It’s time for Ken Hitchcock to take his second tour of duty as head coach of the Dallas Stars. This time around, his unpredictability could become a great advantage and asset.
Day one of training camp for the Dallas Stars wrapped up this afternoon in Cedar Park, and there is plenty to talk about.
All of the new faces (besides Martin Hanzal) made an appearance on the ice today in Cedar Park, including Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov. Today was the first chance to see the Dallas Stars as a whole unit on the ice.
It was also the first chance to see Ken Hitchcock lead the team since 2002. Today marked the beginning of Hitch’s second duty on the Stars’ bench.
Hitchcock coached the Stars from 1995 to 2002, leading them to their only two Stanley Cup appearances and only championship in franchise history. He was fired by the team midway through the 2001-02 season and began making his rounds through the NHL.
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But now he’s back, and the Dallas Stars are in for a big culture shock. Hitch’s style is demanding and defensively focused, but he knows how to get results. He has been one of the most efficient coaches in the NHL over the last decade, so his theories are encouraging.
And GM Jim Nill did everything in his power this summer to set Hitchcock up for success. He acquired some of the best talent on the market and reshuffled the lineup entirely. Nill strengthened up the weak spots that stuck out in 2016-17 and now has a roster capable of making a long playoff run.
It will all be up to whether the Stars’ roster wholeheartedly buys in or not. If he cannot get the troops on his side, he likely won’t win the battle. But if Dallas gives him their full attention and energy, the team could go far.
But aside from Hitchcock’s defensive smarts and aggressive coaching style, there is another positive that he brings to the team: unpredictability.
What does that mean? Simply put, his ability to stay quiet and go against the majority opinion could give him a sizable edge when the season starts in October.
From 2013-2017, Lindy Ruff served as bench boss for the Dallas Stars. While he had his own set of strengths and positives, he was predictable at times.
Though he juggled lines a lot, there was always a pretty typical format that they followed. It was also obvious that the Stars were an offense-heavy team and that they would typically push further into the zone on the attack, leaving the defense vulnerable. It was also pretty standard knowing which players would be in the lineup, where they would be slotted, and how often they would play.
There was a certain level of predictability to his style, and if the opponent caught on, it would potentially put the Stars in a rut. With Hitchcock, that shouldn’t be a worry. Ken Hitchcock’s style doesn’t warrant one certain standard or another.
For example, in an interview last week, Hitchcock talked about how certain players could fall into his lineup scheme this year.
The longstanding belief by Dallas Stars fans and analysts was that Jason Spezza would shift to the right wing on the second line, Martin Hanzal would slot in at second line center, and Radek Faksa would take the third line center role.
But did Hitchcock agree with all of that? Not so much. He talked about potentially having Spezza and Hanzal both playing center somewhere in the lineup and Faksa playing on a line with Hanzal.
He completely threw a wrench in the thoughts and ideas of Stars fans, and that’s just terrific. This is just one example, but it goes to show that Hitchcock doesn’t follow a script. His unpredictability can be very misleading at times, and that’s a good thing. After all, catching the opposition off guard is one of the best things you can do.
Throughout the rest of training camp, Hitchcock has plenty of decisions that he will need to make. Chances are that at least one or two of them will end up catching you by surprise. That’s just how he works.
With the regular season around the corner, expect Hitchcock to continue messing with the dreams that you have for the team. It’s all part of his master plan, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy.