As the Dallas Stars 2016-17 campaign dwindled down to a disappointing ending, the speculation seemed clear that head coach Lindy Ruff and the Stars front office would be parting ways. The speculation of a new coach led to some big names being thrown around like Gerard Gallant and Michel Therrien, but the clear front runner seemed to be former Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.
The Stars wasted no time in deciding and Hitchcock was named head coach of the Dallas Stars for the second time in his career. His first tenure was from 1995-2002 when he led the Stars to the only two Stanley Cup Final appearances in team history including capturing the cup in 1998-99.
While the Stars dazzled with offense just one season ago to outshine the mediocre defense, this season Dallas was unable to cover up the faults and struggled immensely. Hitchcock has a track record as a defense first mastermind and could bring the balance the Stars have been looking for.
In his stint with the Blues from November 8th, 2011 to January 31st, 2017, the Blues ranked second in the NHL in points percentage, goals against, and shots against. On special teams they ranked fourth in power play percentage, and had the best overall penalty kill, an area Dallas finished dead last in this season.
The defensive responsibility Hitchcock will force on his players will likely cause a drop in the production from high-end players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. But that’s not to say they still won’t be top ten scorers in the league, just that their priorities may change.
One of the biggest areas of concern outside of the special teams was the lack luster goaltending. Under the new system the Stars heavily paid net minders could see a resurgence if buyouts, trades, or the expansion draft don’t displace them. The responsible system which limits high quality scoring chances, slows down the tempo, and limits the number of shots faced are all key in helping the goalies, and was likely a reason Hitchcock was brought in.
Another situation Hitchcock could help alleviate is the Valeri Nichushkin situation. Nichushkin returned to play in Russia last season after a disagreement with then head coach Lindy Ruff. The young talented forward could return to the club under Hitchcock who will have plenty of talented young forwards to choose from.
Overall, Hitchcock was exactly the type of coach the Stars needed. A team with plenty of youth and raw talent clearly needed a different voice from the bench, and while some fans may be hesitant the team choose to return to a previous coach, Hitchcock has a track record that speaks for it self. Improved special teams and goaltending were huge areas of concern going into the offseason, and without changing a player on the roster the team already became significantly better. Under Hitchcock I would expect a quick turn around with the victory green back in the NHL playoffs next season.