Tipp of the hat for veteran

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The errors were piling up in practice, and Dave Tippett had seen enough.

The Phoenix Coyotes coach gathered the troops to the middle of the rink and started blasting with both barrels in a tirade to refocus them.

"It was just talking. Explaining a drill," Tippett said with a wry smile after yesterday's practice.

"We had a couple of days to recoup a bit. We have to make sure we recoup our competitiveness."

To a man, the Coyotes were crisper in their skate after.

Also, to a man, nobody would dare complain about a deserved tongue-lashing from Tippett.

After all, he's a big reason they are in the middle of the playoff battle in a season so many pegged them to be bottom feeders.

The best part is Tippett basically fell into their laps.

The wheels began turning in July when Tippett was fired after six seasons in Dallas. Sure, the Stars missed the playoffs for the first time under his watch, but the move was caused more by a change of GM -- Joe Nieuwendyk took over -- and the decision to clean the slate.

Then, amidst the bankruptcy proceedings in Phoenix, head coach Wayne Gretzky stepped away, and the Coyotes quickly signed Tippett.

While Gretzky was improving as a head coach, there's no doubt the Coyotes have improved themselves behind the bench.

"It's not a difference between him and Wayne, but more just what makes Tip good is he knows exactly what he wants everybody to do," said captain Shane Doan.

"If you're not doing it, he can point out so clearly what you're doing wrong. That's what made him successful everywhere he's coached."

The Coyotes head into tonight's clash with the Flames holding a 15-11-1 record and are far from the easy prey so many expected.

"I know several guys who played in Dallas and I never heard a negative thing about him," Coyotes defenceman Adrian Aucoin said of Tippett.

"Not only how good of a coach he is, but how positive of a coach he is and how controlled of a coach he is. He's everything you want with a coach."

Tippett, who hails from southeastern Saskatchewan, says the firing in Dallas didn't catch him totally off guard.

"I was there a long time and you're disappointed to leave. Your family is there and settled, but I'd gone through a couple of general managers, and when you change the general manager, usually there's widespread changes. That was the way it was," he said.

"Our whole staff was there a long time and they wanted to change the outlook. You understand what they're doing and move on."

Besides, he'll admit, the move to Phoenix has revitalized him.

"Originally, I was talking about taking a couple of years off. I had a couple of years left on my contract with Dallas, but when the Phoenix situation came along, it was a chance to work with some good people," he said.

"There are some good young players and good veterans and leadership on this team.

"It's exciting to try and build something here."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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