The Phoenix Coyotes made an official announcement at Jobing.com Arena Monday and although it may not have been the one several fans have been clamoring for over the past few years about ownership, it was definitely a big step in the right direction.
The team signed Tippett to a long-term contract extension last week, just days before his current deal was set to expire on July 1.
"I always felt fairly certain that we could find a way to make a deal," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said. "Obviously it took a little longer than maybe you would've liked because of the uncertainty surrounding the team but the good thing is that this saga is ending, fairly soon. In Tip's case, since he's been here, he's sort of set the identity of the team. You know who we are as a franchise, how we have to play to have success,"
Tippett joined the Coyotes franchise amid turmoil in 2009. Just weeks before the regular season opener, then-coach Wayne Gretzky resigned due to the uncertain financial future of the franchise and Tippett, who had been fired by the Dallas Stars three months earlier, took the helm. He's been a steadying force ever since.
"I was certainly hopeful we could get something done. He signed a long-term contract, which shows his commitment, and I think he took less money to stay here, like Shane Doan," said Maloney. "Again, it's part of the commitment to stay with this group. We have got some challenges ahead but it's nice to know that we have our coach and our staff in place and now we can turn around and look at the team. This was maybe the most important decision all offseason as far as I'm concerned."
Maloney has good reason to think this was an important decision for this franchise going forward. Signing a head coach to a long-term deal is sure to bring some stability heading into free agency and the draft next week.
"It's certainly a big selling point. Certainly you need your head coach in place; you need your coaching staff in place before you can try and convince players to sign with you or resign with us. The good thing for us is that people out there, players know who we are and how we operate. I think we treat people very well. It's a heckuva a lot easier now to call people and call agents and the trade discussions have ramped up leading into the draft."
Tippett was sure to be a hot commodity when his contract was up July 1. In 2009-2010 he led the franchise to the postseason for the first time since 2002 and won the Jack Adams Award, awarded to the NHL's Coach of the Year, in 2010. During the 2011-2012 season, the club had the best season in franchise history, winning its first NHL division title and reaching the Western Conference Finals. He did all of this with the franchise being owned by the league.
"I really wasn't nervous per se, I really felt like we would get something done. Especially understanding what's going on with the franchise and knowing that we are going to be concluding at some point here, the nervousness or unrest might've been the fear of what would happen at July 1," Maloney said. "Not only did I think that whoever was looking for a coach would be calling him at 12:01 a.m. but another two or three or four teams might also be calling at 12:01 a.m. looking for a new coach. So that's how well respected Dave is in the league and it's no secret and it's a credit to the job he's done."
Tippett has posted a 156-96-42 record in his four seasons in Phoenix and this past season he became the second head coach in franchise history to reach with 150-win mark.
"It's very rare that you can look at the last four years and we didn't have a chance to beat our opponent. And when we did have down cycle we were able to snap out of it pretty quick and I think that's the strength of the best coaching in today's game. They look at their personnel and they figure out a way to win. I think that really that's Tip's strength," said Maloney.
The 51-year-old bench boss started his coaching career during the 2002-2003 season in Dallas and since then he's earned 427 victories. That's the second-most wins by any active NHL head coach during that time. Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings leads the way with 445 victories.
Maloney is happy to have his head coach locked up and he's hoping the owners are next.
"It's good to have Tip (Dave Tippett) back on board and in place and there's no more uncertainty on how we're going to operate this franchise."