- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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The Marc Crawford era in Dallas is over. Two days after the Stars failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season under Crawford, GM Joe Nieuwendyk announced he was making a change.
“This decision didn’t come today. It came over the last however long,” Nieuwendyk said. “I have a responsibility – even though I am proud of what we’ve accomplished and I am proud of our players of the way they hung together – I have to make a decision on how we get to the next level.
“We do have a lot of good things in place. I think that is probably the hard thing for Marc, is that he realizes that I don’t have the confidence that he is the guy, for me, to get to the next level.”
Crawford, who had one year left on his contract, was 79-60-25 in his two seasons with the Stars. The team showed improvement from last season to this past one, but couldn’t take the next step.
“These decisions are always tough and they don’t come easy and I really proud of some of the things we’ve accomplished in the last couple seasons,” Nieuwendyk said. “I feel much stronger about our group today than where we were at this time last year. And Marc deserves a lot of credit for that and our players do as well. They bought in to what we are trying to do and we have a lot of good pieces that are starting to come together. The future is bright in my opinion.
“It’s difficult when you don’t make the playoffs because that is ultimately the goal. The goal is to win playoff series and challenge for the Stanley Cup. I believe we are making steps towards that and unfortunately it wasn’t good enough this year, even with 95 points in an extremely tough conference and an even more tough division. This is why we have to get better and be with the elite teams.”
The Stars were among one of the top teams in the league around the half-way point of the season, but struggled over the second half. They had one stretch where they went 2-10-1 and another where they were 1-5-3. Those two slides put them in a position where they had to scramble to try to get back into a playoff position, something they almost pulled off. A win in regulation or overtime in their final game at Minnesota would have pushed them into the playoffs, but they lost 5-3 and missed the postseason for the third straight year.
“I don’t we missed the playoffs because of one game,” said Nieuwendyk. “We had dips that we couldn’t seem to get out of at different times during the second half of the season that ultimately cost us. We needed to beat the teams we had to in order to get to the playoffs. It wasn’t going to be a situation as we saw in the last month-and-a-half of the season where we were going to be able to back into the playoffs, even though we had a lead in the division at one point. Teams were charging and teams were playing hard and they were earning their way into it. We faced adversity with injuries, but we weren’t able to get the job done. Give credit to the teams that got in, but we want to be one of those teams consistently.”
Nieuwendyk said he is no rush to hire a replacement for Crawford, who was the Dallas GM’s first big hiring when he took over in the spring of 2009.
“No time frame. This week is about clean up and sending our players off with the right message,” Nieuwendyk said. “We’ll take our time with putting a coach in place.”
Asked if associate coach Willie Desjardins or Texas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan could be in the mix, Nieuwendyk said “possibly.” But he added he would cast the net wide in search for the next coach of the Stars.
“We’ll do our due diligence in the front office and look long and hard,” he said. “There will be a number of good candidates.”
As for the team’s assistant coaches, Nieuwendyk left things up in the air.
“I am going to meet with each of them over the next little while when we get through with some of our player evaluations,” Nieuwendyk said. “Those things will be decided in a timely manner. Obviously with a new coach coming in, there will be input from the new coach as well.”
"Marc is a true a professional, a good coach and he’s done some good things here in the two years that he’s been here with us. I wish him luck and thank him for his service."
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk