houston Aeros.
Samuelsson was a teammate of Tippett’s in Hartford and Pittsburgh. They’ve become friends through the years and have gotten to know each other’s family. Samuelsson believes that Tippett is a good fit in Phoenix.
“There were so many uncertainties surrounding us at that time (when Tippett was hired),” Samuelsson said. “So I think it was good for the organization to get an established coach with a good track record like that and sort of settle things down.”
Sulliman also spent time as teammates with two of his fellow coaches on the Coyotes’ staff. He played with Tippett in Hartford and with Sean Burke in New Jersey.
Tippett has stressed a style of play that requires all players to pull in one direction. It’s a style that requires everyone to play disciplined but aggressive hockey and encourages the team to play almost as if each player has a chip on his shoulder. He calls this philosophy the “pack mentality.”
“There’s been some other situations where I thought it was appropriate for the group,” Tippett said. “And here, because of the situation off the ice, you’ve got to have a little bit of an ‘us against everybody else’ mentality, and when you’re doing that, you get backed into a corner. That’s a pack mentality.”
Doan believes the organization’s “us against the world” mentality could wind up becoming a key to success this season.
“We’ve talked about it as a group, that we have to kind of stay as a group,” Doan said. “We really don’t have a superstar or anything like that. We’ve got to have that ‘us against everybody’ mentality and we’ll be successful that way.”
If the Coyotes are going to make the playoffs this season, they’re likely going to need to carry the “pack mentality” throughout 82 games, and Tippett believes it’s a style of play that Coyotes fans can take pride in.
“We want to make sure that we’re a team that people, when they come out to watch us play, that they can be proud of (us),” Tippett said. “We need to be a hard working group that continues to build that fan base. And that’s the one thing that everybody here wants to do. Phoenix is a wonderful place and it’s a wonderful organization. Now we just have to prove it to people.”
Author: Anthony Perez