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Nill hopes to find new head coach quickly

Stars GM looking for experienced coach replace Lindy Ruff

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

GM Jim Nill is already talking to candidates to be the next head coach of the Dallas Stars, and he hopes to get the issue settled soon and get the team focused on the future.

"Right now I've had three people I've been talking to. May get expanded here a little bit more. I'm hoping this is going to happen pretty quickly," Nill said Monday morning. "These guys are all good coaches. This league moves pretty fast. I know there's other teams looking at things also. I hope that this happens pretty quickly."

Nill said he is looking for an experienced coach as he looks to replace Lindy Ruff. Nill announced Sunday that Ruff, whose contract was up at the end of this season, would not return to coach in the team in 2017-18.

Ruff coached the Stars four seasons, compiling a 165-122-41 (.566) record and taking the team to the playoffs in two of four seasons. He was a Jack Adams (coach of the year) finalist last season after guiding the Stars to a Western Conference-best 109 points and the franchise's first playoff series win since 2008. This season, though, the Stars were 34-37-11 (79 points), their second-lowest point total in a non-lockout season since the team moved to Dallas.

Video: Nill wraps up the 16-17 Stars season

"It was a tough year. The tough part was he never really had his team this year. That's probably the hardest part of this whole season. He didn't get a chance to finish something that he started," Nill said. "When you have the injuries that we had, we went through 32 players, 20 forwards, I've never seen anything like that before. It was a tough year that way, but you've still got to find your way through it, and we didn't."

Nill gave Ruff good marks for what he accomplished over his four years behind the Dallas bench and believes the veteran coach will land on his feet.

"I love where he took the team. When we got here, there wasn't a lot of pieces in place. I think we did a pretty quick turnaround," Nill said. "I look at the depth of the organization now, the success we've had. If you take away this season and what happened, pretty successful tenure he had here. He's a good coach. We built a great relationship. He's going to move on. He's a great coach. He'll get another job. And we're going to move forward here also."

Nill and Ruff did hold contract talks during the season, but with the team's struggles, those were put on hold to see how everything played out. When the dust settled, the decision was made to move in another direction.

"Lindy was very good yesterday. He said, you know what, maybe there needs to be a different message here. He was very open about it," Nill said. "He's disappointed. He knows the business. We're a performance business. It's about wins and losses. It wasn't there this year. Our power play, PK was bottom of the league. Our goals against was bottom of the league. It's a performance-based business. He knows that."

Nill also announced Monday that assistant coach James Patrick would not return. Goaltending coach Jeff Reese and video coach Kelly Forbes will be back. The status of assistant coach Curt Fraser is still up in the air.

"Curt Fraser, he's going to have an opportunity to interview with the next coach," Nill said. "The people I've been talking to have all had interest in maybe bringing him back, so he's maybe going to get an interview. No guarantees."

Players met with the media for the final time in 2016-17 to sort through the disappointing season and react to Ruff's departure.

"It's tough. Lindy was a great coach and a great person," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "Obviously, I had a pretty good relationship with him. It's got a lot to do with us players. We failed as a group this year, and unfortunately, he took the hit for it."

"You know there's going to be some changes when it's a losing season, especially the one we had," said forward Tyler Seguin. "You feel like you've let yourself down, let your teammates down and obviously, seeing the coach go, you've let him down. You don't want to feel that. I'm sure he's going to find a new job pretty quickly."

And the Stars believe they can turn things around quickly with the personnel they already have in place. There will be more changes for sure, but the belief is the Stars can be right back in the thick of things next season.

"By no means is this a rebuild," said Benn. "It's a quick turnaround. We got a great group of players in there that can do some great things. We definitely have to turn this around real fast."

"This isn't a rebuild. I think we've got a lot of good pieces in place," said Nill. "We're going to get back at it and get back on the horse."

And high on the agenda is a new coach, a decision Nill would like to make quickly but one he wants to get right.

"I'm not going to make a quick decision if it's not the right person. But I have a pretty good idea who the coaches are out there," Nill said. "There's a pretty good stable of coaches with great success. I've targeted those ones. I hope it moves along quickly."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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