Dallas Stars’ Rick Bowness still has ‘passion’ to coach

Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin felt empty. Jamie Benn, their longtime captain, was almost speechless.

Like head coach Rick Bowness, who likely soon will shed the interim tag, they were disappointed and drained after more than two months inside the NHL bubble, where this most unusual season ended with a loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

”Go through a lot with that group,” Benn said before going silent for more than a full minute, even when asked another question. ”It was a good run … it’s tough here, you’re two games away from the Stanley Cup.”

It was a group that overcame miserable stretches to start and finish the regular season, and an unexpected coaching change in between. A group not really expected to be one of the last two teams playing in a season that wrapped up nearly a full year after it began, especially as the injures mounted.

Now the focus turns to the future of the 65-year-old Bowness, the interim head coach who has been behind NHL benches in parts of five different decades.

After Dallas wrapped up the Western Conference final two weeks ago, general manager Jim Nill said Bowness had ”definitely” earned the right to come back as coach. Team owner Tom Gaglardi has indicated the same.

Bowness was hired by Dallas before the 2018-19 season as an assistant for first-year coach Jim Montgomery, who made the jump from the college ranks. Bowness became the interim head coach when Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues last December.

Nill and Bowness agreed then that the interim tag would hold through the season, and they would discuss things after that. No one could have known that would be nearly 10 months later – after a 4 1/2-month pause to the NHL season because of the pandemic, and then the team’s first Stanley Cup Final since 2000.

After repeatedly deflecting questions about his future all postseason, Bowness gave some indication of his thoughts after the season-ending 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay.

”What I learned is that I still have the passion to compete, I still have the passion to coach,” Bowness said. ”I know I’m getting up there, and there’s a lot more behind me than ahead of me. But I still have the passion. That’s the most important thing. … I’m just going to keep pushing.”

FREE DOBBY

Khudobin, with his fifth different team over 11 NHL seasons, had never started a playoff game before Ben Bishop was declared unfit to play for pretty much the entire time in Edmonton. Khudobin went 14-10 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this postseason.

After two years as Bishop’s primary backup, and an impressive playoff run, the 34-year-old Khudobin is an unrestricted free agent. Bishop just finished the third season of his $29.5 million, six-year contract.

TIME TO RECOVER

Dallas ended the season with several injured regulars, including Bishop, who last played Aug. 31, and forwards Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz. Everybody else had plenty of bumps, bruises and assorted ailments; Tyler Seguin talked about waiting in line to get in into the trainer’s room.

”We left everything on the ice,” Bowness said. ”We pushed this team as far as it could get.”

PAVS AND PERRY

Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry combined to score the Stars’ last six goals in the Stanley Cup Final. The veteran forwards were the primary additions in free agency last summer, along with veteran defender Andrej Sekera.

The 13 goals by Pavelski, who still has two seasons left on his deal, were more in a single postseason than any other player 36 or older and only one fewer than his 14 during the regular season. His 61 career playoff goals are now the most for an American-born skater.

Perry, 35, and Sekera, 34, are free agents again. Center Mattias Janmark, an effective penalty killer with the Stars since his NHL debut in 2015-16, is headed into free agency for the first time at the age of 27.

YOUNG STARS

Miro Heiskanen, who got a taste of the playoffs as a 19-year-old rookie last season, produced on both ends of the ice this postseason. He finished with six goals and 20 assists inside the bubble.

Rookie forward Denis Gurianov, who led the team with 20 goals during the regular season, had four goals and an assist in the Game 6 clincher over Calgary in the first round. The second round ended when Joel Kiviranta, who had one goal in 11 regular-season games, finished off a hat trick with his overtime goal in Game 7 against Colorado.

Scroll Down For:

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

    brunette dui
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
    0 Comments

    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.