What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Ken Hitchcock’s career?
Most people will probably think of him winning the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 or his “defense first” coaching philosophy. But for me, one of the first things I think of is “improvement.” Every team Hitchcock has coached has improved under him, starting with his first stint in Dallas:
...he has proven throughout his career that he will raise the bar for every team he is in contact with. Hitchcock rallied from that non-playoff year and won five straight division championships with the Stars. He also captured two Western Conference titles and the 1999 Stanley Cup.
By pushing team expectations high, Hitchcock was rewarded with results that were far beyond the expectations of the outsiders.
The Stars technically improved under Hitchcock this past season, although the lack of playoff hockey makes the surge in the standings seem irrelevant to many fans. But even if the team had sneaked into the playoffs, that wouldn’t have been enough for the veteran coach:
“To me, we didn’t miss our goal by three points, we missed it by 20-something,” Hitchcock said of the difference between eighth-place Colorado at 95 points and first place Nashville at 117. “We need to be shooting for the best record in the conference not for eighth place.”
“We have got to raise the bar here,” Hitchcock said at his season-ending press conference. “Never mind looking for a playoff spot; we have to chase the big dogs. That’s the next step for all of us. I want us chasing the big dogs. That’s going to be the big focus for me.”
Now that Hitchcock has retired from coaching and moved into a consulting position with the Stars, it’ll be up to a new head coach to push the team in that direction. But that head coach will also inherit a better Stars team than Hitchcock did, and those improvements might be the difference between Dallas being a potential playoff team next season and being a true Stanley Cup contender.
You can read more about Hitchcock and his legacy in Mike Heika’s piece here: [SportsDay DWF]
Around the League
That’s, uhh, kind of it for Dallas news — yesterday was barren beyond of us here at Defending Big D. So let’s jump straight into playoff results from yesterday!
- After getting crushed by the Boston Bruins two games in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs bounced back in their first home game with a 4-2 victory. [Pension Plan Puppets]
- The New Jersey Devils also found success at home, scoring four unanswered goals in the third to beat the Tampa Bay Lighting 5-1. [All About the Jersey]
- The Colorado Avalanche continued the trend, turning a 3-0 lead after the first into a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators. [On the Forecheck]
- Unfortunately, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t have quite the same luck at home. They’re now one game away from elimination after getting steamrolled by the San Jose Sharks 8-1. And yes, you read that right — 8-1. [Anaheim Calling]
Relevant to the lead article — the Ken Hitchcock era makes an appearance in Down Goes Brown’s “Bottom Five” in his latest Weekend Wrap:
In non-playoff related news, the ESPN crew gives out some awards for the Fantasy Hockey season: [ESPN]
Ilya Kovalchuk is set to be a free agent this summer, and is looking to return to the NHL. Here are some of the top landing spots for the Russian winger: [The Hockey News]
There aren’t any rumors currently that the Stars are in on Kovalchuk, but feel free to get some going: