Everything old seemed new again as the Dallas Stars confirmed Ken Hitchcock as the team’s incoming head coach.
The Stars won their only Stanley Cup to date with Hitch, but his previous coaching record with Dallas was only part of the decision:
"Ken's resume speaks for itself," [GM Jim] Nill said. "Talking with him, I was so thrilled and excited about his passion to get back to coaching. He's recharged, and he wants to make a difference. I know he is the right man for the job.”
"I can tell you this is really not about what Ken accomplished here," said Stars president Jim Lites. "[It's] all about what Ken Hitchcock can bring to this franchise right now."
For his own part, Hitch says he’s not reading much into the recent past himself:
"We've all been through these type of seasons as coaches. You start off on the backburner because of injuries, you have to play catch-up, and it's hard to get going," Hitchcock said. "But I am banking on [the Stars] of one year ago because I saw something special. I saw something special in the captain, in Jamie [Benn]. I saw something special in the good players, and I saw something special in the spirit. I know I can get that back quickly."
Captain Jamie Benn says that work has already begun:
"He's got a game plan set, and he's really well-prepared already," said Benn. "I had a great chat with him yesterday for about an hour and a half. He's got a game plan, and it's up to us as players to execute it. It's a very detailed and structured game plan, and I'm looking forward to playing for him."
Mark Stepneski has more. [Stars Inside Edge]
Mike Heika goes directly to the lineup work that remains to be done:
General manager Jim Nill still has some work to do, and that includes pondering the return of unrestricted free agents Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky, as well as the future of youngsters Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin. Janmark is working hard to return from knee surgery. Nichushkin is under contract to play in the KHL, but the Stars would like to get him back if that's possible.
And there definitely could be changes in goal and on defense.
The issues of additional coaching staff – coordinators, as Hitch would have it – merited a write-up of their own:
Hitchcock is known as a task-master who pushes his players, but he said he needs assistant coaches who will question his decisions. He had that relationship with former assistant coaches Doug Jarvis and Rick Wilson when Hitchcock was running the Stars back from 1996-2002, and players said it was a good environment.
"They didn't mind arguing, and I think that helps," said Stars analyst Craig Ludwig, a defenseman with the Stars at that time. "They weren't always on the same page, and they each fought for their own ideas."
WFAA’s Mike Leslie spoke with Hitch about his relationship with Nill – “two Alberta guys who love talkin’ hockey” – and what he expects will be the Stars’ quick turnaround:
Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy writes about how Hitchcock, all on the quiet, became a go-to guy for struggling coaches after his firing by the St. Louis Blues, and how it affected his decision to come back for more:
While he was providing help with X’s and O’s and, in some cases, saving jobs, the coaches on the other end were doing just as much for Hitchcock as he was doing for them: They were reigniting his spark.
“I was helping them become better coaches, but in the end what it did was really help me, and I told guys that,” Hitchcock said Thursday.... “I had a couple of very emotional calls with a couple of NHL guys yesterday about how much they helped me. They thought I was helping them but they were helping me.”
The Hitch hire got its own Twitter moment yesterday. Check it out.
Among the many post-presser congratulatory messages, what should one read into what Mike Modano tweeted out? [SportsDayDFW]
Congrats Ken Hitchcock on the @DallasStars head coach job. My schedule is pretty open.— Mike Modano (@9modano) April 12, 2017
Other teams actually made some news, too, if you can imagine. The Vegas Golden Knights named 2016 Jack Adams Award nominee (and, in the same year, high-profile firing) Gerard Gallant, late of the Florida Panthers, as their first bench boss.
The Panthers want a “contemporary guy,” and 47-year-old Jim Montgomery of the newly crowned NCAA champion University of Denver Pioneers may be in their sights. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
The NHL.com Fantasy Hockey staff has selected its regular-season MVPs at every position, with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews big winners for 2016-17 and Julius Honka figuring into their 2017-18 sleeper targets. [NHL]
Meanwhile, in The Games That Matter:
- The Washington Capitals went down two, then up three as Tom Wilson scored in OT to bring the win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2. [Japers’ Rink]
- Pekka Rinne got his second career playoffs shutout in the Chicago Blackhawks’ barn as the Nashville Predators took Game 1, 1-0. [On the Forecheck]
- And the Anaheim Ducks squeaked out a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames (but their fans may never risk taunting Brian Elliott again). [Anaheim Calling]
This about sums it up.
Preds taking Game 1 like pic.twitter.com/MrofgW0h4q— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) April 14, 2017
At the other end of the analytics spectrum, Jared Clinton takes a look at the five players, from Loui Eriksson to Bobby Ryan, who have cost their teams the most per point. [The Hockey News]
Finally: Hitch got a warm welcome back to Dallas from one of the AAC’s other high-profile residents. His name is Dirk. He plays basketball. Enjoy.