This is the first entry in our look at possible candidates to become the next coach of the Dallas Stars. Let me say that I have a strange philosophy in regards to the search. I believe that a team gets its personality from the general manager, and that the general manager has to be true to himself and true to what he believes. Thus, I believe whoever Joe Nieuwendyk hires is the right coach. That said, I do have a few views on who might be the best candidate and what each candidate might bring, so let's take a look at the men who might be available for this job. Today, let's start with Ken Hitchcock. One of the mistakes that Craig Button made when he was GM of the Calgary Flames was he decided he didn’t want to re-do something that had happened within the organization. Thus, when he looked at all the available coaches and saw that Brian Sutter might be the best fit, he hesitated because the team had just fired Sutter before Button became the GM. Hiring Sutter back just seemed like something that couldn’t possibly work. Button instead hired Don Hay. That didn’t work out. He then hired Greg Gilbert. That didn’t work out. He then hired Darryl Sutter, and was eventually fired. I tell you that story because I truly do believe that you can’t just dismiss a person simply because he has had his run here. That brings me to the candidacy of Ken Hitchcock as the next possible coach of the Dallas Stars. A lot of people will blanch at the mention of Hitchcock and say it’s just a failed attempt at trying to get the band back together. But what if Hitchcock really is the most qualified coach and might be the best fit? I think you can actually make that case for the 59-year-old who is 534-350-158 in his NHL career and won five straight division championships when he was leading the Stars. First of all, GM Joe Nieuwendyk wants a coach who will make his players accountable. There are few who do that like Hitchcock. He is a master of raising the bar for his team and a master of pushing the right buttons on individuals. If you could make a serious criticism of the job that Marc Crawford just finished, it’s that he really didn’t try to individually motivate his players. He tried to motivate the team, and he tried to establish leaders and allow them the opportunity to motivate, but he didn’t really try to learn what made each athlete tick and get into their heads. Hitchcock will do that.
Secondly, Ken Hitchcock is not a defensive coach at his core. He was raised on the firewagon hockey of the 1970s and ‘80s Edmonton Oilers, and he coached that style while turning Kamloops into a Western Hockey League powerhouse. When Hitchcock came to Dallas, he became a defensive coach because that’s what Bob Gainey wanted. He embraced the philosophy and became very good at it. Still, he always said that you create offense from defense, and several of his teams were among the top scoring teams (and top power play teams) in the NHL. Hitchcock will coach the talent he has and try to find a way to win with it. If that means offense, he’ll coach offense. If it means defense, he’ll coach defense. If it means finding a compromise, he’ll try to do that.Which brings me to another strength _ there are few people who will outwork Ken Hitchcock. He lives for the game and the job, and you will get 100 percent of what he has. Now, for the weaknesses. He very much needs a strong GM. That means that when the players get tired of him or tune him out or don’t want to work as hard as he demands, the GM has to back him. Scott Howson tried in Columbus, but he eventually gave into the pressure of the players and the fans. Hitchcock was trying very hard to instill discipline, but the whole Nikita Filatov deal blew up on him (Hitchcock often scratched the highly skilled youngster), and that sort of led to his exit. That has some people believing that Hitchcock can’t coach kids, but I think he can if the GM will support his tough love. There are some out there who believe today’s young players have to be trained differently, and if you subscribe to that theory, then maybe Hitchcock isn’t your coach. But if you want accountability, sometimes you have to take a rocky path to get there. I personally believe that maybe we’ve lost too much of the old school discipline and need to get some of it back in our society. New Jersey and Minnesota are also interested in Hitchcock, so you might have to hurry if you want him to seriously consider the Stars, and hurrying might not be a part of the Stars’ strategy in the coach-search department right now, so that’s also a concern.But I really believe Hitchcock should be a serious candidate for this job. What say you?