Everyone knew the question was coming, so maybe it was better that it came first as Lindy Ruff was introduced as the Dallas Stars new head coach.
So, Lindy, what do you think now of that goal in the summer of 1999?
"How did I know that was going to be the first question?" Ruff joked.
"It was a long time ago. I said to Jim when I first agreed to meet with him, I’ll agree to meet with you but we can’t meet in the crease."
Along with general manager Jim Nill and team president Jim Lites, Ruff met with the Dallas media for a 20-minute introductory press conference on Friday at the American Airlines Center.
Nill opened the news conference by talking about how he decided to hire the long-time Buffalo Sabres coach.
"We put down the attributes of what we wanted in a head coach," Nill said. "Those attributes, it was experience, it was credibility, stability, great knowledge of the game, a person that’s been in different situations, the highs and lows, and a good family person on and off the ice. As we went through the search, (Ruff was) the first person I interviewed.
"We sat down and all these attributes were kind of checked off. I’m very happy today to welcome everyone to the start of Lindy Ruff’s career here. We’re very excited to look to a very long tenure here together."
Nill ran through a list of Ruff's accomplishments, including the 12th most wins in NHL history, third most of any active head coach, a Jack Adams Award and four trips to the Eastern Conference Final in eight postseason appearances.
When asked what style of play Ruff would bring to the Stars, both Nill and Ruff mentioned toughness, team speed and an "upbeat style." And Nill said he will leave specific about playing style and strategy up to his new coach.
"When we met the other day, I said, 'Lindy I’m hiring you to coach. You do what you have to do to win,'" Nill said. "I’m going to leave it up to Lindy to dictate the way he plays. That’s his job, and I’m going to do what I have to do to support it."
Ruff added that puck possession will also play a large role.
"Puck possession is a big deal," Ruff said. "How you get into the other team’s zone is a big deal in today’s game… Ideally, if you can have good puck possession into the zone and in the zone, it usually forces the other team into the get it out, get it in and change and you get to come to the other way… It’s a tough style, a demanding style. The players have to make the right decisions."
Things hadn't been so rosy for the Sabres in recent years, though and Ruff was let go last season. Some have questioned if his player utilization tactics fit the modern NHL, citing advanced metrics that showed how the Sabres were deployed. For his part, Ruff said he did use advanced statistics to help inform his coaching style.
"I’ve used a lot of diff analytics," Ruff said. "I even tried to create some of my own last year… how they compete in one on one battles, how they compete for possession of the puck. We were pretty big for all the analytics last year."
When asked which Stars players he was familiar with and looked forward to coaching, Ruff singled out Brenden Dillon, who he coached in this summer's World Championships, along with Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney.
Ruff talked extensively about how his varied experience in Buffalo, where he coached teams in the depths of bankruptcy to President's Trophy winners to teams that finished two wins away from the Stanley Cup, had prepared him for dealing with a new situation in Dallas. He also said the current Stars remind him of the Sabres coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, a time when the Sabres exploded into the Eastern Conference elite.
He can also draw on his experience from 1999.
"I thought back in 1999 when I thought the Dallas Stars had assembled an unbelievable team… but for a disputed call … we might not have won the Stanley Cup," Lites said. "And while that team had good players on it, like Stu Barnes and Dominik Hasek, I think we had better personnel. I don’t think anyone would disagree that they were coached like crazy by Lindy Ruff"
And all jokes aside, Ruff said he's ready to move on from that moment while still holding onto the passion he showed at the time.
"You know, I've had some great memories," Ruff said. "I’ve gotten past that. I’m a coach, I want to coach, and I think that is a unbelievable opportunity. (The 1999 Finals) all worked out great for Dallas. It didn’t work out so great for us back them. I can tell you one thing.... (And) that same passion and same emotion will be here in Dallas, if that same thing happens or anything similar because that’s the type of fire I have.
"I still have a lot of emotion when it comes to coaching, and back then, I think you saw it then too."