Well, well, well. The Dallas Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup with coach Ken Hitchcock over the Buffalo Sabres and coach Lindy Ruff. Fast forward to 2017, and the Stars relieve Ruff in favor of Hitchcock.
At 65, Hitch is one of the oldest coaches in the league. It is rumored that his hire is a buffer for someone else. His contract is possibly a one-year deal with a renewal option or change of position to a team consultant. More details should emerge at Thursday’s press conference.
In 21 NHL seasons, his teams have made the playoffs 14 times. He has coached for the Stars, Flyers, Blue Jackets, and Blues. Fans most know him for his huge success as the leader of the Stars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In six and a half seasons, Hitch made the playoffs five times. Dallas made it to three straight Western Conference Finals (1998-2000), two Cup Finals, and earned the franchise’s only championship.
Coach Hitchcock is a celebrity in Texas not just for bringing the Cup to the South, but for bringing hockey to the region. He was a great ambassador for a game that was new and exciting for DFW locals.
Mike Modano has expressed interest in working with the coaching staff. A huge boost in the Stars brand, sales, and media coverage would be likely outcomes if Modano does return to the team.
The team has a lot of changes to make, and the coach was only step one. With a defensive-minded guru behind the bench, Dallas will look to develop its young defenseman and, likely, bring in a veteran or two. The other main issue Dallas must fix is goaltending. A busy offseason lies ahead.
Hitchcock is the 4th all-time winningest coach in NHL history, just one win shy of Al Arbour’s 782. Lindy Ruff sits 5th all time at 736.