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Stars introduce Crawford as new head coach

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Recently-hired General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk demonstrated with his first significant decision that he will take whatever bold steps he feels are necessary to improve the Dallas Stars. Just 10 days into his tenure, Nieuwendyk hired Marc Crawford as the club’s new head coach, replacing Dave Tippett, who was relieved of his duties after six seasons at the helm.

When Nieuwendyk, the former hero of the franchise’s only Stanley Cup championship in 1999, returned to the Metroplex on June 1, he pledged a thorough evaluation of all aspects of the organization. Following that procedure, he determined that the style of play best-suited to the club’s personnel would most effectively be implemented by Crawford.

“I want to tell you a little bit about the process I had in coming to this decision,” Nieuwendyk said at the press conference Thursday to introduce Crawford. “Together with people whose opinions I respect, I evaluated what I consider to be the strengths and the shortcomings of our team as a whole and then evaluated who, as a head coach, would give us the best opportunity to reach our goals. It became very clear to me through that process that Marc Crawford is that coach.”

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“I’m certainly delighted and I’m very enthusiastic about the great opportunity that has been presented to me here today,” said Crawford, 48, who spent this past season in the broadcast booth after last coaching Los Angeles from 2006-‘08. “I know the opportunity is a great one. I’m following in some footsteps of some great people here, going back to a lot of people I respect, Bob Gainey, certainly Ken Hitchcock, Dave Tippett and the previous general managers that are still with the club, Les Jackson and Brett Hull. 

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity of working with Joe. I feel we complement each other extremely well, I love his thoughtfulness, I love his preparation and I can’t speak enough about how excited I am about this opportunity. There’s a great group of players here that, from all the things that I’ve heard, are disappointed by their finish last year, and in a lot of ways, are very similar to me - I’m not satisfied with my last stop in the National Hockey League, so I think together, we’re all trying to make the next step, we’re all trying to recapture some greatness. I’m thrilled, I can’t wait to get started.”

Dallas will be the fourth NHL head coaching job for Crawford, who is probably best known to long-time Stars fans as the former coach of the rival Colorado Avalanche. He has already amassed 470 career victories, ranking 16th in NHL history, and owns a 43-40 playoff mark, which includes the 1996 Stanley Cup with the Avalanche. Crawford also guided Team Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, a team that included Nieuwendyk, and totaled a Canucks all-time record of 246 wins from 1999-2006. He also won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 1994-95 when the Avalanche was known as the Quebec Nordiques. 

“Marc is a winner with experience in this league and I am confident he will get the most out of our hockey club,” Nieuwendyk said of a Stars squad that missed the playoffs in 2008-09 for the first time since 2002. “I’m excited about Marc’s command. I think he runs a real solid bench, he has a good awareness of the opponent that we’re playing. I think the guys will recognize right away that he’s the guy in charge. He’s won the Stanley Cup before, he’s been to Conference Finals, he’s been an Olympic coach, he has a wealth of experience and I think, looking at where the ages of our players are, and the where the core of our players are in their careers, he’s had great success with the top-end players.”

Crawford has a history of directing high-tempo, fast-skating teams that employ an aggressive forecheck and he suggested he would install a similar system here once he becomes more familiar with the players’ assets at his disposal.

“First of all, I believe a team’s identity comes more from the players than it does from the coach,” Crawford noted. “Players win championships, coaches set structure and try to keep things on the rail and try to motivate every now and then, but it is the players everybody identifies with. The strengths that I have are determined by the talent. Right now, I have some notions about the Stars and the more I get to know them, the better I get to understand them first-hand and the strengths of the individual players, you can go about building on the assets. We won’t be vastly different in our approach to work habits - I thought Dave Tippett and his group did a real strong job there and obviously, they’ve got strong core fundamentals. 

“You want a hard-working team that pursues the puck really well. You watch the Stanley Cup Final and you watch those two teams (Detroit and Pittsburgh), they play an exciting brand of hockey. It’s a lot about skating, it’s a lot about speed, it’s a lot about pace and it’s a lot about tempo and those are largely big facets of teams that I’ve coached. Again, you’ve got to look at your team and adjust to the people that you’ve got.”

Joe Nieuwendyk
Nieuwendyk indicated Crawford’s coaching philosophy matched his and was the primary reason he targeted him, but it wasn’t until he had lengthy conversations with many people that he arrived at the difficult decision to replace Tippett.

“We went through an extensive process in evaluating, I spoke to many different areas of the organization,” Nieuwendyk reported. “I sat with Les and Frank (Provenzano, assistant GM) on numerous occasions. We identified where we were as a club, where the players were at, and we really put down the qualities that I think Marc brings, that we need going forward. I’ve always been a big fan of his, I think he’s exactly what we need at this time. I contacted a number of former players of Marc’s - Joey Sakic, Mike Keane obviously, Trevor Linden from all those years in Vancouver. I did my homework, I respect those players having played against them for so many years and they all spoke very highly of Marc. 

“As far as Tip, it’s never an easy decision, especially when you’re in the first 10 days of being a General Manager. I have a lot of respect for Dave, he’s certainly done some great things. The only way that I can put it, when you look at our team, it’s much like when Ken Hitchcock was with us, who I’m very familiar with. At that particular time (back in 2002), (former GM Bob Gainey) felt it was time to make a change from where our team was at, and after evaluating our team, I felt the same way. I just felt our direction needs to be going where I think Marc and I share the same vision and there’s no doubt in my mind Dave Tippett will go on to be a successful coach again in the National Hockey League, much as Ken Hitchcock has. I certainly didn’t take this decision lightly. I think some of Marc’s strengths will be very beneficial for where our group is at, age-wise and in terms of our career.”

Both Nieuwendyk and owner Tom Hicks praised Tippett’s contribution to the franchise during his six seasons, which included a run to the Western Conference Final in 2008. 

“I want to begin by thanking Dave Tippett for all his dedication and service to the Dallas Stars organization,” Nieuwendyk said at Thursday’s press conference. “Dave is a tremendous person and a first-rate NHL coach and the Dallas Stars wish him nothing but the best going forward.”

“I also want to add to what Joe said and thank Dave Tippett and his family for being such loyal members of our team and community for the last almost seven years,” Hicks said. “I did speak with Dave last night, he’s very gracious. I predict great things for Dave Tippett in the National Hockey League, but for our team and for where we’re going at this point in time, I’m very excited about Marc Crawford as our coach.” 

Hicks recognizes the importance of his new GM bringing in his own people that he can work well with. It’s a move that both men hope will propel the Stars one step closer to another Stanley Cup.

Crawford and Tom Hicks
“When we were here a couple of weeks ago and I was introducing Joe Nieuwendyk, I said this was all about trying to return the Dallas Stars to a championship-level organization and Joe is, I think a very important first step in that,” Hicks said at Thursday’s press conference. “He needs to have his team, I fully support him in putting his team together. I got to meet Marc this morning and I can see why Joe’s made the decision he’s made.” 

“When I was introduced a few weeks ago as the Dallas Stars’ General Manager, I said that our goals are championship goals,” Nieuwendyk said. “And to do that, management must have the unwavering support of ownership, so I’d like to thank Mr. Hicks for his commitment to getting the Dallas Stars back to the Stanley Cup. 

“I really believe that one of the most important relationships in an organization is the relationship between coach and general manager. Marc and I, I think, have good communication with one another. Probably our personalities are not identical, but we seem to balance each other out nicely.  I’m only here 10 days and today is Day One for Marc. We’re going to have great discussions and prepare for training camp and all the things that are ahead and that is the goal, to be on the same page, right from top to bottom.” 

The task starts now for the Stars’ new management duo.

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