Dave Tippett has been with the Stars for six seasons and seven years. In that time the Stars made the playoffs five out of six seasons and never finished with a losing record. Yet the Stars never made the Stanley Cup Finals despite having one of the top payrolls in the NHL and some extremely talented teams, especially before the lockout. Despite his regular season success, Tippett was only able to get his team deep into the postseason once and that was when no one expected it to happen. This track record, and not based solely on this failures of one season, were the basis for the change in direction the Joe Nieuwendyk wants this team to go.
He leaves behind a team full of players that have had tremendous respect for their coach. Every single player on his teams was and is steadfastly loyal to Tippett, a fact that had it's upsides and it downsides. On one hand, the Dallas Stars have become known for the closeness in the locker room. Yet there also seemed to be a sense of ease among the players that sometimes led to lackluster efforts at times, which would require Tippett to "reset" his authority over the team. This inconsistency was what was most maddening about the Dallas Stars over the past few years, and if the Stars are looking for an instant boost in energy and and a new sense of accountability in the locker room, then change was in fact needed.
The fact that early reaction from Stars players is one of incredulity and utter surprise speaks to just how much this locker room believed in their coach and how ready they were to follow him into next season, despite a disappointing season.
And for those that cry out "but there were too many injuries!", need to remember just how poorly this past season started, way before Brenden Morrow was injured. A lazy preseason and a struggling, stumbling start to the regular season put the Stars into an early hole. That was with a full and healthy roster. True, there were some retirements and preseason injuries that changed the team drastically from the one that appeared in the Western Conference Finals just a few months prior. But the facts remains that the team's effort was very un-Dallas Stars like, and that falls on the shoulders of the coach.
The tough part for fans (myself included), is seeing someone different behind the bench of the Stars that is so drastically the opposite of Dave Tippett. This was a quiet, intense coach who embodied the qualities the Dallas Stars have been known ever since arriving in town in 1993; high-character, integrity and a blue-collar approach to the game of hockey. He wasn't about flash and showboating, but instead focused on building his team around the principles of disciplined teamwork and accountability.
Dave Tippett was not without his faults in his time as the coach of the Dallas Stars, and there were certainly some good reasons the team felt that change was needed. But he will be missed as a coach who was known for being the consummate good guy, a professional coach of the highest caliber and a guy whom Stars fans were proud to have coaching their team.
Mike Heika was able to talk with Tippett yesterday and today. The most interesting part of this whole story is that apparantly the decision to fire Dave Tippett and hire Marc Crawford as his replacement was made yesterday, but Tippett asked for the news to not be released until this morning.
Follow the jump for quotes from Dave Tippett, courtesy of Mike Heika and the Dallas Morning News:
"It's just what you sign up for as a coach, and I don't think you can ever let it get to you,'' he said. "In this business, you have to focus on the job at hand and do it to the best of your ability. Then, if you are moved on, you have to see that as an opportunity. When one door closes, another one opens.''
As for his seven years in Dallas, Tippett said he was blessed to be here.
"It's a wonderful state, a wonderful city and a wonderful organization, I was really lucky to spend as much time as I did here,'' he said. "I mean, my daughters grew up there, and I made a lot friends there, it was just a great place for me. Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was a great time.''
"Any time you have a challenge, it test you, and you learn about yourself,'' Tippett said. "Experiences are good for you in life. They make you a better coach. They make you a better person.''
When I asked if he had any specific regrets -- maybe the year that they lost out to Anaheim and the Ducks went to the Stanley Cup Finals -- he had an interesting reply.
"Yeah, that I didn't win six Stanley Cups,'' he said