During his press conference, Nieuwendyk stated that he would prefer to draft his team into contention rather than try and hit it big with free agency. He made a point of saying that the Stars are Morrow’s team, and that he would like to see them all play with his kind of passion. He’s said he likes the way Detroit plays a puck-possession game with hard-working forwards and effective but simple defense. He wants his team to play hard but also with intelligence.
All things considered, Nieuwendyk came into this with a good idea of what he wanted, and how he was going to get there. He doesn’t seem to intend to just tinker with this slightly identity-confused team until it looks like a contender. This isn’t about finding pieces to fit in the puzzle anymore. This is about replacing the puzzle entirely.
With the backstops to the Stars’ stellar defense on the way out (Zubov, Lehtinen, and possibly five-star goaltending) and new offense rising to the top (Eriksson, Ribeiro, Richards, Morrow, and possibly Neal/Brunnstrom), it seems Nieuwendyk might be recognizing that it’s time to change up how the team plays. Last year, head coach Dave Tippett failed to utilize their offensive strengths for most of the season, putting pressure on the defense and goaltenders to step up their game and carry the injury-riddled team.
Now Dave Tippett has been fired.
Supporters of Tippett can point to many reasons to keep him around. There’s the classic “but the injuries!” cry, the “winningest coach!” argument, and the “but the 07-08 season ended so strongly!”
However, you might recall that before there were injuries, the team struggled right out of training camp. They had a losing preseason record, hit the regular season flopping around pitifully instead of riding their momentum from the playoff run, and the top lines weren’t clicking. Avery became the Avery Issue, leading people to wonder if Tippett was too much of a players-coach to keep him in line. Then there was the mismanagement of the goalie situation, and some questionable instances towards the end of the season when he played Neal and benched Brunnstrom (one time that comes to mind is this happening immediately after a game in which Brunnstrom had played well and Neal had a sloppy turnover leading directly to a goal against).
The pros and cons of Dave Tippett from the 08-09 season seem to cancel each other out. He wasn’t great, he had his “wtf” moments, but he also nearly got them into the playoffs despite all the injuries and drama.
That’s why I think this has more to do with Nieuwendyk and Hicks looking at the big picture, looking to a new direction, and realizing Tippett does not belong. He has showed an inability to adapt as the team changes, and there seem to be big changes ahead for Dallas.