Head coach Dave Tippett of the Dallas Stars instructs his team during a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 16, 2009 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Marc Crawford is already a better coach than Dave Tippett.
That fact has nothing to do with Crawford’s knowledge of where X’s and O’s are best slotted on a whiteboard and everything to do with what form the Dallas Stars will take this year relative to last.
On the eve of the 2008-09 campaign, Tippet’s team looked like a contender – at least to this scribe, who tabbed them as pre-season Cup favorites. Hey, they were coming off a conference final showing in last year’s playoffs and Brenden Morrow looked as good wearing a ‘C’ as anybody in the league.
Then Sean Avery shook the organization to its core, Marty Turco turned into a shadow of himself for a prolonged stretch and an armadillo-sized injury bug ravaged Texas.
Morrow, puck-moving defenseman Sergei Zubov and top-six forward Brad Richards all missed huge chunks of the season. Beyond reaching for the Tylenol, what could Tippett really do?
The Stars went into an early-season tailspin they never fully recovered from, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Despite a clear aligning of the cosmos against him, I’m sure when Tippett decides to speak about his dismissal, there won’t be a trace of excuse-making.
First of all, he understands the nature of the beast. Tippett was hired about a month after Dallas last failed to crack the post-season. And while this was the only year in which he failed to lead his team into the playoffs in six seasons at the helm, slack isn’t something that comes with the coaching territory.
New Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk wanted a fresh face and he chose Crawford’s. In some ways, Tippett is probably thankful Nieuwendyk acted so fast; that way he doesn’t have to endure a season of questions about whether he feels added pressure as a coach working for a GM who never had the chance to bring in ‘his own man.’
And, after a well-deserved trip to the beach, Tippett has the rest of the summer to send out a strong resume to places like Minnesota, New Jersey and Calgary, rather than wonder whether he’d make it through the first rough patch of next season.
With some better puck luck at his next stop, Tippett will be right back in the top tier of his finicky fraternity sooner rather than later.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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