Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett entering uncharted waters with losing team

Dec 13, 2014, 5:22 AM | Updated: Dec 14, 2014, 6:39 pm
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Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett has seen many things in his 12-year NHL coaching career. Watching a below-.500 team from behind the bench is not one of them.

As the Coyotes sit near the bottom of the Pacific Division and Western Conference through the first 29 games of the 2014-15 season with a record of 10-16-3, Tippett is attempting to find the magic elixir that will take his team from putrid to playoff contender.

“I’ve never coached a team that’s been under .500, so this is a new thing for me,” Tippett told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “It’s a struggle.”

Tippett’s record as an NHL head coach is quite impressive. He is 474-298-28-97 in his 897-game career. In fact, the last time Tippett was a part of a team with a losing record was in 1993-94 as a forward for the Philadelphia Flyers (35-39-10). He scored four goals and 15 points in 73 games that season.

His worst season as a head coach came in 2008-09 with the Dallas Stars (36-35-11). He was fired the following offseason and landed in Arizona a few months later.

And yet, this season is shaping up to be the most frustrating and perplexing of Tippett’s career.

“We’ve tried practicing more, practicing less, switching goalies, switching some personnel from the minors — we keep pounding away so hopefully we can get ourselves stabilized,” Tippett said.

Possibly the most frustrating aspect of the team’s struggles this season is the loss of the fundamentals of a Tippett-coached team — strong defense and goaltending.

“…To win games in the league you have to be able to defend, you need good goaltending and both of those fall in to help the penalty kill, and right now, we don’t defend well enough, our goaltending hasn’t been good enough and hence we give up too many goals,” Tippett said.

The Coyotes rank 27th in the league in goals allowed per game, giving up an average of 3.24.

“We need to defend better and have better goaltending if we’re going to become a better team,” Tippett said.

In the meantime, Arizona must get back on track and find ways to hoard points if there is any hope of returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

“Players today — it’s not about yelling and screaming, they want solutions to problems,” Tippett said. “So we continue to pound away at structural stuff, we make sure it is in place, and the ability to (play within it) as most consistently as you can.”

The Coyotes are mired in an eight-game home losing streak, disappointing the home faithful in a market that can least afford it.

While going up against the Arizona Cardinals football game on TV certainly did not help, only 10,194 fans attended the Coyotes’ Thursday night affair with the Nashville Predators. The low number drew criticism from other markets and former Coyote Mike Ribeiro, who made his return to the Valley.

One person who was not bothered by it was Tippett himself. Arizona has plenty of issues, lack of crowd noise does not even make the cut.

“Our fans have been fantastic here,” Tippett said. “There hasn’t been as many as other arenas sometimes, but our fans have been very vocal and that’s not an issue for us at all.”

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