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Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thoughts on Glen Gulutzan

By Mark Stepneski

Here are a few thoughts and observations on Glen Gulutzan, who was named head coach of the Dallas Stars on Friday.

*I don’t buy the theory that the Stars hired him because he was cheap. The NHL is a copycat league and teams have had some success recently going with talented, younger coaches coming out of the AHL. Gulutzan fits that mold and he fits the mold of the kind of coach that is being hired around the league this offseason. Plus, he was already in the Stars’ system. Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me.

* I’ve watched quite a few Texas Stars games over the past two seasons – in person, on TV, via streaming video – and have always been impressed with how they played under Gulutzan. They played a pretty strong team game.

They didn’t give up much in the way of quality chances and the goaltending has been solid with guys like Brent Krahn, Matt Climie, Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany over the past two years. Texas was top ten in goals against both seasons under Gulutzan.

The offensive struggled this past season, ranking 26th in the league when there was a pretty young group of forwards playing. In 2009-10 Texas ranked 12th in the AHL in scoring.

Overall, his teams down there were frustrating to play against and capitalized when the opposition cracked. It worked well and Texas had some success.

In Dallas, the personnel will be a little different. He’s going to have a little more offensive pop at his disposal.

“He’s been forced to be geared toward the defensive side of things in the American Hockey League just because we haven’t had the scorers for him,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said on NHL Home Ice Friday. “That’s the thing he is going to find with our club – players like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow. We have guys that can do things offensively. I would suspect that we will be a much better two-way team.”

*It looks like Gulutzan got a vote of confidence from Jamie Benn, who played under Gulutzan during Texas’ run to the Calder Cup Final in 2010. Here’s a quote from Nieuwendyk during Friday morning’s conference call.

"His strengths are exactly what I feel this team needs – the structure and the style of play. The bottom line is that he gets it. He understands players, how to mesh players and get the most out of their abilities,” said Nieuwendyk. “We've seen that talking to the players like Jamie Benn, who went down to play for him in the Calder Cup playoffs. [Benn was] highly impressed with the structure, style of play, and the bench demeanor of Glen. I think that is going to translate well with our players.”

*One of the things I like about the hiring is that Gulutzan should have a really good grasp of the players in the Stars’ system. Obviously, he’s coached Dallas’ top minor league affiliate, but he’s coached many of the team’s top prospects at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan the past two seasons.

"Having coached those guys at the AHL level, having watched some of their transformation and now getting them up here, if you're there with them at the grassroots, you know them as a player. It's almost like you’re raising a child I think,” Gulutzan said. “Now you see them coming up, maturing and becoming effective players here. If you know their path I think it’s easier to relate with them and help them. You understand their strengths and weaknesses I think that experience will be valuable going forward with Tomas [Vincour], [Jamie] Benn, [Philip] Larsen and those types of players."

*One thing I found interesting when I went to Cedar Park to watch Texas in the playoffs in April was how defenseman Philip Larsen was used on the power play. He didn’t spend a lot of time at the point. Instead he would spend a lot of time down low or around the net. He scored two power play goals in the games I watched and both came he was down low, one off a deflection in the slot and another off a shot from the bottom of the circle. I just thought it was interesting wrinkle, or at least I thought so.

*Here’s something I remember about Gulutzan from Dallas Stars training camp last September. After camp ended some of the Stars personnel flew commercial from Prince Edward Island back to Dallas instead of the team’s charter. Gulutzan was one of them and he and some others ended up on my flight from Toronto to Dallas/Fort Worth. What did he do to kill time while waiting to board the flight? He got out his laptop, pulled up some video and was breaking it donw with defenseman Brad Lukowich. Was still doing it while I was boarding the plane. Gulutzan and Lukowich were the last people to board the plane, if I remember correctly. There's a coach making good use of his time.

*Don’t know what’s going to happen with the coaching staff, which currently includes associate coach Willie Desjardins, assistants Stu Barnes and Charlie Huddy and goaltending coach Mike Valley. Nieuwendyk really didn’t clear up to the issue other than to say the process of deciding what to do will start now that Gulutzan is on board.