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Gulutzan's energy, enthusiasm contagious for Stars

by Steve Hunt
FRISCO, Texas -- Almost from the moment he was announced as the Dallas Stars' new coach in June, there was a great deal of positive energy surrounding Glen Gulutzan.

And now that the Stars are rolling toward the start of the season, that energy and enthusiasm clearly has caught on with the Dallas players.

There is a definite buzz around the club, whether it's during or after practice, or even during a game. It's a different vibe than in years past -- and that's a good thing.

"Having a new coach, an energetic, young guy who has some pretty good philosophies on the game, I'm excited to see how it translates on the ice," Dallas center Steve Ott said. "Having that new face and bright smile on it, it makes it fun and energetic to come to the rink."

"Having a new coach, an energetic, young guy who has some pretty good philosophies on the game, I'm excited to see how it translates on the ice. Having that new face and bright smile on it, it makes it fun and energetic to come to the rink." -- Steve Ott

Defenseman Alex Goligoski agrees that Gulutzan's enthusiasm and positive demeanor are a big change from what he experienced late last season under former coach Marc Crawford.

"It's great. It's kind of refreshing in here," Goligoski said. "I think guys were maybe ready for some type of change. With all the new players and a new coach, there's an energy that maybe wasn't in here last year when I was here. I think it's good that we're at a start-over point. We're all going to grow together in this new way we want to play and with the new personnel that we have."

Fellow blueliner Nicklas Grossman noticed a pretty big difference Saturday when the club began training camp in Prince Edward Island, especially when compared to how camp had been conducted in the past.

"Everything seems a bit clearer off the bat. Even the first practice, we started with video right away, going through the systems of what we want to do," Grossman said. "I feel like everything is already starting to fall into the right spots. That's because they're being clear and pushing what they want to do. I think everyone is already kind of buying into it."

And for Gulutzan, who recently turned 40, such a clear approach is nothing more than business as usual.

"It's just kind of the way we've done things in Austin the last couple of years," Gulutzan said, referring to his stint with the Stars' AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. "I come from a teaching background, so this lesson-planning thing isn't far-stretched from practice planning and stuff like that. We want to be concise with what we do and make sure the message doesn't get convoluted when it gets to the players, that they know exactly what we want them to do and there are no gray areas. I think that's what can help build a team."

During his introductory press conference Gulutzan said that more than anything, he wanted his team to be tough to play against. With an infusion of seven new players, including veterans Eric Godard and Sheldon Souray, the Stars figure to be exactly that -- a tough out for their opposition this season.

"I just think the first thing that comes to mind is liberties. There's no liberties on some of your other players," Gulutzan said. "The second thing that comes to mind is now you're asking your defensemen or certain defensemen to play more physical or play harder, finish more checks and do things like that. Sometimes that's not so easy. A coach once told me that if you don't have the biggest hammer in the shed, then you need 10 tack hammers. Well, we want to be able to go either way. So sometimes guys feel more comfortable with guys like (Godard) on the ice, who allow us a chance to play more physical."

At 6-feet tall, Ott isn't exactly a small player, but he admits having some more size on the roster never is a bad thing.

"I walk around this dressing room and I feel like a little person. These guys are all 6-4, 6-5 and 250 pounds. To have that physical side of our game, we haven't seen that in Dallas in a long, long time," he said. "To have a mean edge, physicality plus competitive determination, we look all through our lineup and I don't see a tougher team than the Dallas Stars in the NHL."

Besides the Stars being a much tougher team to face this season, there is another cornerstone of Gulutzan's approach to coaching -- open communication between his staff and the players.

"I probably got here keeping an open mind and being a communicator. The only thing I really demand in what I do is hard work," he said. "That fits in with the backbone or identity of our team. We've got to build to the players' strengths and we've got to talk about certain things. When you leave the lines of communication open with guys and you work to their strengths, they're engaged more and hopefully you get more out of them."
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