Gulutzan stayed busy during NHL lockout
FRISCO, Texas -- It just hasn't been the NHL players and fans who have been itching to see hockey return to the ice during the league's most recent lockout, head coaches from around the league have been forced to find other ways to occupy their time during the most recent work stoppage.
Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, who is set to enter his second season behind an NHL bench, is no different. He and his staff have been preparing for a season without a definite start date in place, but the affable coach has found other ways to occupy his time than fretting about when the puck would drop on a new season.
"Yeah, been watching my kids play [hockey] quite a bit. I have been watching a lot of football, a lot of Mavs basketball. We've been out to Cowboys practice with Jason Garrett. Have been staying in contact with Rick [Carlisle], watched the World Juniors over the holidays, watched World Junior hockey," Gulutzan said. "Majority of time is just spending time with my family at the rink, especially at night. We [the coaches] have come in every day but not every day is as productive as the other."
During his first year-plus on the job with the Stars, the Saskatchewan native has developed friendships with both Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. Besides taking in a Cowboy practice or two during the lockout, he's been down to the practice court at the American Airlines Center on several occasions to chat with Carlisle, who he has also developed a friendship with and check out a practice or two.
Gulutzan also happens to be a huge NFL fan and he's spent much of the fall watching as much football as he can on the tube. But now that the return of hockey is on the horizon, he and his staff are tasked with prepping for a training camp which figures to last only seven days and could commence as soon as Sunday.
"We're ready. Right now, we're planning for a seven-day training camp, which we talked about earlier because for a couple months know we've known that when we get started, it looks like it'll be a quick seven days," he said. "But it could be six days. We may start Monday. We don't know. We're still waiting to hear from the league. But either way, we're going to be ready to play on that Saturday [the 19th] if that's the start date. Nothing much else, we're just preparing like we would any other year. Myself, Paul [Jerrard] and [Curt Fraser] have all had experience with seven-day training camps, so it's nothing new to us."
However, he enters this season not just facing a shortened schedule and a compressed timetable for training camp but this will also be year two for him leading the Stars. And like every rookie head coach, he learned plenty from the trial by fire that every rookie head coach faces during their first season as an NHL head coach.
"Probably the biggest lesson I took away is that the game needs to be played the way it's been played for however many years. You have to do the simple things right. You're not going to outscheme anybody at this level," Gulutzan said. "Basically it boils down to doing the little things better than everybody else and that's really what I've learned in my first year. We want to be good at the important things in the game and do those better than other teams. That's what's going to give us success."
One other big change for the second-year coach is that he will now have a new assistant on his staff in Curt Fraser, the former head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. Fraser joined the Stars after Willie Desjardins left to coach Dallas' top minor league affiliate in Cedar Park, the Texas Stars and his new boss couldn't be happier to have him on his staff.
"Well, Curt's a guy that I knew from coaching in the American Hockey League," Gulutzan said. "We're very fortunate to have him. Already he's helped me tremendously. There's another head coach that's coached in the NHL, that's coached over in Europe. He's coached in the minor leagues like I have and he brings a wealth of experience. He brings a wealth of experience coaching and playing. But probably the most impressive thing when you get to know Curt is how positive a guy he is. He's a positive, upbeat guy who carries a level of intensity with him and that experience is going to help us. It already has."
Off the ice, Dallas made several personnel moves during the off-season after the club failed to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Franchise fixtures Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro were both traded while the Stars welcomed veteran newcomers Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Ray Whitney.
The new faces are still getting to know their new head coach but one member of this talented troika likes what he has seen thus far. "Smart guy, very smart coach. He's a player's coach-laid back, he lets guys do a little bit of maneuvering out there, lets you use your hockey sense because at the end of the day, it's your hockey sense that got you in this position in the NHL, right? So he's not going to try to take that away from us," Roy said. "He seems like he's got some good systems in place. I haven't seen him on the bench or anything like that but so far he's been great working with."
Stars captain Brenden Morrow, like many of his teammates, spent much of last season getting acclimated to Gulutzan's coaching style and personality. But as a guy who's played for his share of head coaches in his NHL career, he feels the newcomer to the league should benefit greatly from all the lessons he learned last year as a rookie coach.
"I think it's hard for the coach in the first year, finding trust in players. They can watch all their games on TV but you don't deal with their personalities and see what makes them tick until you kind of get that experience," Morrow said. "So I think it takes a year. He was probably comfortable with the guys he had in Austin [last year who were with the Stars] because he had them before. Now I think with a year of having the veteran guys playing for him, it's going to help everyone in the long run. Having a little bit of knowledge of the guys for a year is just going to pay off."