Back in the Summer of 2013, the Dallas Stars were rumored to be in on former Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. The word was that Vigneault was the Stars’ top choice, but Vigneault instead signed with the New York Rangers, and the Stars ended up hiring former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
Five years later, Dallas is once again in the market for a head coach following Ken Hitchock’s retirement, and Alain Vigneault is once again on the market. There’s no word yet as to whether the Stars will want to hire Vigneault this time around, but if they do, Vigneault will almost certainly sign with the the team. In fact, it doesn’t matter who the Stars want as their next head coach, they’ll probably get him.
There are two main reasons for why this is the case. First, there aren’t many current head coaching vacancies in the NHL. As of today, the Rangers are the only team that have fired their current coach, despite several teams (the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators come to mind) that have had extremely disappointing seasons. Some non-playoff teams, such as the Detroit Red Wings, have even confirmed their head coach will be returning.
Of course, there could be more jobs that open up in the coming weeks. The Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames could still make a change. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the Washington Capitals fire Barry Trotz if they make another early exit from the playoffs. However, for the time being, the Stars and Rangers have a leg up on the rest of the competition.
Even if several teams fire their head coaches by tomorrow, the Stars should still be able to hire their top choice. That’s because with the exception of maybe the Capitals — again, if they fire Trotz — the Stars provide the best chance for a new head coach to instantly succeed.
Let’s take a back look at the 2013 roster. The Stars had a rising star in Jamie Benn, the popular choice for “most underrated player in the league” in Loui Eriksson, and that was about it. Sure, the Stars had several quality players like Alex Goligoski and Kari Lehtonen, plus a few young prospects like Jamie Oleksiak and Reilly Smith whose futures seemed bright (you can view the full roster here), but as far as top tier talent went, the Stars’ cupboard was a bit bare.
Fast forward to today, and the only player from that 2013 team under contract going forward is Jamie Benn, who has since won an Art Ross Trophy and developed into one of the top left wingers in the league. The team also has top center Tyler Seguin in his prime, Norris Trophy candidate John Klingberg on a cheap, team-friendly deal, former Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, and UFA home-run Alexander Radulov.
That’s not to mention young players such as Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell who look ready to take the next step forward, plus prospects such as Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka (if you could call those two “prospects” anymore), and Miro Heiskanen primed to make a serious impact next season.
Simply put, the Stars have a wealth of talent currently on the team. This roster was being talked about as potential Stanley Cup contenders before this season started, and had they not gone on an eight-game losing streak in March, they would be playing playoff hockey today. So when you consider that the team should be even better next season, the Stars’ job of head coach feels like it will be the most coveted job on the market, regardless of what else might become available.
So, while I’m not sure as to whom the Stars might target this offseason to fill the position, I do feel confident saying this much — whoever the team’s top choice is will almost be certainly be behind the bench in Dallas next year.