Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported this morning that Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock is expected to announce his retirement from coaching later today. As with most things Stars related, when Heika says it, it’s usually just a matter of time before it’s made official by the Stars themselves.
It’s not much of a surprise if you’ve been following the Stars since his hiring. Hitchcock signed a three-year contract last summer, with the first year guaranteed as head coach only, leaving the other two years of non-committal as to his role. One would assume that was to give either side a chance to re-evaluate after each season. Hitchcock did, and decided to move into an advisory role with the Stars after just that one season as coach.
Now, general manager Jim Nill can begin his search immediately for Hitchcock’s replacement.
Given where NHL stars such as Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are in their career, and the blossoming of John Klingberg into a Norris contender this season, missing the playoffs this season was always going to result in some changes.
After all, the Stars feel their window to become perennial playoff contender was open after sitting atop the Western Conference three seasons ago. After a season hit with injuries saw Lindy Ruff not extended as head coach, and after winning the offseason with acquisitions of Ben Bishop and Marc Methot, and the signing of marquee right winger free agent Alexander Radulov, this was a season where the expectations were to get back to the playoffs, with the injury-riddled season as an anomaly not the norm.
The epic collapse that saw the Stars tailspin into losing eight straight games down the stretch of the season will be analyzed ad nauseam this summer while we try to piece together what happened and how it can be fixed moving forward. One thing is for certain, though: Hitchock’s impact, or non-impact as the case may be, will not be a factor for the Stars moving forward.
What coach fits the roster construction — or what trades or signings are made to fit the coaching style of a new hire — will all be pieces of the offseason that will be peeled back a layer at a time. For now, though, we’ll wish Hitchock the best in his future endeavors, and he’ll always hold a special place in Stars history as the bench boss that gave the organization the first Stanley Cup.