The Dallas Stars took their day in the sun this morning as the Dallas Mavericks news cycle finally trundled off into the sunset last week, officially naming Glen Gulutzan their new head coach at an American Airlines Center press conference.
GM Joe Nieuwendyk opened the press conference with congratulations to their roommates, the Dallas Mavericks, and praised their efforts this season in succeeding with the ultimate team-game, which is what the Stars will have to do to succeed in the short term.
The little boy sports-fan in me took note at that moment of the location of this press conference: The platinum level overlooking the north side balcony. The same platinum level where Dirk Nowitzki stepped out onto the south facing balcony last week and led the city in "We are the champions." Any inferred irony there was surely unintended, but the contrast in franchises is stark right now, and fans hope that Gulutzan, followed by ownership closure, can be the start of redemption for the Stars.
Talk quickly turned toward the on ice product and style of play, which we've already discussed some here at Defending Big D. Coach Gulutzan reiterated his stance on defensive hockey and outlined his general philosophy going into the summer.
"Coaches get caught up in systems all the time. It's almost what you live and breath. I believe in three things: You need to be hard to play against, you need to have good defensive structure, and you need to have fun playing the game."
The mantra of "hard to play against" was something we heard from Nieuwendyk over and over last year and Coach Gulutzan has taken up this mantle now as well, but he names good defensive structure among his top three priorities. He knows that kind of talk can scare some people off and quickly countered with this...
"We want to be a hard to play against two-way hockey club. I've seen the articles and I've read some things about defensive hockey and people get scared. We don't trap, we don't sit back, we don't watch and wait. That's a recipe for disaster if you become one of those teams."
The emphasis on that sentence is my own, but it's what those who fear a return to Dave Tippett hockey might want to take away from this the most...
"Today's NHL is fast, it's young guys, it's skilled players and you have to utilize those talents, so we're going to play a two way game. We're going to be a hard forechecking team, we're going to be a hard back checking team, we're going to have good structure in the defensive zone. At the end of the day that boils down to hard to play against.'"
All we can do is guess on how this all comes together because, not to be too cynical but, it sounds like they're saying that the plan is to be good at everything in all areas of the ice. Whatever they do, Gulutzan wants his players to look forward to coming to work.
"We're going to enjoy coming to the rink. It's an 82 game schedule. It's a grind. You have to enjoy coming to the rink, you get more out of an athlete that way."
Through it all Nieuwendyk and Gulutzan both used the word "adapt" to describe what the style of play will be, as the roster still needs some filling in, and that's hopefully where this hire will earn praise from the fan base years from now: Gulutzan's ability to adapt his system to fit the pieces available in a tumultuous transitional period in the history of the Dallas Stars. That doesn't sound very sexy, but it's where this hockey club is right now.
When asked about the rarity of a two year deal for an NHL head coach starting off with a third year as a team option Nieuwendyk was frank, replying "I don't think there's any doubt that Glen is going to be a long term coach for us, but we're just navigating through some circumstances right now."
Just a side note here, because some people have already asked me: No one at the press conference asked about ownership and nothing was said, even off-mic. His comment about the term of Gulutzan's deal was as close as anyone got to the topic today. I heard nary a whisper about it from anyone and there was a pretty good gathering of media and members of the Stars organization present. So we continue to wait and see.
Audio from the press conference is available here on the Stars PR web site and I imagine video will be available on the official site sooner or later.