clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Was Ruff The Main Issue in Dallas?

New, comments

No. But he was one of them.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars
Dallas fired Lindy Ruff after four years as head coach. Ruff made two trips to the post season in four years as head coach.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This time last season the Stars were prepping for their first round matchup with Minnesota.

Dallas was buzzing about its high-flying Stars.

Flash forward a year, Dallas finished with 34 wins and 79 points. The last time the Stars had a worse season they were still playing hockey in Reunion Arena - a 26-win season in 1995-96.

Among those axed were head coach Lindy Ruff and assistant James Patrick, who were both brought on board in 2013.

In four years Ruff led Dallas to a 165-122-31 record and two trips to the playoffs - a first round exit in 2013-14 and a second round loss to St. Louis last season after winning 50 games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Stars fans around DFW are celebrating the firing of Ruff. He was the center of blame for all failures.

But after four years and two playoff births, was it really his fault? After all, before Ruff’s arrival Dallas hadn't made the playoffs since 2007-08.

No, it really wasn't all his fault.

Prior to Ruff, Dallas was led by Glen Gulutzan, Marc Crawford and Dave Tippet.

Let’s start with Gulutzan. Gulutzan was fired after two seasons - one of which was cut short due to a labor issue.

In two seasons as coach Gulutzan went 64-57 with a shoestring budget and ownership issues. In his first season he won 42 games and finished with 89 points.

Seeing what he is doing now with Calgary, maybe Dallas should have given him one more year.

Prior to that, Dallas was led by Crawford. The veteran coach also lasted just two years and, looking back, had a good run in Dallas.

Crawford led Dallas to a 79-60-5 record and missed the playoffs after a 95-point season in 2010-11. Fired after a 95-point season? Dallas would be in the playoffs this season with 95 points.

However, two seasons and no playoffs means you’re fired.

Tippet will go down as the second best coach in Stars history, next to Ken Hitchcock. Tippet made the playoffs five of the six seasons as head coach, advancing to the Western Conference finals in 2007-08.

However, after a 36-win season in 2008-09, Tippet was sent packing.

Looking back at the Ruff era, which included two postseason births and a series win, Ruff was an issue.

An issue. The whole issue? No.

Injuries, of course, derailed Dallas before the season started. More than injuries, though, the roster assembled by general manager Jim Nill was just as big an issue as the injuries.

Nill let Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers go in free agency. He replaced them with veteran Dan Hamhuis and several youngsters. Dallas’ defense was an issue last year with a veteran group (Johnny Oduya, Goligoski, Demers, Jordie Benn).

An injured Oduya was a non-factor most the season. Youngsters Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak were hot and cold all season.

Lindell came into his own as the season progressed. Saying Johns and Oleksiak were inconsistent is being kind.

Between the pipes Nill left Ruff out to dry. Keeping both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen handcuffed Ruff. There was no winning.

Yes, both Lehtonen and Niemi won 25 games each last season, but were carried by a dynamic offense most of the season.

Lehtonen would get hot and win a few games, then would have to be pulled for Niemi. Niemi would follow suit. It was a vicious cycle.

If Nill would have acquired a No. 1 netminder in the offseason not only would Ruff still be coaching, he would be preparing for a playoff series.

Nill and owner Tom Gagliardi put a lot of money into this franchise over the past four seasons. They acquired big names (Patrick Sharp, Oduya, Hamhuis, Niemi and Jason Spezza) and Stars fans had high hopes.

However, four years and two postseason appearances later, Stars fans are left empty. Discouraged. Disappointed.

Dallas is right where they were four years ago - out of the playoffs, struggling and in search of a new leader.

Will it be Gerard Gallant? Maybe Kirk Muller? Who knows.

But one thing is for certain, the next hire better be the right one. Or the next person to be sent packing will be Nill himself.