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Last Monday marked the third anniversary of Dave Tippett's tenure as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Tippett, as many remember was brought in at one of the most hectic moments in Coyotes history. After a decision that included future Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, General Manager Don Maloney introduced the former LA Kings and Dallas Stars coach as the newest man in charge. Tippett's acceptance of the job came immediately after the announcement of then head coach Wayne Gretzky's decision to step down from behind the bench.
Having originally gone undrafted, the Moosomin, Saskatchewan native played for North Dakota's Fighting Sioux after an attention grabbing two years with the Prince Albert Raiders in the SJHL. During the time spent with the Fighting Sioux, Dave led the team as captain to the Frozen Four; winning the championship in his first year with the team, in 1982. The power forward saw his numbers exceed those of his previous year at North Dakota. Scoring 15 goals and 46 points in 36 games.
The numbers, too hard to ignore, caught the attention of the Canadian national hockey team and eventually the Hartford Whalers. Signing as a free agent, Dave shared ice time with two other future NHL head coaches, Kevin Dineen of the Florida Panthers and Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks. Only suiting up as a Whaler 17 times in his first year with the club, Tippett notched four goals and two assists. Returning for his second year with the Whale the 23-year old left winger appeared in all 80 regular season games. Tippett would continue with the franchise that originally signed him until 1990 when he was sent to the Washington Capitals for a sixth round draft pick. He remained with the Capitals organization for two years until hitting the free agency market in 1992. From then until 1995, Tippett bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Philadelphia Flyers, eventually finding himself in Houston with the IHL team, the Houston Aeros.
In his final year of playing, Tippett agreed to a contract that would see him not only as a member of the roster but also part of the coaching staff. Playing in 75 games for the Aeros, Tippett scored 18 goals and 66 points; ending his playing career with a total of 93 goals and 262 points. Announcing that the 1995 hockey campaign would be his last, Dave took the assistant coaching position under Terry Ruskowski full time. In an attempt to save the Aeros' season, the team fired Ruskowski and chose to give the vacant spot to Tippett.
Unable to make the playoffs in his first year, the newly crowned head coach returned for the next four years. Including his final season with the Aeros in 1999, he had an overall regular season record of 165-85-36. In his final year in Houston, Tippett led the Aeros to the finals, defeating the Orlando Solar Bears to win the Turner Cup as well as capturing the Fred A. Huber Jr. Memorial Trophy, a trophy awarded to the team with the best record in the league during the regular season. Tippett would also be awarded the IHL Coach of the Year title.
The success that Tippett had seen on the ice translated well from behind the bench and others began to notice. One of those was newly named Los Angeles Kings head coach Andy Murray. Tippett would accept Murray's offer to be an assistant and go on to help the Kings make the playoffs in his first year. For the next two seasons the Kings continued their chase for the Cup, making the playoffs every year with Tippett behind the bench.
It didn't take long for Tippett to receive another head coaching job as he returned to the Lone Star State to coach the Dallas Stars in 2002. Coaching players such as Mike Modano, Marty Turco, future and former Coyotes, Mike Smith and Teppo Numminen. Tippett would take the Stars to the playoffs each year from 2002 until 2008. After missing the playoffs in 2009, the team decided to relieve Dave Tippett of all coaching duties on June 10, 2009.
In the month before Tippett's release from Dallas, then Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes placed the Phoenix franchise into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with a deal in place that would see the team sold to Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie. Much like Balsillie's last two attempts to purchase an NHL franchise, Balsillie hoped to relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL blocked the sale and eventually took over ownership of the Coyotes. With much media attention and pending court cases, Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky decided to step down from coaching duties, making way for Tippett take charge of the team.
In an impressive start, Tippett led the team to a 9-4-0 record in the month of October despite having had virtually no time with the team before the season began. The success that was seen with his previous teams continued on in the desert, as Tippett helped take the Phoenix franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and also led the team to its greatest regular season in history with 107 points, winning the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year along the way. After losing to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games, the Desert Dogs came back the next season with a new found energy.
Although no records would be set in his second year, Tippett again led the Coyotes to the post season and a rematch series against Detroit. Unfortunately, the results would not be improved, as the Wings would sweep a distracted Coyotes squad as new rumors began swirling that the team would leave Phoenix as soon as their season was done.
After being swept, and still very much in the Valley of the Sun, GM Don Maloney and Tippett went back to the drawing board as they found themselves without starting goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov. Referring back to his days as head coach for the Stars, Tippett remembered the potential that goalie Mike Smith had shown. Originally cut because of the depth of Dallas' goaltending, Smith was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning where he struggled to find his footing. In his final year with the Lightning, Smith cleared waivers twice. Hitting free agency on July 1st, Mike Smith's lasting impression on Tippett was enough to yield a contract offer with the Phoenix Coyotes. The signing of Smith proved instrumental to the Coyotes' season. Tippett once again led the Coyotes along with Smith to new heights, going on the deepest playoff run in franchise history, as well as capturing their first ever Pacific Division title.
After coming off their strongest season, Tippett and company are looking to continue the momentum well into the 2012-13 campaign that everyone hopes will get under way soon. But whatever the future holds, Tippett's system has been engraved into each of the players on the Phoenix Coyotes. And his 'take anything thrown our way-no excuses' way of playing may prove to be the edge that puts the Phoenix squad above the other teams this season.