The coronavirus has shut down the entire planet. To quote Tony Stark from The Avengers: Infinity Wars, “Earth is closed today.” Several people are debating if this NHL season will have a Stanley Cup Playoff or not. For the sake of this article, let’s assume a worst-case scenario and say there will be no more hockey this season.
If you’re general manager Jim Nill looking back at the season, the biggest moment has to be the firing of Jim Montgomery. Whether the choice was the right decision or not remains mostly a mystery. What’s next is to pick who the Dallas Stars will call coach for the 2020-21 season.
Current interim head coach Rick Bowness could likely be done after this season. Recent performances have left a foul taste in fans’ mouths and his overall head coaching record is less than desirable. To be fair, he did do a decent job given the circumstances. Who could Nill bring in to coach the team during 2020-21?
While there are a number of qualified candidates across the league, one name should stick out to Stars fans, Derek Laxdal. Laxdal was called up earlier this season as part of the Montgomery firing. He took over the Stars’ power play after being called up from Austin.
Laxdal comes with an impressive resume. He is a veteran coach with 19 years of experience in the minors. In 2000, he began his coaching career as an assistant with the Odessa Jackalopes in the now-defunct Western Professional Hockey League. As a head coach, he has won three championships and three additional finals appearances across the ECHL, AHL, and CHL. He joined the Stars organization in 2005 with the Idaho Steelheads and joined the Texas Stars in 2014.
“He’s won at every level. He’s been very successful,” said Nill back in 2014. “He’s still a young man, very energetic, his goal is to get to the NHL and this is the next stepping stone. He just finished winning the Memorial Cup in Edmonton with a team he wasn’t supposed to win with. We’re just excited to get a guy of his caliber after losing Willie Desjardins.”
This season, Laxdal has improved the Stars’ power play. He has also continued to develop his relationship with players like Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz, and Jason Dickinson.
When you tally up his resume and take into consideration that 23 NHL coaches were previously AHL coaches, it makes sense that Laxdal is a solid internal hire. By comparison, earlier this season the Toronto Maple Leafs dismissed Mike Babcock in favor of their AHL coach, Sheldon Keefe.
If you’re not a fan of an internal hire, and you think it’s time for a shake-up in Dallas, here’s an option several fans have pointed at. Gerard Gallant was fired back in January by the Vegas Golden Knights. The 2019-20 campaign was rough for Gallant, but overall he has found success over the previous few seasons.
“Thirty other teams should fire their coaches and hire [Gallant],” Jonathan Marchessault told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (‘Jonathan Marchessault emotional about Gerard Gallant firing,’ Las Vegas Review-Journal, 01/16/2020) “Even when he gave you shit about something, he always let you work out of it. Win or lose, he always showed up the next day ready to work and get better.”
Gallant, while in Las Vegas, took the Golden Knights to the playoffs twice and to one Stanley Cup Final. He also has coached the Florida Panthers and across multiple leagues.
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Several teams could be in the market for the services of the Gallant. In the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild could be one the teams zeroing-in. The Montreal Canadiens could also be looking at him as their next head coach.
Another coach who caught the chopping block this season and could be a candidate for the head coaching position is Bruce Boudreau.
Boudreau had been coaching the Wild since 2016. Before that, he was also the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks and the Washington Capitals. He has over 10 years of head-coaching experience. While his teams may have not had a ton of playoff success, they were consistently in the playoffs. He has eight 100-plus-point seasons under his belt. He also has worked with Stars forward Corey Perry.
Boudreau’s style of hockey is one that centers around the offensive zone. Offense has been a major piece of criticism for the Stars this season. Besides the Stars, Boudreau could be in the conversation for the head coaching job coming soon to Seattle.
Whoever the Stars pick for their next head coach will set the tone for the team in the upcoming years. The team has quite a bit to offer going forward and the fans deserve to have the best possible option.
You can hear my conversation with Michael Farley of ‘A Clean Skate Podcast’ about a potential coaching change on the latest episode of the Supernova Podcast.