Stars hire Tippett as coach
Friday, May 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
DALLAS (AP) _ New coach Dave Tippett doesn't see the Dallas Stars as the team that sputtered to a 10th-place finish in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs last season.
To Tippett, who was hired Thursday, the Stars look more like the team that made two trips to the Stanley Cup finals and won five division titles in the past six seasons.
``We have a great core of players here, players that have won before,'' said Tippett, who signed a three-year deal. ``And even though we are turning the page on an era that's been excellent for the Dallas Stars, there's no reason we can't have that same success, if not more success. Our sole purpose this year is to win the Stanley Cup.''
Tippett, an assistant coach who stressed offense during his three years with the Los Angeles Kings, replaces defense-minded Ken Hitchcock.
Hitchcock was fired in January after players quit responding to his demanding style. Hitchcock, who led Dallas to its only two Stanley Cup final appearances and the 1999 championship, was hired Tuesday to coach the Philadelphia Flyers.
In 11 seasons as an NHL player, Tippett was a hardworking defensive forward with Hartford, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
As a coach, first with the Houston Aeros in the IHL and then in Los Angeles, Tippett has shown a tendency to give his players offensive freedom.
The Kings had the NHL's best power play this season. Before Tippett arrived, the Kings ranked 24th in the power play.
``When you're in charge of a power play unit specifically, you're obviously working with the top players on the team,'' general manager Doug Armstrong said. ``He was able to take that group and mold them into the best power play in the NHL. In the NHL, you have to have your best players be your best players every night.''
But Tippett said the Stars won't immediately be transformed into a high-flying, offense-oriented team.
``To win a championship, you can't just say, 'We're an offensive team,' '' he said. ``To say it would be an offensive team would be wrong. To say it would be a defensive team will be wrong. We're going to be an efficient team.''
The Stars ranked 15th in goals scored last year.
``Defense wins championships, but if you have to win a game 8-7 then you have to win a game 8-7,'' defenseman Richard Matvichuk. ``I think Dave understands that.''
``There is a system in place, so there will be a bit of an adjustment,'' said center Pierre Turgeon, whose 15 goals last year were his lowest since his rookie season of 1987-88. ``We're looking forward to playing and hopefully scoring more.''
After winning the Stanley Cup in 1999 under Hitchcock, the Stars lost in the finals to New Jersey in 2000.
When Hitchcock was fired and replaced by interim coach Rick Wilson, the Stars were 23-17-6-4. The Stars went 13-11-7-1 under Wilson, an assistant for 10 seasons.
Wilson will return as an associate coach, but assistants Doug Jarvis and Craig Ludwig won't return.
Armstrong said Hitchcock was one of four or five finalists, but both sides decided it was best to move on.
``The more that Ken and I talked, there was a mutual understanding that now he's not the coach for the Dallas Stars,'' he said.
Tippett, who played for an NCAA championship team at North Dakota, ended his playing career in 1995 as a player-assistant with Houston, and coached the Aeros to the IHL's Turner Cup title in 1998-99. He won an Olympic silver medal with Canada in 1992.
``There's a sense of urgency for me,'' he said. ``I've got a championship at every level except the NHL.''
The focus for the Stars, who have seen a lot of change over the past year, will be stabilizing the team.
``I don't think you can have a championship-caliber team if you're constantly changing personnel on all levels,'' Armstrong said.
Owner Tom Hicks said the team will continue to be active in free agency begins in July but plans to keep the core intact. The core includes Mike Modano, Pierre Turgeon, Jason Arnott and Jere Lehtinen.
``You look at the team's nucleus and you can see the core is there,'' Matvichuk said. ``Maybe a couple of tweaks here and there will do it.''
And Tippett's reputation as a player's coach could help attract free agents.
``He's a player's coach by the sounds of it,'' Matvichuck said. ``How can he not be a player's coach? He doesn't like to lose.''