When the Dallas Stars' Joe Nieuwendyk was first hired and the two-headed GM monster was dismissed, it didn't take long for the fanbase to be introduced to phrases like "up-tempo" and "puck possession." Two seasons later the coach that was brought here to implement that game-plan on a small budget is gone and we find ourselves wondering what the Dallas Stars' systems will look like next year and what "style of play" belongs to Coach Gulutzan.
The assumption, up until a few weeks ago, was that Joe Nieuwendyk liked up-tempo hockey and would not waiver from his belief of how the game should be played and would in turn select a coach that once again embodied that spirit. It led us to believe that Ken Hitchcock wasn't coming here and gave some people pause when considering Gulutzan, who is known for a defensive system in Cedar Park. No so fast...
In one short Friday afternoon (with a Monday press conference still on the way) Joe Nieuwendyk and Glen Gulutzan have started challenging all of the above perceptions, suggesting that things will be different this time around.
Marc Crawford's system was said by some media to have confused some things for Stars players at times all the way to the final whistle of the 2009-2010 season. At the conclusion of that campaign I remarked that Crawford's system, with Dave Tippett's players was like "[trying] to grill a steak with an EZ Bake Oven" (April 13th, 2010).
That argument would propagate throughout his tenure, driving media and fans alike to ask why it seemed it was that the players needed to adapt themselves to the game plan, not that the game plan was adapted to fit the players.
With Gulutzan it appears, at least at first glance, that this philosophy is changing. The game plan will now likely be molded to fit the pieces in place come the second week of September, and that style will be (intended to be) more of a two way game than we've been treated to in recent years...
Continued after the jump...
Joe Nieuwendyk addressed his newest addition this afternoon on a call and touched on the subject of style of play a bit:
"Even though Glen is young and hasn't coached a game in the National Hockey League, his strengths are exactly what I feel this team needs - the structure, the style of play. The bottom line is he gets it. He understands players. He understands how to mesh players and get the most out of their abilities."
He understands how to get the most out of their abilities. That's a divisive phrase for those who have not yet fully accepted the gravity of the Dallas Stars' situation, and it's one that conjures images of the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes, but it's not one that should scare anyone.
The ownership saga drags on. For the third consecutive week we expected an announcement of a signed purchase agreement and instead heard another 168 hours of white noise and silence emanating from Frisco, TX. This tells us something about the budget for 2011-2012: It's not going to change much, because this thing isn't getting done any time soon and all the free agents will be long, long since gone by then.
So it means another budget roster, which wasn't such a bad phrase when you could count Mr. Everything Brad Richards among the fold, but this year we cannot. Budget is starting to really mean budget, and more.
The word budget is where allusions to the Predators and Coyotes come in but Gulutzan understands that the system those teams play is off-putting and fans should not be concerned that this will turn into a "lean on your goaltender" and hope everything turns out alright situation, a la Pekka Rinne.
"I think people get scared when coaches talk about defensive hockey," said Gulutzan "but defensive hockey is really hard to play against hockey where you are possessing the puck. You'll work real hard to get it, you'll work hard to get it back and you'll be real structured in your defensive zone when the other team is attacking. I think the best way to describe that philosophy is a hard, two-way game that has some tempo. I think that is today's hockey. You have to be able to play a little of both."
To have a coach that has had to take what's been handed to him, without much in the way of elite offensive talent several times, and turn it into playoff caliber squads over and over again is a huge plus for the Stars going forward. The indication this time, as opposed to Marc Crawford, is that the game plan this time around is first taking stock of what ingredients are on hand, and then planning the menu.
Those of us convinced that Marc Crawford wasn't going anywhere, solely based on monetary considerations, often made excuses for him based on payroll and quality of players made available by Joe Nieuwendyk to execute Joe Nieuwendyk's game-plan. At least one season more of small payroll on the horizon and a rookie NHL head coach situation will provide similar cover should this not work out immediately, but it sounds like Joe Nieuwendyk has high expectations for Mr. Gulutzan.
"We haven't provided Glen with some of the high-end talent that other American Hockey League clubs have and he's been able to manufacture a structure and a style of play that has been ultra-competitive at the American Hockey League level."
Translation: You've made lemonade out of lemons before, Glen. Can you do it in Dallas?
We're all rooting for him to.