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Q&A: Coyotes coach André Tourigny discusses his future as he enters the final season of his contract

Craig Morgan Avatar
July 7, 2023

In two years at the helm of a full rebuild, Coyotes coach André Tourigny has built a reputation for two main qualities:

Tourigny connects with his players and staff on a personal level that extends well beyond superficial talk. Nick Bjugstad and Troy Stecher both cited it in their reasons for returning to Arizona this summer in free agency. And when Clayton Keller walked into the Ice Den Scottsdale at the start of development camp, a wide grin crossed his face and he gave his coach a big bear hug that was as genuine as it was telling.

Tourigny also gets the most out of his players on the ice. In two seasons overseeing a stripped down roster, Tourigny earned national praise for the Coyotes’ unexpected competitiveness, and also for his success on the international stage. Before the Coyotes slipped at the end of the 2022-23 season, losing 11 of their last 12 games (1-7-4), Tourigny was even generating some buzz for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, getting mentions on shows as prominent as 32 Thoughts and The Jeff Marek Show.

As he enters the final season of his three-year contract, it’s difficult to say what the market for Tourigny would be if he became an unrestricted free agent. But he was already a person of interest before he joined the franchise. Suffice to say he has opened a lot of eyes around the league.

PHNX Sports sat down with the Coyotes coach to discuss his future with the franchise and his commitment to the Valley.

What are your initial thoughts on entering the final year of your contract, and on your future with the franchise?

“Bill and I had some preliminary discussions, but obviously there’s a lot to consider in that. There’s term and there’s the staff. I’m huge on relationships and I’m huge on my staff. We are talking about that right now.”

Does the direction of the team factor into your decision?

“Absolutely. It was part of the initial discussion and I think we had a great summer so far. You saw what we did in free agency. We have young players coming up, but we also have players who came through the door. We had a good trade with [Sean] Durzi to improve the team. We brought in good veterans like Boogey [Nick Bjugstad], Stech [Troy Stecher], Zucks [Jason Zucker] and [Alex] Kerfoot. I think the team is heading in the right direction, but the growing pains are not over. We’re not out of the woods. Getting assets is one thing. Now we need to improve our performance, improve our record, and push to play meaningful games.

“If you look at every team that has been through that process, you don’t go from rebuilding to being a playoff team. As a competitor, that’s what you want to do, but when you’re realistic you look at what the Ottawa Senators or Colorado Avalanche or Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings went through to get where they are. You don’t go from pain to success and playoff runs and everything. We’re aware of that, but at the same time, we’re aware we improved the lineup.”

When you took the job, you said that you had discussions with GM Bill Armstrong about the plan; that your eyes were wide open. Even so, did you have a sense of how difficult it might be and what the timeline would look like?

“It’s easy to say, ‘I want to take three years or I want to take two years or I want to take five years,’ but nobody knows how the dominoes will fall. You don’t know how the trades will turn out. You don’t know how the draft picks will turn out. You don’t know what will be available for you in free agency. You can have a plan and the best intentions in the world, but that doesn’t mean that’s the way it will happen. 

“I’ve never tried to look that far. I think if you take care of your business every day, you do what’s right for the team and you stay in the present, I think everything falls in place. Will it take three years? Will it take five years? Will it take six years? There are teams that went through rebuilds who started with early picks in the draft and sometimes it takes eight to 13 years. Look at the Blackhawks, the Penguins, the Avalanche, Tampa Bay. It is what it is. We like where we stand, but at the same time we don’t put the bar too high. We want to be better than last year, we want to maximize our players and we want to play meaningful games.”

There’s another precedent to look at in rebuilds: The reality of the coaching industry. When you look at those teams that you just mentioned, the coach that was there at the start of the rebuild wasn’t there at the end. How do you process that reality?

“I always say stability is not on the coach. You don’t decide to keep your job and you don’t decide to get a job. There’s only 32 of these jobs. Someone else offers you the job and it’s a privilege to coach in this league.

“I think you interview every day. I don’t know who will give me my next job. It might be someone who scouts for us right now. It might be someone who’s an agent or a reporter who sees how I operate. Even if I’m good or bad in the interview, I don’t think that will make a big difference. I’m not an interview guy. I don’t believe in that. 

“When we just hired Blaine Forsythe as an assistant coach, he had a good interview, but so did plenty of other guys we interviewed. The research you do behind the scenes and the people you talk to means way more. We talked to a lot of people who coached with Blaine Forsythe, who worked with him before and they all said good things about him. I talked to former players who played for him like Jay Beagle and they all said great things about him. Then you meet him to confirm what people say and that’s how he got the job. I think it will be the same for me and you and everybody else in our next chapter. The way you behave today will dictate who will give you your next job.”

Does the ongoing uncertainty about the arena factor into your decision?

“I had dinner [Wednesday] with Kells [Clayton Keller] and we like what we’re doing. We like to be together as a team. We like the way we work. We like the atmosphere. We love the environment. We love what we’re doing. We love our team, I love our players, I love working hard, I love our coaches and I love my job. For me, it will not be different if I was in Minnesota where the building is full. It’s what’s going on inside that matters.

“It’s the same thing with your house. It’s not about having the bigger house. It’s about having happiness inside your house. Do we want to win the Stanley Cup? Oh, yeah, big time. We believe we will get there, but we love what we’re doing every day. We love the group. I love the group. We’re in a smaller building. There’s worse things than that. Our house is not as big as others, but the happiness in the house is there.”

Not to press, but does the arena situation really not affect your decision?

“No. What impacts it is what’s going on with our players and the budget and stuff like that. So far, they have shown good commitment. Mr. Meruelo and Bill did a really good job in free agency and they spent money. That’s what they said they would do and they did it so there’s no reason to not be happy.

“When you’re in the trenches and you’re trying to play as good as you can but there’s players leaving, yeah, there’s disappointment because you like those guys. But on the business side, there’s no move that happened where we’re saying, ‘That made no sense, why did you do that?’ No, we’re rebuilding. We need to gather assets. If we had not done those kinds of deals we would not have the picks to get Sean Durzi or the next guy who comes through the door. It’s not just about drafting. It’s about getting assets so we can have leverage in our trades to get some players. I think that’s a growing pain you need to go through.

“Obviously, we want to get on the other side of it. I was joking with a lot of coaches and scouts this year at the draft where they were saying, ‘Hey we have only three picks.’ That’s a problem I cannot wait to have because that means we will have a really good team on the ice. To get there, we need to do what we did. We need to take care of business like we did in the last few years.”

You can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the next season. Do you want to be here beyond then?

“I want to be here. If you look at my life, I have been going to the same garage since I’m 16 years old. I go to the same grocery store. I go to the same cottage on the same lake. For me, it’s about loyalty. I’m loyal to people and people have been loyal to me. I have the record in the Quebec league for longevity with the same team and I was in a small market up north that you can use Google maps to look at it. You need to go through four hours of woods before you get there.

“I cannot say enough good things about Rouyn-Noranda. My kids were raised there. It’s a phenomenal place. That’s the way I feel here. I want to grow with these people; with Mads [John Madden], Mario [Duhamel], Bill [Armstrong], [Corey] Schwabby and Hunts [Hunter Cherni].  

“I asked Kells, ‘Who would not like to play in the environment we had last year?’ He said, ‘Nobody.’ Like I said, it’s not about having the most beautiful house. It’s what’s going on inside the house. We like the way we conduct our business inside. We like our competitiveness. If that is all still there, yes, for sure, I want to be here.”

Why don’t you have an agent like many coaches do?

“I always believe when you get your first contract, there is no relationship yet. I want to go where I feel is the best and I don’t think at my age I need someone to tell me ‘This place will be better than this place.’ I do my own work.

“I think when you renew your contract it’s different. My plan was to get an agent for the year, knowing my contract is up because now you’re dealing with a partner, a friend, with guys you go into the trenches with. I don’t want to go toe to toe with anybody in this organization. So if it gets there it won’t be me. It will be someone else who will negotiate for me. I know who I want as an agent if I need an agent, but right now we have just had preliminary talks with Bill and we’ll see where that lands. If it’s a smooth ride, it will be a smooth ride. If not, someone else will do it. For sure, I’m not going to the grind with my partner who I go into the trenches every day with.”

What impact did Shane Doan’s departure have on you?

“It’s a sweet and sour taste in the sense that I’m so happy for him to have an opportunity to challenge himself and go into a market like Toronto and have a chance to be the second in command in that organization and work with a good friend and work a kid who has been raised almost in his house {Auston Matthews).

“Shane really wants to push his career and go to the next level and I think that will be a good step in that direction. On the selfish side of it, I lose a really good friend, an ally, a guy who has a fantastic feeling for the game, a guy who helped me a lot last year. He was on the ice with us for practice. He was running our power play so that’s a blow. I love him. We won two goal medals (with Hockey Canada). There’s a scar for sure because I lose a friend, but like I said, I’m so happy for him and it’s great to see him take the next step. His destination is not set yet. That’s not where it ends. He will keep growing his career and I think that was a smart step from him to go where he went.”

If you don’t have a new contract in place before next season, will that bother you?

“No. If I have to coach in the last year of my deal I’m not afraid of not having a job next year. I will have a job. I don’t know in which league but I will have a job next year. From the NHL [in 2016] I went back to juniors and I had the time of my life in Ottawa so it’s not like taking a step back would make me hit my head on the wall. At the same time, I’m pretty confident in myself. I think it will work with the Yotes. I like the direction we had and I had a really good talk with Bill. I don’t see why it will not work. I have never had those thoughts. I think it will sort out.”

Top photo of André Tourigny via Getty Images

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