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Gulutzan chosen to lead Stars into next era

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

On Friday, the Dallas Stars announced the hiring of Glen Gulutzan to be their next head coach.

He may not be very well-known to Metroplex hockey fans, but to those familiar with him and what’s already done for the organization, Gulutzan’s appointment is a positive step forward for a franchise seeking some stability.

Gulutzan Signs His Contract
Gulutzan signed a two-year contract with a club option for a third season.

By promoting the man who spent the previous two years coaching and developing the club’s most prized prospects with the AHL’s Texas Stars, General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk insured that there will be organizational continuity philosophically and that the new coach will be familiar to many of his players.

“I am very excited to hire Glen Gulutzan as head coach of the Dallas Stars,” Nieuwendyk said. “Glen is a young, exciting coach who we believe has a bright and long future in the National Hockey League. We were pleased with his development skills and the leadership he brought our young players at the American League level. We feel he will bring energy and a winning attitude to our club. I look forward to working with him as we plan for the future of the Dallas Stars.”

In two seasons in charge of the Stars’ top minor league affiliate, located three hours away in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, Gulutzan led Texas to a combined record of 87-56-17 (a .597 points percentage), guiding the squad to the 2010 Calder Cup Finals and another playoff appearance this past spring.

“I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Dallas Stars,” said Gulutzan, whose AHL playoff record sit at 16-14 (.533). “Having worked with the organization over the last two seasons, I am very familiar with our personnel and that will be a big advantage for me. We are a young team with a strong nucleus and I’m very excited about what we can accomplish. I look forward to working with Joe Nieuwendyk and his entire staff to build a hockey club that will win and compete for Stanley Cups.”

Besides the considerable success his teams have enjoyed on the ice, Gulutzan had a hand in helping mold young forward Jamie Benn during that glorious playoff run in 2010, which led to Benn’s breakout second season in 2010-11 in Dallas.

He also coached no less than nine different players who spent time both with the AHL squad and also in Dallas this past year, so he will already be a known commodity within the Stars’ dressing room. With young guys like Benn, Aaron Gagnon and Tomas Vincour vouching for him, as well as a veteran like Brad Lukowich, who spent most of 2010-11 in Texas before a late-season call-up, Gulutzan has proven his ability to relate to, and get the most out of, many different types of players.

The Stars knew they were getting a longtime member of the organization when they originally selected Gulutzan to become the first coach in Texas Stars history back in 2009, which was foreshadowed by the success he enjoyed in his previous coaching stop.

From 2003-09, Gulutzan served as coach and GM of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, another expansion team he built into a winner, compiling a record of 254-124-55 (a stellar .650 winning percentage) and guiding the Wranglers to five playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2008 Kelly Cup Finals and the 2009 Conference Finals. He won the league’s Coach of the Year award in 2006 and was chosen to coach in the All-Star Game three different times.

The 39-year-old Gulutzan, a native of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, becomes the franchise’s 21st head coach and just the fifth since the Minnesota North Stars relocated to North Texas in 1993. He’s also one of the youngest men to ever take the helm, the first man under 40 to coach the squad since 33-year-old Lorne Henning was hired by the North Stars in 1985.

His hiring follows a recent trend in the NHL that has seen quite a few rookie head coaches promoted from the minor leagues that have gone on to have a profound impact on their new club’s fortunes.

The most recent example is Guy Boucher, a man Gulutzan faced in the AHL’s 2010 Western Conference Finals when Texas eliminated Boucher’s Hamilton squad. Boucher took over the Tampa Bay Lightning for 2010-11 and subsequently led them to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Bruins.

Other coaches who have enjoyed heightened success after moving up from the AHL with no prior NHL experience include Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma, who won the Stanley Cup his first year on the job in 2009, Washington’s Bruce Boudreau, who has won a division title in each of his four years with the club as well as the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year in 2008, and also Mike Babcock, who now coaches Detroit but initially was elevated from Anaheim’s minor league team to its head coach in 2002-03 and led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Finals that year.

It’s also a tradition the Stars’ organization has embraced throughout its history, as only two men to ever stand behind their bench were hired with previous NHL experience - Gulutzan’s predecessor, Marc Crawford, who was relieved of his duties in April, and the legendary Herb Brooks, who coached the North Stars in 1987-88.

And while he never reached the NHL as a player, Gulutzan did enjoy a nine-year minor league career that saw him play three-plus years in Europe and another six with the Fresno Falcons of the WCHL (before that league was absorbed by the ECHL).

During his time in Fresno, as a smallish but nifty playmaker, Gulutzan compiled 140 goals and 425 points in 340 regular season games, as well as 35 points in 35 playoff contests, including a trip to the WCHL Finals in 2003. His last four years there, from 1999-2003, Gulutzan also served as an assistant coach, so he’s been apprenticing for this plum job for a long time.

Considering the ample amount of post-season success Gulutzan has enjoyed, Stars management is confident that he will be able to channel that experience into a Dallas return to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2011-12 after three years on the sidelines.

Welcome to Dallas, Glen.

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