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Tocchet brings 'edge' to Penguins coaching staff

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 7:48 p.m.
AP file
The Philadelphia Flyers' Rick Tocchet (left) fights the New Jersey Devils' Brendan Shanahan on Dec. 6, 1987, in Philadelphia. The Penguins hired Tocchet as an assistant coach on Wednesday.

The bad cop has landed on the Penguins coaching staff.

Rick Tocchet, one of the toughest players of his generation, was hand-picked by ownership to assist new coach Mike Johnston.

Tocchet is aware many expect him to bring grit to the Penguins.

“People think I'm going to walk into our first practice with a stick and (hit) people,” he said.

Although he intends to instill toughness, the 50-year-old almost softened while approaching the podium Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.

He last played for the Penguins in 1994, when a trade sent him to Los Angeles. Tocchet won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1992 and still lives in Pittsburgh.

“It hit me when I walked up there,” Tocchet said. “It hit me when Mike and (general manager) Jim (Rutherford) were talking. When I talk about the Penguins and about Pittsburgh, I get emotional.”

The Penguins, for the better part of the past five years, often have been too emotional on the ice. During the 2014 postseason, it could be argued they weren't emotional enough.

Tocchet said he has believed for years he can make the Penguins more mentally sound. Living in the region, he has studied the Penguins closely.

“I know I can help them,” he said. “I'm very confident in that. I look forward to that player interaction. I've got the experience to handle it. I've worn different hats on different teams. I've been a first-liner and a fourth-liner. I've had different coaches. I've played in Game 7s.”

Tocchet previously was an assistant in Colorado, Phoenix and Tampa Bay. He was coach of the Lightning for almost two seasons.

While in Colorado, Tocchet served under coach Tony Granato, who he essentially is replacing on the Penguins staff.

Granato said Wednesday he will miss Pittsburgh.

“I loved my time in Pittsburgh,” Granato said. “It was a pleasure to work with a great bunch of people and players. I wish them well.”

Granato also complimented the hiring of Tocchet.

“He's intense,” Granato said, “and a great competitor.”

Tocchet's 2,972 career penalty minutes rank 10th all-time in the NHL. He will be expected to add toughness, and those who know him expect that.

“He coaches the same way he played,” former Penguins teammate Phil Bourque said. “He does it with a fire in his eye. He played on the edge, and that's how he'll coach. Let's put it this way: If you're lacing up your skates, you will stop what you're doing and listen to what he has to say. That's the kind of man Rick Tocchet is. There will be more urgency, character and accountability.”

And Rutherford echoed that, indicating Tocchet was hired not only because of his hockey knowledge, but also because Tocchet can add toughness and has a willingness to challenge star players, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“Yeah,” Rutherford said. “I think that's exactly right.”

Tocchet said he feels at home once again with the Penguins.

“They're all about winning,” Tocchet said. “And so am I. I want that Cup again.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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