Today the Dallas Stars announced the release of head coach Glen Gulutzan and assistant coach Paul Jerrard from the franchise. Many fans anticipated the announcement much sooner, especially following the organization’s relief of former general manager Joe Nieuwendyk of his duties last month.
In the two seasons Gulutzan spent as the team’s head coach, the Stars posted a 64-57-9 record and missed out on the playoffs by a significant margin each season; six in 2011-2012 and seven this year.
Jerrard worked alongside Gulutzan as assistant coach both years after coaching Dallas’ Austin-based farm team, the Texas Stars. Jerrard was a member of the AHL team’s coaching staff for two years before traveling to Dallas with Gulutzan.
In the two years Gulutzan and Jerrard spent in Austin, the Texas Stars placed second in the western division and fourth in the western division, falling out of the Calder Cup playoff western division final round in 2011 and the Calder Cup final round in 2010.
Fresh-from-Detroit general manager Jim Nill has not yet released any information regarding who will replace Gulutzan, but it has long been assumed Nill will insert former-Red Wing colleagues into the organization in various areas, including the head coach position.
Seeing Gulutzan go is disheartening, as is the release of any member of an organization the team’s fan base has grown to appreciate. And bringing on the head coach from Austin seemed to be a sign the future of the team was truly flowing from the heart of Texas to one of the state’s brightest focal points, both in the world of hockey and in the world of sports in general. The post-trade deadline five-game-win-streak spurred on by an influx of youth from the AHL further encouraged that idea.
But numbers don’t lie, and a down-the-middle season will rarely, if ever, put any team in any sport in a position to perform in the post-season.
The challenge is Nill’s now. After missing the playoffs five years in a row, the Stars organization has to realize it’s in full-scale recovery mode with its fans. And after trading the team’s most well-known players over the past two years, luring north Texans to American Airlines Center by promoting players alone won’t cut it. Nill has to bring in an individual that can tie together both a team and a fan base.