Fire Tippett + Hire Crawford = Nieuwy's first good move?
Ok hear me out on this Stars fans... Take a deep breath then exhale. I know reaction has been swift and harsh over the last 24 hours to the latest news but it's now time to let the shock dissipate and look at the bigger picture.
I'm here to tell ya that everything is gonna be alright.
Yes, the firing of Dave Tippett has kinda caught everyone off guard and most seem to think it wasn't justified. I will also grant you that hiring Marc Crawford doesn't exactly look great on paper when you consider that over the last three seasons he's coached, he has gathered a record of 101 wins, 116 losses and 29 overtime losses with zero playoff appearances. Marc is also almost a complete 180 degree spin in coaching style and mannerisms compared to that of Tipp and that too has fans worried.
But hey, at least it's not Craig MacTavish they hired right?
See? I got you to smile a little just there. After the jump I'll explain why this coaching change isn't so bad after all.First a little story...
Over this past weekend I was asked for my thoughts on the upcoming NHL draft and just what the Stars would be looking to get with their 8th pick overall. My reply to that person was: "It depends on what style of play Joe Nieuwendyk wants to see the Stars use, the draft may be the first true indication of what type of team Joe wants to put together."
I got a funny look from that person as if to ask what exactly did I mean 'what kind of team Joe wants to put together?' Wasn't Joe just going to carry on the tradition of we have all come to know over the last 15 seasons as "Dallas Stars hockey (Trademark, All Rights Reserved, Copyright Dallas Stars Hockey Club)" and stick with what has worked for the most part in the past? Tough, tight checking defense backed by all-star caliber goaltending and an opportunistic offense. The thing is though the hiring of Nieuwendyk is a pretty big departure for this organization.
Let's flashback over the recent history of the Dallas Stars for further explanation...
Bob Gainey was the Stars GM from 1992 until 2002 and we all know what his team philosophy is and what kind of club he turned the Stars into under his leadership. He left in 2002 and was replaced by Doug Armstrong who had been Gainey's assistant, so of course he's now learned what it takes to build a winning team from Gainey and applied those same values with his own managing. Les Jackson and Brett Hull come along in 2007 and while Brett was kinda new and a blank canvas to this whole thing, Jackson was the experienced one and for whom did Jackson serve as an assistant too for so many years to gain that experience? Both Bob Gainey and Doug Armstrong!
It isn't hard to see how the Stars GM tree has branched out over the last 15 seasons.
But that brings us now to Nieuwendyk, who other than being a mere employee under Gainey and Armstrong isn't a part of that tree. His mentors were not Bob and Doug so their influence on his GMing decisions may not even register on the radar! Joe is more likely to be "What Would Burke and Fletcher Do?" than "What Would Gainey and Armstrong Do?"
(Ok, I know I probably just scared some more people by linking Joe to Brian Burke... Hell, I even kinda scared myself just now writing it, but stay with me here and don't panic yet!)
This brings us to Marc Crawford...
Marc you could easily argue is the anti-Tippett. He's fiery and emotional. He's meticulous in how things are done on his team and players either step in line or get out of the way. He may in fact frustrate his own players at times, but lets get real here for a moment and get off this "players won't play for him" shtick that seems to be thrown in his direction already. The players will play for him because his methods have worked before, he has a Cup ring to prove it and because in the end the players are in fact professionals.
He also has a different philosophy in terms of how the game should be played compared to that of Dave Tippett. Marc was kinda vague in Thursday's press conference about what kind of play we'll see from his Stars come fall, but I think it's safe to say he won't be aiming to grind out 1-0 and 2-1 wins that coach Tippett would have been fine with. A Marc Crawford coached team will take more chances offensively with the puck. Overall team speed is going to be used more prominently as it's a key to his system's success. Defensemen are going to be asked to move the puck quicker up the ice and wingers are going to be asked to create chances for their centers.
All of these changes are a departure from what we have seen from the Stars in years past, and that's exactly why Nieuwendyk brought Crawford in. It's not that Tippett is a bad coach, quite the opposite actually. It's just that Joe's vision for the Dallas Stars is better served with Crawford being the guy leading it behind the bench.
Fans wondered why a guy like Guy Carboneau wasn't given a shot at coaching the Stars, but Carbo himself is part of that Gainey defense-first mold if not a direct 'branch' from the Gainey tree so to speak. Not to say that Carboneau can't be a good coach elsewhere in the NHL, he just wasn't going to be able to fit into Nieuwendyk's plan.
When the Stars slumped to begin the 2008-09 season, a lot of fans wondered if the slight change in GM philosophy with Brett Hull in the mix and wanting more team offense didn't clash with how the team was originally built and more importantly, Dave Tippett's game plan. The problems of course turned out to be a lot more than just that simple issue, but the thought had crossed a lot of people's minds. Now with a completely new face and way of thinking sitting in the Stars GM chair, the chances that clash with Tippett was going to happen was now even greater, so Nieuwendyk did the right thing. Even if it seems like this change wasn't needed, it really was.
That's what this is about and why it's a solid first move. Joe brings in a guy like Crawford, who can see and agree with his vision and carry it out the wants Joe want's it to be done.