There are still two vacant head coaching jobs in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers still in need of a new bench boss, and it seems possible that Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet could be a potential candidate for at least one of them as he has been linked to several coaching vacancies this year.
In an interview with TSN’s Frank Seravalli on Saturday, Tocchet said that even though working on Mike Sullivan’s staff in Pittsburgh has been the most fun he has ever had coaching in the NHL, he would still like another opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL again.
“If a situation arises, I’d love a shot at it,” Tocchet told Seravalli. “Listen, there’s a lot of great coaches out there. Every year, it seems, there’s a flavor of the year coach – whether it’s a guy in the minors or an assistant that’s winning. I think I’m a good coach. I can work with anybody chemistry-wise. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m lucky in the situation I’m in, this is the best job other than being a head coach, being with Mike and the Penguins.”
The obvious potential landing spot for Tocchet would seem to be the Buffalo job given who the Sabres hired — former Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill — to continue their rebuild.
Botterill has already talked about using Pittsburgh as a model for how to rebuild the Sabres, specifically their NHL-AHL relationship, and would like to hire a head coach with “presence” to make sure “the players understand the head coach is in control.”
Tocchet would certainly fit that description, and there is an obvious connection between him and the new front office.
His only head coaching experience in the NHL came during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons when he had an opportunity to work for what was at the time a completely dysfunctional Tampa Bay Lighting team. He replaced Barry Melrose just 16 games into the 2008-09 season and had one full season after that before being fired with a 53-69-26 record.
He remained out of coaching until the start of the 2014-15 season when he was hired by the Penguins to be an assistant. He remained with the team during the Mike Johnston-to-Mike Sullivan change during the 2015-16 season which ended with the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup.