DALLAS — Just less than six weeks after Glen Gulutzan was relieved of head coaching duties, the Dallas Stars announced the hiring of Lindy Ruff as the franchise’s new head coach in a midday Friday press conference at American Airlines Center.
“Back in May when we started our search for a head coach, we sat down with our management team and ownership team to put down the attributes of what we wanted in a head coach. And those attributes it was experience, credibility, stability, great knowledge of the game, a person that’s been in different situations, the highs and lows and a good family person on and off the ice,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said.
Nill described how Ruff was the first candidate who came to mind when he and the rest of the organization’s search committee started formulating a list of possibilities to replace Gulutzan. Of course, the new Dallas GM did his due diligence before settling on Ruff, but that doesn’t mean that the former Buffalo Sabres head coach didn’t keep popping up in his mind as the best fit.
“When we put our list together, he was the first name that went down,” Nill said. “I knew that doesn’t mean you stop the search there. I knew I had to do my work, but he was the first name put down. I know him well. I played junior against him. I’ve seen him coach. He’s been successful. In the end, it kept coming back to him. In the end, it was just a no-brainer.”
Ruff of course is a name that is no stranger to Stars’ fans as he was the one leading the “no goal” mantra from Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final where Dallas prevailed over Buffalo on the Sabres’ home ice.
And it was only a little fitting that when Friday’s presser was opened up to questions, that the first question directed at the new Stars head coach was about that very subject.
“I’ve gotten past that,” Ruff said. “I’m a coach. I want to coach and I think this is an unbelievable opportunity. I can tell you one thing, that same emotion and same passion will be here in Dallas if the same type of thing happens or anything similar because that’s the fire I have and that’s what you can look forward to. And I think that I was young at the time, emotional. I let it all hang out. I still have a lot of emotion when it comes to coaching and back then, I think you saw it too.”
Ruff had coached Buffalo since 1997, leading the Sabres to the playoffs eight times, including three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and a trip to the ’99 Stanley Cup Finals. He also won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 2006. However, in March of this year, he was fired.
In the meantime, he coached Team Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Championship, which led him to realize he yearned to return to an NHL bench.
“Coached at the World Championships this year and just realized how much I miss the game,” Ruff said. “I’m excited about the personnel here that I’m working with. I’m excited about the ownership. I’m excited about working with Jim [Nill] and all his experiences that he had in Detroit. It was just a real good fit.”
Former Stars assistant coach Stu Barnes, who more recently worked in the organization as a hockey operations consultant under now-former GM Joe Nieuwendyk, was at Friday’s presser and as someone who played for Ruff when he was an assistant in Florida as well as during his time behind the Buffalo bench, he offered a ringing endorsement of Nill’s first big hire as general manager.
“I really enjoyed playing for him,” Barnes said. “He’s a very good coach, very smart guy, understands the game really well, has a really good understanding of system play and not only that but how to deal with NHL players. I think that’s such a big part of being a successful coach, is being able to manage your people and get the most of your players regardless of the situation.”
Fair or unfair, one of the knocks against the Stars during the Gulutzan era was a lack of discipline whether that would manifest itself in the form of stupid turnovers in the neutral zone or in their own end of the ice or taking penalties at inopportune times, like right after Dallas went on the power play.
But with Friday’s hiring of Ruff, the man who pulled the trigger on this decision feels those discipline issues figure to be a thing of the past.
“We need that. We have a young team here. They just want direction and he’s a direction guy,” Nill said. “He’s all business. He’ll have fun. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s not the loud guy at the party, but he’s the guy that’s pulling the little pranks here and there. He’s got a great sense of humor. The players are going to see that but they’re also going to respect him. That discipline is going to be there.”