The National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes announced Tuesday they’ve hired Rick Tocchet as their head coach and one of Tocchet’s first order of business will be to name the rest of his staff.
For the past two seasons, Slaney’s been an assistant coach with the Coyotes and there is a team option on the deal that saw the 45-year-old St. John’s native promoted from an AHL assistant in 2015.
New coaching brooms often sweep clean, but while Tocchet said in an interview Tuesday he hasn’t yet decided who’ll fill the assistants’ jobs, Slaney isn’t an unfamiliar quantity to the new Arizona bench boss. The two were teammates twice during their NHL careers — in 1995-96 with the Los Angeles Kings and two years later with the Coyotes. They also spent shared time in the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
And whatever happens, Tocchet has Slaney’s full endorsement.
“I think he’s the perfect choice for a team with so many young players,” said Slaney of Tocchet, who earned high marks as a communicator while working as an assistant coach with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins the past two years.
“He’s exactly the type of a coach that’s needed here right now.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the coaching announcement, Slaney hadn’t spoken with Tocchet, who will be officially introduced by the Coyotes Thursday.
Jim Playfair, who has been another of Tippett’s assistants, stepped down in late June.
“Things have been happening pretty fast,” said Slaney. “So I guess it’s kind of wait and see before we find out what exactly what’s happen for me.”
Still, Slaney — who has been the Coyotes’ eye-in-sky assistant, a coach who follows games from the press box — might have a say in his future.
Before the Coyotes and Dave Tippett, who had been the team’s head coach since 2009, mutually parted ways, Slaney had talked to Tippett about possibly changing jobs.
“One day, Tip asked me how I liked my job and I told him it was great. It really is. Everyone wants to get to the NHL, as a player or a coach, and that’s where I was, but I also told him I kind of wanted to get back behind the bench.
“A little while after that, we talked about maybe having me go back to my old job.”
That would be as an assistant coach responsible for defencemen at the AHL level with the Tucson Roadrunners, work he did for four seasons when the Coyotes’ farm club was the Portland Pirates.
“Of course, everyone wants to be the NHL, but I also love the idea of maybe working directly with the players again. For example, even though I know they’ve been traded, I really enjoyed playing a part in the development of players like (Connor) Murphy and Michael Stone and seeing how they progressed.
“It would get me behind the bench again, plus it would mean I’d be staying in the organization I started coaching with and it would mean I get to stay in Arizona (Tucson is a little more than a two-hour drive from the Coyotes’ home in Glendale).
“Those things are important to me.
“But like I said, we’ll see how it plays out. For a while there, things were a little up in the air. We didn’t know if Tip would be back, but then he left and now, things seem to be happening quickly.”
Whatever happens, they’ll be a hockey change in the Slaney household this fall.
That’s because Tyler Slaney, 15, is heading to California to play in the Los Angeles Kings AAA program. But the teenager won’t be completely separated from family, as he’ll be living in suburban L.A. with his Aunt Jodi, the sister of John’s wife Brenda and the wife of former NHL defenceman Jaroslav Modry, another one of Slaney’s ex-teammates.
And Tyler isn’t the only up-and-coming player in the family. Like her father, who once held the record as the highest-scoring defenceman in AHL history, 10-year-old Julia Slaney is a standout blueliner. She plays on a rep team in the Junior Coyotes minor system.