Rick Tocchet is not a head coach.
That’s not to say, however, that the Penguins’ first-year assistant won’t shoulder one heck of a load this season.
Especially not after Thursday’s news of forward Daniel Carcillo signing a professional tryout contract.
If Carcillo makes the team, the Penguins’ third and fourth lines could feature Carcillo and Steve Downie, two of the NHL’s nastier players in recent years.
Charged with making sure those two play with an edge but still within the framework of the game is Tocchet, who himself played that style.
I asked general manager Jim Rutherford on Thursday whether having someone like Tocchet made it easier to bring in Carcillo, whose history as a player includes six suspensions over eight years.
“He’s played with a lot of different teams,” Rutherford said. “You wonder why that is. But at the same time, when I watch him with those teams, he’s a very useful player.”
And here’s most cryptic part: “I do believe that with the structure with our hockey staff, we’re very comfortable with any type of player.”
Carcillo acknowledged that he and Downie could form one annoying and physical pair — but admitted that he hasn’t gotten that far in his thinking.
It might be wise, Carcillo cautioned, to worry about making the team first.
“I know Steve’s there,” Carcillo said. “I know how he plays. I think we’d be great together, but I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I’ve just been trying to get myself in shape, mentally sharp and go in there with a good attitude and not look too far ahead. At the end of the day, it’s just a tryout.”
The Penguins have talked quite a bit about being tough to play against. It’s hard to believe this doesn’t accomplish that. Probably quite a bit more.
Whether it works will depend largely on Tocchet’s ability to keep these two on the right side of the law. And who better to charge with something like that than someone who 2,972 penalty minutes in 1,114 career games — but who also notched 440 goals and 952 points.
“He’s an NHL player at this point. Didn’t have a contract,” Rutherford said of Carcillo. “We still have opportunities for spots in our top 13. What he brings to our team is an element that, if he has a good camp and he fits in with the team, we could certainly use.”
It sounds as though the message is received on Carcillo’s end.
“I think it’s just going in there with a good attitude, jelling with the guys,” Carcillo said. “Some of them I know, some of them I don’t. Other than (Tocchet), I’m not too familiar with any of the coaches.
“I just need to go in there, have a good attitude, be a good veteran and push myself. I think that’s what they’re looking for.”
Be GRATEFUL to each other,