Joe Nieuwendyk looked at several candidates in his search for a replacement for Marc Crawford, but he settled on the the coach of the Stars' own AHL affiliate, Glen Gulutzan, for his new head coach. Gulutzan, at 39, is now the second youngest coach in the NHL behind Mike Teo. The decision was made earlier this week, but the Stars waited to make an official announcement until after the Mavericks' championship celebration.
Promoting from the minor league coaching ranks is in vogue at the moment, but the most successful coaching hire in Stars franchise history was an identical move. In 1996, Bob Gainey hired his IHL (equivalent to the current AHL) affiliate's coach - Ken Hitchcock - to replace him. Hitchcock had been with Kalamazoo for two-and-a-half seasons, while Gulutzan has led the Texas Stars for two.
His results have been strong, as he took a team not regarded as the most talented in the AHL to the league (Calder Cup) finals in 2010 and then lost early in the playoffs in 2011. He has not, however, won a championship as a coach at any level, while Hitchcock had at least accomplished two WHL (junior) titles. Hitchcock had also spent three seasons with the Flyers, while Gulutzan has never been in the NHL. The Stars will be thrilled if the comparison continues, since Hitchcock's first full season resulted in a first of five straight division titles, and subsequently a pair of Finals trips and the franchise's one Stanley Cup.
Gulutzan takes over a team that will get even younger next season with a few more prospects - that he's coached for the past season or two - ready to make a permanent jump and Brad Richards on his way to a team with an actual owner. He told The Ticket Friday that he expects the Stars to play an aggressive style that is hard to play against and is rooted in strong defensive structure.
Nieuwendyk said that getting to watch Gulutzan for the past two years added to his comfort level and that he was impressed with what he got out of a team that was not the most talented in the AHL.