Stars fire head coach Glen Gulutzan
After two years, the Glen Gulutzan regime is over in Dallas. The Stars missed the playoffs both seasons Gulutzan was behind the bench, and it cost Gulutzan his job, as he was fired today. Assistant coach Paul Jerrard was also relieved of his duties. Gulutzan was originally the coach of Dallas’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, before he was promoted to the main gig in Dallas.
This has already been an offseason of great change for the Stars; in addition to Gulutzan and Jerrard’s firings, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was ousted in favor of former Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, after Nieuwendyk was unable to build a competitive team and presided over four straight playoff-less seasons in Dallas.
To Gulutzan’s credit, he kept the Stars in contention for a playoff spot in both the 2011-12 and 2013 seasons, but each time the team couldn’t make up the ground they needed to and would falter down the stretch. In ’11-12, Dallas lost its final five games, and in ’13 they dropped their last three, both times leaving Dallas without a shot at Cup contention. The Stars have now missed the postseason five straight years.
Gulutzan coached Dallas to a 42-35-5 record his rookie year as head coach, good for 10th in the West; he followed that with a 22-22-4 record as the Stars ended the season 11th in their conference. Decent marks for a 41-year-old making his first foray into the NHL coaching ranks, but not good enough for a team that needs to get back into the playoffs.
So, who’s next up to coach Big D? Well, there’s always the chance they go back to the AHL well and hire Willie Desjardins, the current coach of the Texas Stars. Desjardins coached Texas to the No. 1 playoff seed in the Western Conference, and has his team in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. He promotes a style that encourages a high volume of shots, which predictably leads to productive offense.
Texas featured nine players with double-digit goal totals this year, highlighted by Matt Fraser’s 33 (second in the AHL). Dallas finished second-last in the NHL in shots-on-goal per game, and would benefit from Desjardins’ barrage-like offensive style. Given Desjardins’ familiarity with, and evident ability to coach up the upper-echelon prospects in the Dallas system, making him head coach could give the Stars a long-term solution behind the bench and on the ice as he brings along and develops players like C Radek Faksa, D Jamie Oleksiak, G Jack Campbell, D Joe Morrow and RW Brett Ritchie from the AHL to the NHL. Of course, the biggest case against Desjardins is that Gulutzan was plucked from Texas after a successful stint there, only to be fired after two seasons with Dallas.
Of course, there are other options as well, namely those who have already had a go-round or two in the NHL coaching pool. Dale Hunter, who coached the Washington Capitals all the way to the second round of the playoffs last year after taking over mid-season for the fired Bruce Boudreau is one likely candidate. Lindy Ruff, who coached the Buffalo Sabres for 16 years until his release earlier this year, is another possibility. He’s got a lot of experience, and knows how to win. And of course, there’s the undeniably juicy story line of him joining the team that beat him in his one Cup Final appearance (’99).
There’s also Larry Robinson, who’s an interesting candidate for a few reasons. For one, he was a bench boss for eight years in the NHL, hasn’t had the head job since 2006, and may be looking to get back into a job where he’s the man in charge. He’s currently the associate coach of the San Jose Sharks, so Dallas could fill their own vacancy while plucking him away from a division (sorry, former division) rival. Robinson’s eight years as an NHL head coach saw him win one Stanley Cup- with New Jersey in 2000. That Devils team beat the Stars for the Cup that year. Someone like Tom Renney or Ron Wilson will also garner consideration.
Dallas’ new coach may not be among those mentioned here. There’s no telling what new GM Jim Nill is planning, though this is undoubtedly a crucial season for the Stars, who can ill afford another playoff-less season. Bringing in a general manager who was part of the Red Wings front office, who are the model of high-level consistency, was a good move.
They’ve got a good young core in Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, Alex Chiasson, Antoine Roussel and Brendan Dillon, as well as a slew of promising prospects in Ritchie, Faksa, Fraser, Oleksiak, Campbell and Morrow. Now they need to find the right head coach, and make the most of a 2013 draft in which they’ve got four picks in the first two rounds. The foundation is there, Dallas just needs to make the right moves to get back into the playoffs for the first time in six years, and remain a contender for years to come.