What is Jim Nill looking for in new Stars head coach?
MAY 30, 2013 11:44a ET
But other than preparing for the upcoming NHL Draft, where the Stars will have a total of 10 picks, including two in the first round, Nill’s current top priority is finding someone to replace the affable Gulutzan behind the Dallas bench. The veteran front office exec was mum when asked specifically which qualities he would be seeking in his first big hire, but here’s a reasonable idea for what Nill is looking for.
A Proven Track Record of Playoff Success
Coming from the Red Wing organization, Nill was part of one of the premier front offices in the National Hockey League, so he knows what works and how to make that happen. With the Stars’ playoff drought currently sitting at five years and counting, of course the top priority is finding a coach that can guide the club back to the postseason for the first time since 2008. However, even with this being his first year on the job in Dallas, Nill is definitely not going to be content with the Stars merely making the playoffs. No, he wants to see the club not just get in, but also make some noise in the postseason. All three candidates who have been floated out there with NHL head coaching experience-Lindy Ruff, ex-Stars coach Dave Tippett and Alain Vigneault all have pretty solid records in the playoffs, which is a nice starting point.
The Ability to Work Well with a Pretty Young Team
When the Stars cleared out players with expiring contracts during last season like Michael Ryder, former captain Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr, along with the off-season trading away of Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro, it signaled that the future truly is now in Dallas, and the Stars rode that youth movement to the brink of the playoffs before another poor run of form down the stretch relegated the Stars to the playoff sidelines yet again. Now that Dallas has such a youth-infused roster and has such a solid group of prospects pushing to reach the NHL, having a coach who can relate well to young players and also help them maximize their potential is essential if the Stars are to right the ship on the ice in the near future.
A Strong Finisher
One issue for Gulutzan in his two seasons behind the Dallas bench was how poorly each of his teams finished the season. The Stars went 0-4-1 in their final five games last season and were 0-5-0 in their final five in 2011-12, Gulutzan’s first year at the helm. Under his predecessor, Marc Crawford, the Stars went 4-1-0 in their final five but of course lost the one that counted-the season finale at Minnesota that would have gotten them in the playoffs outright.
Of course, that season-ending streak came after the Stars had lost six straight to put their playoff chances in serious peril. But the year before that, the Stars went 3-2-0 in their last five under Crawford. Naturally, the ultimate goal is to return this club to the playoffs but hiring someone whose teams finish the season strong might be something to consider, especially since it seems like the Stars have getting off to a good start down to science only to fade late. But it’s a safe bet Stars fans would trade those good starts for better finishes any day.
Someone Known for Discipline
Another sticking point for the now-concluded eras of both Crawford and Gulutzan is that those Stars teams seemed to lack discipline when it was called for the most. Whether it was taking costly bench minors, making dumb mistakes or committing penalties at the most inopportune times, like right after Dallas went on the power play, it seems like on many occasions the Stars were their own worst enemy in a lot of games over the past few seasons. Bringing someone in who will preach true discipline and then hold his players accountable for everything they do on the ice would be a great step in the right direction. Not saying Gulutzan didn’t try to do that but fair or unfair, his lack of NHL credibility whether as a coach or player in the room was a factor in what appeared to be his players often not taking what he said seriously. Hiring a coach known for being all business and focusing on the task at hand of winning hockey games could be just what the Stars need at this current point in time.
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