It’s been quite some time since the Dallas Stars franchise has been at a crossroads like this. Some might even say that they haven’t seen uncertainty like this since they moved from Minnesota because Mike Modano was there to shepherd them to relevance in Texas from day one.
However you look at their predicament from a historical standpoint, GM Joe Nieuwendyk & Co. need to dictate the future of the franchise. The team is still in ownership limbo and must acknowledge life without top scorer Brad Richards, but it sounds like they’ve reached a conclusion on who will take over Marc Crawford’s job as head coach.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports that the team is expected to announce that they have hired Glen Gulutzan as their next head coach later this week. (Note: this post’s main image is of Nieuwendyk and Crawford, not Gulutzan.) While Gulutzan is far from a household name to hockey fans, he should be familiar to Stars devotees and the franchise itself. He was the head coach of the Texas Stars (the team’s AHL affiliate) for two seasons and achieved considerable success in his short time in that position, including taking the Stars to the 2010 Calder Cup finals.
While Paul MacLean represents the trend of hiring experienced NHL assistant coaches, Gulutzan’s hiring follows another pattern of teams hiring successful, young AHL coaches. Brad Gardner of Defending Big D explains that Gulutzan differs from Crawford in various ways.
Coach Gulutzan is said to be more of a players coach and relates to the younger guys, which is surely a key component in the decision. He coached the likes of Jamie Benn, Philip Larsen and Tomas Vincour as well as many others who could be on the short list of call ups next year.
Coach Crawford was thought to be more of a system guy and less of a motivator and was seldom seen interacting with the players one on one, so on one hand, the “players coach” makes sense and that’s supposedly the way things are done these days. On the other hand it was thought that the players needed to be held more accountable, and that will be on him as well as Willie Desjardins (assuming he’ll stay) is not thought to be the “bad cop” kind of guy. Maybe a bad cop assistant is the next hire.
There will be a great deal of talk about the style of play because Gulutzan’s Texas Stars were known as a defense first team that worked from the goaltender out and tried to win low scoring games, but those in Cedar Park say he was working with what he had that first year, and that talent was geared toward defense.
With more offensive tools at his disposal he’ll be able to guide the Stars toward Joe Nieuwendyk’s vision for up-tempo hockey while providing the structure needed to be sound defensively, which he’s been practicing at the AHL level so successfully.
Heika discusses Gulutzan’s likely strengths and weaknesses.
The biggest hurdle Gulutzan might have at the NHL level would be quickly earning the respect of veteran players, but if he can give them a system in which they’re successful then that’s the majority of the battle. He has done that in Cedar Park and earned the respect of the veteran players there.
The guess is that any AHL coach is going to experience a learning curve when moving up to the NHL, but Gulutzan was faced with the same challenge last season in the AHL (a big leap from the ECHL), and stepped forward quickly.