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Stars begin coaching search after firing Gulutzan

by Steve Hunt

FRISCO, Texas -- Jim Nill isn't wasting much time putting his stamp on the Dallas Stars.

Just over two weeks since replacing Joe Nieuwendyk as general manager, Nill announced Tuesday that coach Glen Gulutzan won't be back for a third season.

Dallas, which finished 11th in the Western Conference with 48 points, went 64-59-9 in two seasons under Gulutzan, missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs each time. Gulutzan was hired in June 2011 to replace Marc Crawford, who was fired after failing to lead the Stars to the playoffs in either of his two seasons behind the bench. Dallas has not qualified for the playoffs since 2008.


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The Stars had an option on Gulutzan's contract but instead opted to relieve him of his duties. Nill also opted to release top assistant Paul Jerrard, who accompanied Gulutzan from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League to the NHL two years ago.

"Things have to change here. It hasn't been right. There's been some great things here, but we're in the business to win here," Nill said. "We're going to start putting some things on the ice to start that process."

The Stars kept assistant coach Curt Fraser, the former coach of the Atlanta Thrashers who joined Dallas last summer, as well as goaltending coach Mike Valley, who was hired by Crawford. Fraser and Nill know each other from their time working together in the Detroit Red Wings organization, and Valley has earned rave reviews from starter Kari Lehtonen and others for his work with the Stars goaltenders during the past few seasons.

"Mike does a great job," Nill said. "I had a good talk with Kari Lehtonen. He has a great relationship with him. He's done a great job, so that's something we want to move forward with. He does a great job with our younger goalies. I know Curt going back to [our] Detroit days, have strong rapport with him and I know he's real good assistant coach and I look forward to working with him."

Nill would not offer any specifics when asked if he had any criteria in mind for determining who will replace Gulutzan. However, the former Red Wings assistant GM did say he already has a general idea of what sort of coach he wants.

"I know what I'm looking for and I know what my expectations are," he said. "It's somebody that's going to come in here and be a strong team player and also has the same values that I have."

Nill wouldn't divulge any candidates but did say Willie Desjardins, a former Stars assistant under Crawford and Gulutzan who coaches the Texas Stars and was named the 2013 AHL Coach of the Year, will definitely get some consideration.

"Willie is definitely going to be one of those people, but they're still playing and he's done a great job down there, coach of the year. So he's definitely going to get a look," Nill said. "I think it's important anytime you go anywhere to look internally first. He's definitely one of the people on our list."

The Stars have a very young roster after dealing away veterans Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy late in the season, so whoever Nill hires will have to be able to work effectively with young players.

"That's going to be one of the important things. We've got some different dynamics here like every team does," he said. "I'll sit down with whoever the new coach is going to be and we'll run through all those dynamics. It's like with anything in business, you'll know when the right fit is there. So we'll start this process and go through it."

Nill said he's in no rush to find a new coach, adding that whenever he finds the perfect choice for the position, he'll know regardless of how long it takes.

"There's a lot of games going on still. There's playoffs going on and a lot of hockey still to be played," he said. "We have a list of names we're going to start looking. I will start interviewing coaches over the next probably week or 10 days and we'll go from there."

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