'Splain This: Why Did the Stars Fire Tippett?

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'Splain This: Why Did the Stars Fire Tippett?
(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Article originally published to www.1033espn.com on 6/11/09 by Adam Amick.

There’s no denying the Dallas Stars had problems in 2008-2009, but was Head Coach Dave Tippett the problem?

I don’t think so, Tim.

Former Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche coach Marc Crawford has been hired to replace Tippett at the helm of the Stars. I was happy to hear that Joe Nieuwendyk had been signed as the new General Manager of the team, but I have to question the wisdom of this first move.

Tippett, second-most successful coach in franchise history (after our hero Ken Hitchcock, who led the team to two Stanley Cup Finals appearances and the ’99 Cup win) has been outstanding behind the bench. During his six-year tenure the team was 271-156-59 with two Pacific Division titles. That’s a 56-percent win average and points in 68% of games.

Riddle me this, Batman: If the Stars were good enough to overachieve in 2007-2008 and make it to the Western Conference Finals, only to lose to eventual Cup winners Detroit, then who gets the credit for that?

Because if you’re going to toss Tippett after the failure of this past season, you have to ask who was responsible for the success just one year prior.

This isn’t rocket science, even though I am a rocket scientist. So for those of you whom hockey only shows up on your radar around April, and you see a vacant seat on the Stars’ bandwagon, let me break it down for you.

Man-Games lost to injury: In 2007-2008 five players were on the ice for all 82 regular-season games (Mike Modano, Brendan Morrow, Stephane Robidas, Niklas Hagman, and Trevor Daley). There were 29 names that played at least two games with the team during the campaign.

2008-2009 only two players made it through the whole season unscathed (Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson). 35 skaters played in at least three games for the team.

Goaltending: In ‘07-‘08 Marty Turco started in the net for 62 games, going 32 and 21 with a 2.31 Goals-Against Average. He was backed up by Mike Smith, who was 12 and 9 in 21 appearances, but traded to Tampa Bay as part of the deal for Brad Richards.

But in ‘08-‘09 Turco was in goal for 74 of the 82 games, with a record of 33 and 31 and a 2.81 GAA. Tippett had no confidence in backup Tobias Stephan, and rightly so.

Experience on the blue line: In 2007-2008 The Stars defensive corps started five veterans, with Trevor Daley still developing and Matt Niskanen being the youngster.

Yet in ‘08-‘09 the D-corps started three veterans Stephane Robidas, Sergei Zubov, and Phillipe Boucher (Boucher traded to Pittsburgh after 15 games for Daryl Sydor, who played 65 games for the Stars). The other three players had seven years of playing time between them (Trevor Daley 4, Matt Niskanen 2, Nick Grossman 1).

Leadership on defense and power play: 07-08 Sergei Zubov, the “Minister of Defense” in Dallas plays 46 games, with 35 points scored.

08-09 Zubov was sidelined after only 10 games, and wasn’t at 100% for those contributing only 4 assists.

Avery: Need I mention the Sean Avery debacle? Yes, because locker room chemistry is critical, and his presence (which was a huge mistake by former Co-GM Brett Hull – Nick Hagman should have been retained in the summer for the same money) was something you could tell made a palpable difference in the room.

This was evident in the mood, and what wasn’t being said, after Avery’s departure in December.

Timeliness of injuries: After the struggles of the late fall, and the absence of Avery, the team came together, started to get healthy, and was showing in January what they were really capable of. But losing Brad Richards in February resulted in a dive that the team was unable to recover from.

Conclusions, Dr. Holmes?

When your hockey team loses its captain and strongest offensive weapon for the majority of the season, and other critical offensive components (Modano, Lehtinen, Richards, Steve Ott) for extended and often overlapping periods, you are going to struggle to score.

When your hockey team’s defense is a revolving door anchored around one or two veterans and three guys with seven years in the league between them, your team is going to struggle to protect the net.

When your hockey team doesn’t have a backup goalie and you overwork Marty Turco, and your D-corps struggles, as do the forwards, in helping him, your team is going to suffer in the goals-against category.

The result of these three factors? It doesn’t matter who your coach is; your team is going to struggle mightily, as the Stars did in ’08-’09. Chemistry is so important in hockey, and no where is that more evident than here in Dallas.

Yet Coach Dave Tippett, who did the best he could with the cards he was dealt, including the amazing ‘07-‘08 playoff run, was shown the door…

Somebody please ‘splain that to me.

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