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Former Stars assistant sees Ruff as smart hire

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Though there weren't any current members of the Dallas Stars present at the press conference Friday that saw Lindy Ruff introduced as the team's new coach, there was one notable former player in attendance at American Airlines Center.

That was Stu Barnes, who during his 16-season NHL career played for Ruff when he was an assistant with the Florida Panthers between 1993 and 1997, and again when he was coaching the Buffalo Sabres between 1998 and 2003.

"I really enjoyed playing for him," Barnes said. "I think 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."

Barnes spent the past few seasons as a hockey operations consultant for the Stars after previously spending several seasons with the organization as an assistant coach. Even though he officially no longer is with the organization, Barnes was an individual Stars general manager Jim Nill consulted before deciding to hire Ruff.

Because Ruff is someone he knows quite well, it isn't surprising to hear Barnes offer a ringing endorsement.

"I think Jim Nill did a great job choosing Lindy," Barnes said. "He really has all that experience. He's kind of been there. He's been through all different types of situations, different on-ice, off-ice situations, offensive teams, defensive teams. I think he's got that ability to relate to players really well and I think guys that play for him really enjoy that, and I think if you talk to a lot of the guys that have played for him over the years [they] really enjoyed him as a coach."

However, he was reticent to label Ruff  a player's coach.

"I think he's a guy that is a good relationship guy, has a good personality," Barnes said. "He's easy to talk to, but on the other side of it, he sets the bar very high. It's a two-way street. If you're willing to come in and work and do the things that you need to do to come in and play a team game, then he's on your side and he's going to help you do everything you can. Work and team effort is the No. 1 thing that's demanded from him."

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