It was mid-February 2009 and there are the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Eastern Conference champions and early season favorites to repeat as such... sitting a good distance away from a playoff spot with a record barely above .500 and fading very fast with only the big two of Crosby and Malkin making any kind of impact on the ice while the rest of the team languished behind them.
As it is in most of these kinds of cases in pro sports, you can't fire all the players and bring in new guys, so you look at the head coach and see if a change there will help matters. Pens GM Ray Shero needed to make a tough call. Stick with the current guy you've had some success with little under a year earlier and oh-by-the-way still has 2 years left on his million dollar a season contract? Or do you bring in someone new,see if that doesn't jump start the club and maybe helps create one final playoff push?
In the end Shero decided to go in a new direction with his head coach and brought in Dan Bylsma with 25 games left in the season. Under Bylsma the Pens saw a quick improvement of their special teams play as well as their team defense which was helped by a renewed commitment to attacking with the puck and overwhelming opponents with speed instead of waiting for chances to present themselves and hope for a break or two like what seemed to have been happening.
Now I am not gonna sit here and say to you that the Dallas Stars can have that same exact kind of situation with Joe Nieuwendyk and Marc Crawford, but the turnaround in Pittsburgh should serve as a bit of an example of how just a new mindset and way of doing things even with the same exact roster that the 'other coach' had with the exception of a new player or two can lead to some successful results.
The truth is the Stars have had teams that have their fair share of talent each season and up until two seasons ago you could easily say that those teams were underachieving with Dave Tippett's leadership. First round exit after first round exit and at the hands of teams that the Stars - on paper at least - looked to be better and much deeper than.
Dallas has the kind of players and talent level where a coaching change I think can lead to more positive results than negative. If this was a team like the Panthers, Islanders or Oilers where the talent level isn't that high then I'd wonder if a coaching change was really going to mean that much of an improvement. Not so with the kind of players Dallas.
A coaching change ended up working pretty well for the Penguins this season.
I'd be willing to bet it ends up working out almost as well for the Stars next season.