Now that official word comes down that the Dallas Stars have fired head coach Glen Gulutzan, we immediately turn our attention to the possibilities on who his successor will be.
It's tough to nail down exactly what sort of coach general manager Jim Nill would be looking for, although logic says that the Stars would likely be looking for a coach with prior NHL head coaching experience. There are several options already available, as well as the rumored availability of other coaches, so coming up with a short list of coaches likely to be hired by Dallas is a bit difficult to nail down.
Nill also seems to be one to not make quick decisions, taking his time with the Gulutzan decision, and there could be some time before the next coach is hired. There are still eight teams playing in the postseason, and we've yet to see some of the other coaching firings that are to be expected as the offseason moves forward. It could be that Nill will wait until both the NHL and AHL seasons are complete to get a good idea of just who the best choice would be.
As we've discussed, the biggest decision that Nieuwendyk made in his time as GM was the hiring of his two head coaches -- hindsight tells us that perhaps neither decision was exactly the right one to make. The Stars will now be on their fourth head coach in just five years this coming season and I'd hazard a guess that Jim Nill is looking for a bit more continuity and consistency in this franchise than that.
Here is the short list of possible options for the next head coach of the Dallas Stars:
Willie Desjardins -- Texas Stars, AHL
Desjardins has been with the Dallas Stars organization since 2010, and recently took over head coaching duties of the Texas Stars. Leading his team to the best record in the Western Conference, Desjardins earned AHL Coach of the Year honors and is now being looked upon as a legit option for a vacant NHL coaching position. It's likely that Desjardins needs a few more years in the AHL before making the jump, however.
Curt Fraser -- Assistant, Dallas Stars, NHL
Fraser was hired out of the Detroit Red Wings organization last summer, and remains with the team after Gultuzan and Jerrard were relieved of their duties. Fraser was the first head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers, and failed to make the postseason in his four seasons with the team. After some time as an assistant, and was the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL before being hired by Dallas. Fraser understands the Detroit system that Nill is bringing to Dallas and could be one of the top names on the list to replace Gulutzan.
Alain Vigneualt -- Vancouver Canucks, NHL
Technically, Vigneault is still the coach of the Canucks -- that's expected to change very soon. The Canucks were a game away from winning the Stanley Cup two seasons ago but have since collapsed in the first round in two straight years, leading to what appears to be a big change in Vancouver. Vigneault is well-respected as a coach and coaches the defensive and aggressive physical style that the Stars appear best suited to play.
Dave Tippett -- Phoenix Coyotes, NHL
Tippett, fired by the Stars in 2009, has spent the past four seasons with the Coyotes. He is not under contract for next season and it's unknown what his future in Phoenix holds; it's expected that the Stars could look to Tippett to return to the team and help bring back the success he enjoyed for the better part of the 2000's with Dallas. The question is whether Tippett's defensive system will every be successful enough in the postseason, where his Coyotes also struggled.
Dallas Eakins -- Toronto Marlies, AHL
Eakins enjoyed a relatively short career in the NHL, although he played for nearly 16 years between the AHL and the IHL. After two seasons out of the playoffs, the Marlies have become one of the stronger teams in the AHL and have two straight division titles -- after losing int he Finals last season, the Marlies are currently tied 1-1 in their second round series with Grand Rapids.
Guy Boucher -- formerly, Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL
Boucher was a long time assistant coach before being named head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs and soon after, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning finished with 103 points his first season before losing in the Conference Finals, but struggled after to live up to those same expectations. The Lightning missed the playoffs last season and Boucher was fired after 31 games in 2013. Boucher was previously considered one of the hottest names on the coaching market.
Lindy Ruff -- formerly, Buffalo Sabres, NHL
Ruff is known as the long-time coach of the Buffalo Sabres, recently fired after his team got off to another poor start. The Sabres had not won a playoff series since 2007 and experienced first round exits in both 2010 and 2011. After getting to the Cup finals in 1999, Ruff's Sabres never seemed to live up to expectations. Despite this, he is expected to be one of the top names on the coaching market this summer.
Larry Robinson -- Assistant, San Jose Sharks, NHL
Robinson's name hasn't come up specifically related to the Dallas coaching search, although he's always been of of the more respected coaches in the NHL. Robinson is a former head coach with stints with the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, winning a Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2000. It's unknown if he's interested in becoming a head coach again, although he did return to behind the bench after four years to become an associate coach with the San Jose Sharks.