Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the latest coverage from the world of hockey at www.belowthegoalline.com.
Before the 2017-18 season, Ken Hitchcock returned to coach the Dallas Stars. Hitchcock coached the Stars from the 1995-96 season until he was fired in the 2001-02 season. Hitchcock went on to coach the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues before returning to the Stars for just a single season before announcing his retirement from coaching a couple of weeks ago.
Hitchcock left the NHL coaching ranks as the third winning-est coach in NHL history. He captured the 1999 Stanley Cup with the Stars, but failed to repeat that success in future seasons.
Now with their legendary coach leaving the bench, the Dallas Stars begin their search for their next coach. There will be a number of candidates out there that should be considered, but one stand above the rest in the early search.
The New York Rangers fired head coach Alain Vigneault after their season ended with the Rangers out of the playoffs. Vigneault makes perfect sense as the replacement for Hitchcock.
Vigneault began his coaching career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1997-98. After four seasons with the Canadiens, Vigneault moved to the Vancouver Cancuks, who he took to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. After two more season with the Canucks, Vigneault took the job as head coach of the New York Rangers, where he has spent the last five season.
After 16 season, two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, and three franchises, Alain Vigneault is again looking for work after missing the playoffs for just the fifth time. The Dallas Stars fit the mold of a successful Alain Vigneault team.
There are only two head coaching openings at the moment: the Stars and the Rangers. Vigneault is the best coach available right now, so it makes sense for the Stars to want the best coach available.
Dallas also boasts two prolific scorers in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Vigneault has had a lot of success with two high end players on his teams. The Sedin twins, who retired at the end of this season, highlighted the Vancouver Canucks roster during Vigneault's tenure with the team. Many expect Vigneault to be able bring the most out of the two All-Stars on the Dallas roster.
Many also believe the Stars are just a few components away from competing for a Stanley Cup. While they don't have the deepest lineup, the Stars do have quality pieces in Seguin, Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg. With some successful drafting and developing, the depth this roster needs will come in time.
The next question becomes who else would be available to coach the Stars. Dallas strikes me as a team looking for a coach with prior NHL experience. Names like Todd Nelson, Dan Bylsma, and Bill Peters (if he is let go by the Carolina Hurricanes) would all be on the radar of the Stars, but Vigneault tops that list for sure.
The Stars are a strong offensive team, which is a strength of Alain Vigneault's coaching. With a healthy Ben Bishop, this team would have arguably been a playoff team this season. A quality coach like Vigneault would help this team grow next season, and with that healthy goaltending, the Stars could return to the playoffs in 2018-19.