If the Dallas Stars managed to win against the Minnesota Wild during regulation or in overtime on Sunday, they would be big-time underdogs against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they lost a soul-crusher to the Wild and found themselves two points out of the postseason.
And now head coach Marc Crawford finds himself out of a job.
This marks the fourth time Crawford has been fired or resigned from a head coaching position in the NHL. He coached the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory and helped the Vancouver Canucks make the playoffs in the Markus Naslund/Todd Bertuzzi days. Unfortunately, his luck hasn’t been so great in his last two coaching stops, as he failed to make the playoffs in two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and now the Stars.
While I was highly critical of the Stars making the move to hire Crawford when GM Joe Nieuwendyk chose him as their head coach for the 2009-10 season, this still comes as a surprise. This team is clearly at a crossroads with their ownership situation in flux and Brad Richards’ free agency in limbo because of that, but the move is made that much more surprising considering the fact that the team will still pay his salary for next season (according to Defending Big D).
The more I follow these coach firings, the clearer it becomes that the coach is only a part of the problem. Let’s face it, the Stars aren’t a deep team. They rely far too much on the top of their order to win games. They don’t get much offense outside of the outstanding Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson-Jamie Benn line and the occasionally hot Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro combo. Their defense is a clear weakness, even if Stephane Robidas is underrated and Alex Goligoski fits in fairly well. The team leaned too much on those top players, plus surprisingly healthy goalie Kari Lehtonen; that’s something that reflects on the stingy ownership and general manager as much as it does on Crawford.
Still, Crawford and the Stars had a win-and-you’re-in situation and they fell on their faces, particularly during a disappointing second period. Someone had to take the fall and so it was Crawford and his magical follicles.
Fair or not, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll earn a fifth gig in the NHL. The questions remain: how will the Stars clean up this mess and who will be the coach to guide them through it?