Home > Sports > Could Rick Tocchet’s departure cost the Penguins a third title in a row?

Could Rick Tocchet’s departure cost the Penguins a third title in a row?

Could Rick Tocchet’s departure cost the Penguins a third title in a row? Few people think of an assistant coach as an important piece to a championship puzzle. Like any machine, every component plays a vital role and is never recognized until you are missing it. Think about the Jesus nut found on the UH-1 helicopter. What does Tocchet’s departure mean?

For starters, Hooks Orpik of Pensburgh blog notes another writer’s perspective on the relationship between Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan. Mark Madden, the author Hooks refers to, hints at a contentious relationship between Kessel and Sullivan as noted by this, “But Sullivan was often less than pleased with Kessel. Tocchet, however, served as a buffer and conduit between Sullivan and Kessel, and did his best to steer Kessel in the preferred direction. He also talked Sullivan off the ledge regarding Kessel.”

The next hint comes from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Okay, I do not think highly of Cook, but he’s in Pittsburgh and I am not. He in his article of July 11, 2017 says we shouldn’t be surprised if Kessel is traded. He connects this to chemistry concerns and Kessel’s contract. Cook sees Malkin as unhappy at playing alongside Kessel and Crosby has no chemistry with Kessel. There is his belief that management was unhappy with Kessel’s performance during the playoffs. There is one element that connects Madden’s article to Cook’s and that is Cook’s belief that Kessel drives Sullivan crazy.

How does Rick Tocchet play into this. The blog by Hooks Orpik basically states that Tocchet was the buffer between Sullivan and Kessel. In other words, Tocchet translated Sullivan’s frustration into a meaningful explanation for Kessel. Tocchet was the glue that kept the two together. How much of this is valid and how much of this is Kessel baggage?

Kessel’s time in Toronto gives us a clue, and there will be no references to elongated food items. Watching video of Leafs games with Kessel, you could see Kessel take games or shifts off that led to stupid opportunities and goals for the other teams. Coaches were frustrated in the level of play by Kessel. His work ethic was and continues to fall far behind of Sidney Crosby, but how many others suffer the same issue on this topic. Kessel’s defensive play is far from the level Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Roman Josi, and P.K. Subban.

I really haven’t seen others stating a major issue between Kessel and Sullivan, but that does not mean it isn’t there. The reality is that there is some Kessel baggage here but also a standard coach versus player issue. If you watched Penguins games, then you did see Tocchet with Kessel quite a bit on the bench. It is reasonable to believe that Sullivan is not satisfied with Kessel’s output and is pushing Kessel. Placing more shots on net is a valid request by any coach. How the request or any request is communicated becomes the issue. If Tocchet was the intermediary, then the communication between Kessel and Sullivan just got more difficult.

Since Tocchet worked with the forwards, he was closer to Kessel and could figure out how to communicate with Kessel while Sullivan managed the team and provided the strategy for playing. Losing Tocchet doesn’t indicate bad things to come because of Kessel. It is more likely that Tocchet’s tactical coaching will be replaced by another coach while Sullivan’s gameplan strategy remains unchanged. The new coach will be the intermediary between coach and player.

There are several ifs. If there is a relationship issue between coach and player, then Tocchet may have been a vital cog in the Penguin machine, and if the new assistant coach cannot succeed in this, and there is a frosty relationship between Kessel and Sullivan, then you have a Penguins team falling short of their third cup. If the Penguins are truly unhappy with the Kessel run during the playoffs, then you will see a trade much sooner than later, and we can conclude Tocchet never had such an important role as Mark Madden believes. For me, there is an element of truth for both scenarios. Kessel appears to be frustrating at times, and he didn’t lead the playoffs in goal scoring. He was only five behind Guentzel with his eight goals to young Jake’s 13.

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