The Dallas Stars have ridden the philosophy carousel for far too long, hopping from one coach and system to another, seeking a solution that would get them back to the postseason for the first time since Dave Tippett was head coach.
It’s taken its toll on Stars fans and the franchise’s reputation. The team went through a long sale process that resulted in Tom Gagliardi becoming owner and former Stars president Jim Lites returning to run the franchise again.
This offseason has been about restoring the public’s faith in the organization. Everything has changed, including the general manager, the head coach, and the team's logo and jersey.
Lindy Ruff is one hockey’s most respected head coaches and one firmly entrenched in Dallas Stars history.
The Stars' new head coach is one of the game’s most respected and one firmly entrenched in the team's history.
The Stars introduced Lindy Ruff as head coach June 21. Ruff served as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres from 1997-2013, a stretch of longevity rare in any professional sport anymore. He’s a lifelong Sabre. He spent most of his playing career with the organization. His firing last season ended one of the most stable eras in Sabres history.
It freed up Ruff to take over the Stars and indulge in a bit of irony. Ruff was on the Sabres’ bench as head coach when the Stars beat the Sabres in six games to win the 1999 Stanley Cup. It was Ruff, after the series was long over, who kept the chant “No Goal” alive, referring to Brett Hull’s controversial winning goal.
Many Sabres fans, to this day, believe Hull’s skate was in the crease of the goal when he beat Dominik Hasek for the cup winner. The oddity of this situation wasn’t lost on Ruff when he talked to the media about the decision. He said he told the Stars, when they asked to speak to him about the job, that “they couldn’t meet in the crease.”
"The league said it was a goal. I just argued that it wasn't," Ruff said of that game in 1999. "My first thing was asking whether this was being reviewed and couldn't get an answer. ... It's all behind me."
His connection to Stars history aside, Ruff’s credentials are unassailable. He won 571 games in Buffalo, taking the Sabres to eight playoff appearances.
Although he certainly has a reputation for being emotional and blunt, he also gets the best out of his players. That Sabres team in 1999 wasn’t the best team in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they finished seventh. But Ruff helped coax them to the finals behind Hasek and forward Michael Peca.
Anyone who watched that series way back then knows that Ruff can coach.
New general manager Jim Nill had to get this hire right. The franchise feels stuck in the water — no motor, no rudder, no wind at its back. A new logo and jersey can only take care of so much. The majority of the heavy lifting has to be done by the team — which is young and talented but needs direction.
Ruff can provide that after years of turning solid, but unspectacular Sabres teams, into winners. His fire, his ability to relate to players and his pure hockey knowledge will surely be assets to a Stars team that has its best young players under contract for the next few years.
He will also define the early returns on this new era of Stars hockey.