The Dallas Stars have announced that Lindy Ruff will not return as head coach in 2017-18. They will begin searching for a new head coach.
In spite of a weak defense, the Stars finished atop the Central Division in 2015-16. However, that defense remained weak in 2016-17 (team GAA of 3.17, 29th in NHL) while the offense dried up (2.71 GF/GP, 17th in NHL, down from a league-leading 3.23 GF/GP in 2015-16). The Stars also finished with a league-worst 73.9 percent penalty kill, much of which will fall on the coach.
Injuries played a factor in the Stars’ misfortune, as Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark, Jiri Hudler, Cody Eakin, and Ales Hemsky all missed significant stretches, while Valeri Nichushkin bailed for the KHL. These personnel absences aren’t on the coach, nor is the disastrous goaltending pairing of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, which is currently on the books for another season. It’s possible that the changes in Dallas may extend to replacing one of those goalies. Lehtonen was the more effective of the two goalies, but he has a bigger cap hit ($5.9 million compared to $4.5 million).
A new coach should have better luck with the scoring next season, but he will have his work cut out for him in improving the Stars’ porous defense. Stars’ GM Jim Nill may seek a coach that will focus less on the run-and-gun style that Ruff allowed. One possibility is Ken Hitchcock, the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, whose system would represent a major shift from the Stars’ style of play under Ruff. A more defensive-minded coach like Hitchcock could limit the upside of the Stars’ two leading scorers, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. But let’s suspend judgment on that until a new coach is hired.
It may not take a long time for an established coach like Ruff to find work. The Vegas Golden Knights need a coach. The coaching deck of cards will also fall as the regular season ends and non-playoff teams re