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Q&A With Dave Tippett

by J. Douglas Foster / Dallas Stars

Stars head coach Dave Tippett didn’t have too much time to enjoy his team’s best playoff run in his five full seasons at the helm. By the time the Stars’ playoff run ended, it was almost time to start plotting ways to carry that postseason success into positive momentum entering this season.

Yes, it’s true; sometimes your work is never done. But as he continues to build around a young, but established leadership group, Tippett took the time to sit down with to discuss his offseason, Brenden Morrow’s breakout 2008 playoffs, two new key additions to this year’s Dallas Stars team and turnover in his coaching staff this summer.

Q: Before all the hockey talk --- tell us a little bit about your offseason. The hockey season is so hectic, how do you spend your summer break? Do you just get as far away from hockey and any day-to-day scheduling as possible?

A: No, you stay pretty close to things that are going on with the organization no matter where you are. I have a lake place in Minnesota where we spent some time, and I’ve got some business interests in Montana where I spent a little time. You just try to get out of the heat down here a little bit, but you still want to be close to what’s going on -- and it also seems like you are always getting ready for the new season.

Q: And your motorcycle building projects?

A: I finished my second one, so I got a little time tinkering with that too.

Q: You are now entering your seventh year (sixth season) as the Stars head coach, which makes you among the longest tenured coaches in the NHL. Does it seem like it’s been that long? And what have you learned about this city and organization that you didn’t know before?

A: I still love this organization and I think Dallas is a great place to live with wonderful people. You probably feel like it’s been a long time if something’s not right about it, but we’ve enjoyed it all the way, so it’s like it’s new every day. If you mesh with everything, from the way the organization runs to the way you feel about the team and the city, you get more and more comfortable in the place you live. My wife and I are both very, very comfortable here, and I can’t say enough about the organization and the ownership we have in place here. It’s a situation where I really love coming to work every day.

Q: During that time, the Stars have one of the best winning percentages in the NHL. What has been the key to that consistent success?

A: Just that, consistency. I think it’s consistency in our approach, consistency in our expectations, and the other real factor has been our players. They’ve been consistent in staying here and working hard enough to fulfill our expectations.

Q: Now that you’ve had a little time to digest your team’s postseason run this past spring, what stands out to you most?

A: The biggest thing is the growth of our team. I look at it, and everybody contributed, but to me it was the growth of our new leadership core that has come with Brenden (Morrow) and (Marty Turco). That’s no disrespect to anyone else, but I think there was a new chapter in our team, and that was the catalyst to pushing forward. I think Mike (Modano) and (Sergei Zubov) and (Jere Lehtinen) all played well, but I thought it was Morrow, Turco and (Mike) Ribeiro who really defined themselves as the new leadership group moving forward, and it’s exciting when you have young, talented players who are that committed.

Q: In regards to your captain, Brenden Morrow – is it accurate to say he elevated himself from being a very good NHL player to being a dominant forward in this league based on his postseason performance?

A: That San Jose series, he was the main factor in that. It’s obvious that everyone contributes to a win, but if you look at his personal accomplishments, it’s clear he was the difference maker in the series. He elevated his game to a point where not only did he perform well, but he also willed his teammates to perform well. That, to me, puts you in a top echelon area. The series he had, and the Game 6 he had, you want to see that game, which was such a classic game, end the right way. And him scoring the winning goal was the perfect, fitting way for it to end, at least from our perspective.

Q: Some people feel the rise to a championship is a progression. If so, do you feel last year’s playoffs, and getting through two rounds before losing to the eventual Cup champions, was a very important step for this organization?

A: I think it was, and a lot of it goes back to the leadership and the young players pushing forward. It’s very hard to win a championship, and it’s hard to win in the playoffs. But when you do get some success you learn more, and there’s an enthusiasm around right now. You can see how anxious our guys are to get going and to get back to the levels they were at last spring. That gives you a very good feeling going into the season.

Q: How do you carry that momentum gained through three solid rounds of playoffs into this season?

A: One phrase we use a lot is “confidence is earned.” They don’t just give it to you. If you look at our team, it’s a very hard working team. You take Brenden Morrow as the model of our team, and if we follow him, we’re a hard-working, committed team. That’s the biggest step to getting things up and going. We are going to have a lot of fun, but we’ll have a lot of fun working hard. If you have that work and tenacity, it makes us hard to play against and should end up with a lot of wins in our column.

Q: The offseason acquisition of Sean Avery has made news and created lots of commentary league-wide. Obviously he is a talented player who also can put a physical bite in the game as well. Have you thought much about where you might use him, and whom he might fit with best?

A: We’ve talked a lot, talked to different players, but ultimately we can have ideas now but I don’t think we’ll be really feel comfortable with where he plays until we see how things progress on the ice. We’ll probably try him with a few different people, and we know he’s very capable at all three forward positions. So we will find a fit for him where he can help our club win. We know he’s very excited to join our club and get going, and our organization is very excited to have another player who plays as hard as he does.

Q: You also have a highly sought-after, and highly touted rookie in Fabian Brunnstrom. What do you know about him, and is it too much for Stars fans to expect him make a real impact in the lineup this season?

A: What we’re looking for, certainly, is that we know there is going to be a learning curve for him. He’s been here early so he can get accustomed to everything, and to me that speaks volumes for his commitment. He will be going to Traverse City (Prospects Tournament), which we think will be a great learning experience for him. He has all the tools to play in the NHL, it will just be an adjustment to see how quickly he adapts to our game. He’s got an excellent attitude, excellent skill level and all indications are that he’s just going to progress from here. His first step is becoming a regular player on our team, which is his goal right now, and we will see from there. I know he has good hands, plays the game at a fast pace, is a good give-and-go player and is very competitive when it comes to battling for loose pucks.

Q: You had some turnover in your coaching staff, as Ulf Dahlen decided to return to Sweden, but you replace him with another long-time NHL veteran in Stu Barnes, who is obviously familiar with this team as well. What’s the toughest part of losing Ulf, and how do you see Stu’s future as an NHL coach?

A: Ulfie, obviously, is an excellent coach who has roots in Europe. We feel like he’s going to be a top coach over there, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coaching their national team at some point. You always see a progression of good coaches leaving, which is what happened, and we loved everything Ulfie did for us. He was very knowledgeable about the game and really added a lot to our power play. Now Stu comes in, and he’s also a very well respected player who is very well known by our group. His knowledge of the game, along with who he is and how he carries himself as a person bode well for him being a very good coach for us. He’ll be in charge of taking these young players and giving them the tutoring they need to become consistent NHL players, and he’s very excited to take on that role. I think he’s going to be a really good coach in this league.

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