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Crawford happy to get chance at 1,000th game

Thursday, 10.29.2009 / 9:32 AM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"You look at all of those names and it's really special at least get to that mark because it is quite an accomplishment. I'm just so thrilled to be even mentioned in the same breath of some of these other great people. I don't for a minute think I'm in the same category, but it is neat to be in that club."
-- Marc Crawford

Stuck on the number 987 throughout last season, Marc Crawford had enough faith to think he would get another chance to run an NHL bench, which meant a chance to join an exclusive club of coaches with 1,000 games coached in the NHL.

"I was hopeful, but I'm not going to lie to you and say I was confident that I was going to get another opportunity," Crawford, 48, told NHL.com Thursday afternoon. "I still had confidence in my abilities."

Crawford got his chance in Dallas thanks to new GM Joe Nieuwendyk's gutsy decision to fire popular coach Dave Tippett this summer. Friday night against Florida at American Airlines Center, Crawford will become the 15th person in NHL history to coach his 1,000th game.

The club includes Scotty Bowman, who leads everyone with 2,141 games coached over 30 seasons, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, Mike Keenan and Pat Quinn, who will coach in his 1,331st game tonight, the most among active coaches.

Crawford is 16th all time with 475 victories, including five this season.

"You look at all of those names and it's really special at least get to that mark because it is quite an accomplishment," he said. "I'm just so thrilled to be even mentioned in the same breath of some of these other great people. I don't for a minute think I'm in the same category, but it is neat to be in that club."

Crawford wasn't confident he'd get another shot because his two-year run in Los Angeles didn't go well. The Kings were starting to rebuild and won only 59 games under Crawford, who was fired after L.A. tied Tampa Bay for the fewest points in the League in 2007-08.

Unable to get land a coaching job for the 2008-09 season, Crawford moved to the broadcast booth to analyze games for CBC, something he did at the start of the 1998-99 season after his successful four-season run as coach for the Nordiques/Avalanche.

It turned into one of the best experiences he's had in hockey.

Crawford doesn't necessarily think he's a better coach now than he was before, but he is different in that he's become more "introspective in not only how I coach but how I act as a coach. You're not smart unless you utilize time to try to make improvements.

"Going from talking to coaching personalities to talking to broadcast people I found I started to look at things a little bit differently. Broadcasters are great from the standpoint that they tend to look at the stress that is put on people, but it doesn't come to them. For me, it made me ask, 'Why am I getting so stressed in these situations?' It doesn't matter. Consistency is what matters."

His time in the press box also allowed him to get a better read on the League as a whole.

"As a head coach, honestly, I was only watching the top people because a big part of your game is to shut down the top people," Crawford said. "As a broadcaster you are forced to watch all 20 players on each team and you have to have something to say about them all. I watched a lot of hockey games live last year. I was at over 100 games. The book I have on the League is more improved and more in depth."

His book was filled with blank pages when he was hired by Pierre Lacroix to coach the Quebec Nordiques prior to the 1994-95 season. Crawford had spent the previous three seasons as a successful coach in the AHL with the St. John's Maple Leafs.

He said that was good because St. John's felt like a mini-NHL market with the amount of media coverage the team got. However, Crawford still needed time to prepare for the NHL and endear himself to the fans in Quebec City.
"I didn't necessarily know how to carry myself as a coach, so it was those guys that really set the tone for the team. I am always thankful to Patrick, Mike (Keane), Claude Lemieux, Dave Hannon and Troy Murray for not only teaching the players, but teaching a young coach like myself how to act. It was a terrific year." -- Marc Crawford on the Avs veterans, including Patrick Roy
He actually was thankful for the lockout that delayed the start of the 1994-95 season because it gave him a chance to study the NHL and the French language so he could speak to the media and fans.

He wound up becoming the youngest coach in history to win the Jack Adams Trophy. Crawford was just 34 when he won it in 1995.

"Pierre recognized right away that if I could show the people that I could work at learning French that would be so important into their acceptance as me as the coach," Crawford said. "He was absolutely bang-on. Of all the coaches that coached in Quebec, I probably got the most support from the media and fans because I respected that you have to speak to the fanbase in their language."

His relationship with the fans lasted only that one season because the club moved to Denver to start the 1995-96 season. Crawford's coaching career took off in Colorado, starting with the Stanley Cup run in 1996.

"I didn't necessarily know how to carry myself as a coach, so it was those guys that really set the tone for the team," Crawford said, referring to all the Avs veterans, including Patrick Roy. "I am always thankful to Patrick, Mike (Keane), Claude Lemieux, Dave Hannon and Troy Murray for not only teaching the players, but teaching a young coach like myself how to act. It was a terrific year."

Crawford went on to coach in Vancouver, where he had his longest sustained run of success (249 wins and four playoff appearances in 6 1/2 seasons).

His tenure in L.A. wasn't as successful, but Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, Alexander Frolov, Mike Cammalleri and Patrick O'Sullivan all developed under his guidance.

"I think we did some very positive things there, but the problem was we didn't have the depth," Crawford said, "and my problem was probably expecting too much and not understanding the process that comes with rebuilding."

He doesn't have any of those problems in Dallas. The deep and veteran-laden Stars are tailor-made for a coach like Crawford to come in and lend his voice and expertise.

"I ask for subtleties rather than trying to change everything," Crawford said. "I went way too overboard with the changes in L.A. I thought I had to be this hard guy. Every situation you can't be who you were. You have to adapt. I have adapted in Dallas."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres