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Dallas Stars fire coach Marc Crawford

by Steve Hunt

FRISCO, Texas -- A 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday cost the Dallas Stars a playoff berth. Two days later, Dallas General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced the club had relieved Marc Crawford of his duties as coach.

The Stars had a 79-60-25 record in Crawford's two seasons behind the bench. That included a 2010-11 mark of 42-29-11, good for 95 points -- but not good enough to crack the top eight in the Western Conference standings or get Dallas into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

While that loss to the Wild was heartbreaking, to say the least, the Dallas GM refused to pin the coaching change on that single game.

"I don't think we missed the playoffs because of one game," Nieuwendyk said. "We had dips that we couldn't seem to get out of at different times during the second half that ultimately cost us. Give credit to the teams that did get in, but we want to be one of those teams."

Nieuwendyk, the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, hired Crawford after firing Dave Tippett in 2009, one season after the Stars went to the Western Conference Finals. He said making the decision to change coaches again was far from an easy call.

"These decisions are always tough," he said. "I'm really proud of some of the things we've accomplished in the last couple of seasons. I feel much stronger about our group, where we are today than where we were at this time last year and Marc deserves a lot of credit for that and our players do as well. They've bought into what we're trying to do."

But while the Stars made noticeable strides in year two under Crawford, the bar remains high in Dallas -- and to Nieuwendyk, missing the postseason by an eyelash just wasn't good enough.

"Our expectations are to make the playoffs and to challenge. The goal is to win a Stanley Cup every year. That's what we try to do," Nieuwendyk said. "We're developing a culture and a mentality. We want our players and we want our franchise to expect winning, like the Detroit Red Wings do. That, to me, is where we're headed -- and our players recognize that."

When asked how quickly he'd like to have a new coach in place, Nieuwendyk said the organization wasn't in any hurry and will choose who they feel is the best fit from a pool of qualified candidates.

"I think we'll do our due diligence in the office and look long and hard at what direction we want to go. I think there'll be a number of good candidates," Nieuwendyk said. "I think you have to do your homework. Every organization is different. We're going to take our time. We're going to find the right person."

With All-Star center Brad Richards in line to become a free agent on July 1 and an unsure ownership situation, this already figured to be a busy off-season.

But Nieuwendyk reiterated that the Stars still consider re-signing Richards a top priority.

"Our position hasn't changed. We like Brad. When I look at the three years of work that he's done for the Dallas Stars, it's impressive," Nieuwendyk said. "Obviously, it has to make sense but it has to make sense for us going forward."

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