When Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars said that changes were coming this summer, they weren't kidding. The Idaho Steelheads announced today that head coach and Director of Hockey Operations Hardy Sauter has been fired, with the team electing not to renew his contract after two years with the team. Here's the press release:
(Boise, ID) - The Idaho Steelheads announced Wednesday that the team has not renewed the contract of Hardy Sauter and will begin the search for a new Head Coach immediately.
"We appreciate the time and energy that Hardy put in to represent us over the past two seasons," Idaho Steelheads President Eric Trapp said. "He's a good man with a good family and we wish him the best going forward."
Sauter coached the team for two seasons, helping the Steelheads reach the ECHL's Western Conference Semifinals in each campaign. His two-year record was 63-59-22 during the regular season. He was the third Head Coach in the ECHL era, following John Olver and Derek Laxdal.
The team will provide no further comment on the subject.
Some thoughts after the jump on the relationships between the Stars and their farm teams and what all this means...
This news comes just a few weeks after Jeff Pyle was fired as the head coach of the Texas Stars; the Dallas Stars are now looking at both of their developmental teams going through coaching searches over the summer. There's speculation that the decision to fire Pyle came down from Nieuwendyk and the Dallas front office, who weren't happy with how their AHL team was handled.
There was an obvious disconnect in philosophies between the NHL and the AHL team and while the Texas Stars didn't have as much talent as they needed to be as successful as they were under Gulutzan, there was little continuity between the two teams when it came actual the approach and system of the team. When Pyle was hired last summer he and GM Scott White made it known they were going to align their system with Gulutzan's in Dallas. Yet Pyle has always been an offense-first coach and that showed this past season with the Texas Stars.
It was probably unreasonable on the part of Dallas management to expect Coach Pyle to change his coaching style after twelve years of success in the ECHL. He only missed the playoffs three seasons in that span. Also keep in mind that Pyle was GM in addition to coach in the ECHL. He was able to choose players that complimented his system and, over the years, hone that system to a sharp edge. With Dallas, he walked into an already established personnel base and was unable to mold the group to fit his style for various reasons as we've discussed.
Now, the decision to fire Hardy Sauter from Idaho has nothing to do with the Dallas Stars. Idaho made the playoffs this season but also suffered the first losing season in playoff history. It's apparent that the team has a high standard for what they believe to be success and Sauter was not filling that doing as well as they would have liked.
While Dallas may not have made this decision, they can certainly benefit from it. This is a chance for the Stars to have alignment between the NHL, AHL and ECHL and have continuity at all three stages of development for their prospects. The relationship between Idaho and Texas is much more important, but the Dallas Stars need to build a system where a player can move up to each level and not have to learn a brand new system.
The Stars are also going to be pushing their relationship with the Steelheads this summer, with part of training camp to be held in Idaho -- including an exhibition game against the ECHL team. It's going to be interesting to see how they continue to rebuild their farm system.