Tocchet Loses Interim Label
(Tampabaylightning.com) The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Rick Tocchet to a multi-year contract to serve as the seventh head coach in team history, executive vice president and general manager Brian Lawton announced Monday. Tocchet becomes the teamâ€™s head coach after serving 66 games as interim coach during 2008-09. The job marks Tocchetâ€™s first in the NHL as a permanent head coach.
A source told The Sporting News the deal was 2 years in length, not the standard 3 year deal as expected.
â€œWe are pleased to take the next step with Rick today, naming him our head coach,â€ said Lawton upon making the announcement. â€œHe did an admirable job as interim coach this past season, stabilizing our locker room and keeping our players focused through the end of the year. The entire organization looks forward to the start of the 2009-10 season after Rick is able to get the team prepared to play with a strong, goal-oriented training camp.â€
The 45-year old Tocchet was named interim head coach on November 14, 2008, guiding the Lightning to a 19-33-14 record in the remaining 66 games of the regular season. His team remained competitive through the entire season despite dressing 50 players (22 defensemen) and missing 351 man-games due to injury. The Lightning improved in several statistical categories under Tocchet.
â€œI am excited for our players and fans that Rick has accepted the position of head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning,â€ said owner and Governor Oren Koules. â€œRick has proven to the management and to our players that he is the right man for this job. And we believe he can take the persona he brought to the ice everyday as a player and mold our team in that image on and off the ice. He embodies what we want our players and our team to be all about.â€
Rookie Steven Stamkos, who was held without a goal in 15 of his first 16 games, scored 21 goals and tallied 42 points in his 63 games played with Tocchet as interim coach. An extensive strength training and video program, instituted by Tocchet, helped the rookie develop through the year. He finished with a franchise record for goals by a rookie in a season with 23, breaking the mark set by Brad Richards in 2000-01 by two.
â€œIâ€™d like to thank Oren (Koules), Len (Barrie) and Brian for giving me this opportunity,â€ said Tocchet upon signing the contract. â€œI take this position very seriously as I know there are only 30 of these jobs in the world. Our fans have been great to me and our players and they deserve more than we gave them last season. We believe we can set ourselves on the right track for the 2009-10 season and compete for a playoff spot with a strong training camp. I expect our players will have a productive summer and then show up mentally and physically prepared on September 14.â€
Having just completed his 26th year in the NHL as either a player or a coach, Tocchet made his mark as a player as one of only three men in the history of the NHL to record 400 or more goals and at least 2,500 penalty minutes. He played 18 seasons with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Phoenix, appearing in 1,144 career games and recording 440 goals, 952 points and 2,972 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 145 playoff games and netted 52 goals with 112 points and 471 penalty minutes.
Originally drafted by Philadelphia in the sixth-round, 125th overall, at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, Tocchet began his career with the Flyers in 1984-85 and retired midway through the 2001-02 season. The Scarborough, Ontario native won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992 and appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals with Philadelphia in 1987. He was selected to four NHL All-Star teams (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993).
Known for his ability to score in addition to his tenacity and grit, Tocchet recorded three 40-goal seasons, two 30-goal seasons and 11 20-goal seasons. In 1992-93, he set career highs for goals with 48, assists with 61 and points with 109 with the Penguins. Internationally, Tocchet represented Canada at the 1990 and 1991 World Championships as well as in the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup tournaments.
Shortly after retiring in 2002, Tocchet joined the Colorado Avalanche as an assistant coach. He spent a season and a half on the bench with the Avalanche before joining former teammate Wayne Gretzky as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005. He was named associate coach of the Lightning on July 9, 2008.