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Unexpected firing in Vegas reignites Pete DeBoer's excitement with Dallas

The veteran bench boss admits losing a job in this profession is always a learning experience, and says Dallas is getting a better coach than the coach that was previously in Vegas, San Jose and New Jersey

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

When Ryan Suter was bought out by the Minnesota Wild last year, the veteran defenseman said it was a surprising move that brought a twist of emotions that included sorrow, frustration and anger.

But Suter said he dusted himself off, was delighted to see the interest he had as a free agent and admitted that eventually moving to the Stars was the best possible thing that could happen to him.

Pete DeBoer might follow a similar path.

The new head coach of the Stars said Wednesday at his opening press conference that getting fired by the Vegas Golden Knights in May was a tough pill to swallow, but he added that he's been delighted by the process that landed him in Texas, and now he's excited about the opportunities that await.

 

[WORTH A CLICK: DeBoer excited to get started with his new team]

 

"Every time you lose a job, you have different reactions," DeBoer said of getting fired after three seasons that included two trips to the third round and one playoff miss that was hampered by an epidemic of injuries. "The Vegas one rattled me because I really thought as a coaching staff we worked as hard as we could with the situation that was handed to us this year. I thought getting 94 points out of a team that lost 500-plus man games in injuries - I thought our coaching staff really worked hard to get that. I'm not going to lie to you, it rattled me for a little bit."

But DeBoer said he recovered, saw the interest out there and an opportunity with a team like Dallas as a very positive thing.

"As a veteran coach who has gone through it before, you lick your wounds for a couple of days, you reflect on what you could've done differently, and then the phone starts ringing and you start getting excited again," DeBoer said.

Video: Pete DeBoer introductory press conference

In fact, he added, he really believes the process will help him.

"I think the Dallas Stars are getting a better coach than the coach that was in Vegas, a better coach than the coach that took San Jose to the finals, and a better coach than the coach that took New Jersey to the finals," he said. "So [GM] Jim [Nill] is getting me at the right time."

Nill confirmed just that. This is the fifth head coaching hire for Nill since he took over the Stars in 2013. This is the fifth team for DeBoer, who became a head coach with Florida in 2008 and then moved on to New Jersey, San Jose and Vegas. That could be seen as a negative for either person, but Nill prefers to look at it differently.

"Pete brings a wealth of experience to our dressing room, and we're thrilled to name him our next head coach," Nill said. "Every team that he's taken over has not only shown immediate improvement but has been ultracompetitive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: Nill: DeBoer 'right fit' to lead Stars' young talent

"His resume displays the high standards he sets and his ability to get his team to play up to that level consistently," Nill added. "In the end, when you get somebody with this much experience, it was all about the fit for us. Where our team is at, the transition to younger players, the experienced players here."

And that was a tricky get. Dallas has an interesting mix of key players either in or entering their prime, key players who are nearing the end of their respective careers, and key players who have struggled in recent years to produce points. DeBoer and his new coaching staff will have to deal with all of them.

"I don't think it's a secret that we want to unlock some of the offensive game to this group," DeBoer said. "What can we do better, style-of-play wise, in order to be better? The second thing is, individually, what individual players can we get more out of and what's the plan to do that? And that goes hand-in-hand sometimes with style of play."

Video: DeBoer aims to 'unlock' Stars' offensive potential

DeBoer's teams have a history of balancing offense and defense. In his three seasons in Vegas, the Golden Knights were 11th in scoring at 3.27 and seventh in goals against at 2.75. They were second in shots on goal at 34.0 and fourth in shots against at 29.0. That's a huge difference from Dallas, which had a shot differential of plus 0.3 per game.

Will it work for the Stars? They're excited about trying to get better.

"Every coach is different," captain Jamie Benn said. "I thought we were great under Lindy [Ruff] with the way we played offensively, I think we were great under [Jim Montgomery and Rick Bowness] with how we played defensively. [Ken Hitchcock] was kind of a happy medium, and I think we're going to find a better balance with Pete and the way he likes his teams to play."

One of DeBoer's first tasks is naming a group of assistant coaches, and he'll have complete autonomy in doing that. Goalie coach Jeff Reese and video coaches Kelly Forbes and Matt Rodell are staying, so the new assistants will replace John Stevens, Todd Nelson and Derek Laxdal. DeBoer said one of his requirements to take the job was that Nill be around. The veteran GM has one year left on his contract but said that he and the ownership group are working on an extension.

"I'm working on that with [owner] Tom [Gaglardi]," Nill said. "My job is to worry about today and to worry about the franchise in the future, so I'm working on a succession plan for Tom that's 3, 4, 5, 6 years down the road. I'll be a part of that, I'll be the GM here for a few more years, but that's what I'm working on right now."

Video: Nill gives update on offseason, contract negotiations

That's what makes this a good day for those involved. Pro sports can hand you setbacks and challenges, but it can also hand you opportunities to get better.

"When you step outside of this organization and you get a perspective from the outside, and you look at the drafting and the young talent coming and the blend of veterans and young guys, the future of this organization is really bright," DeBoer said. "That's a big part of Jim and what he does, so that was a big piece for me."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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