From the Top Down
January 31, 2007
By Jason Danby
Dallas Coaches Adapt and Succeed
During Tippett's first season as head coach of the Stars, he posted the fourth-highest point total for any rookie coach in NHL history. That season and all since his debut, the Stars have reached the playoffs.
Tippett will coach his 300th career NHL game on February 6th against Minnesota. Through his 297 games thus far as head coach, he has accumulated a record of 170-91-36. Currently, he is on pace to have the seventh best points percentage in NHL history among coaches through their first 300 games. Tippett will follow names such as Toe Blake, Don Cherry, and Mike Keenan.
The Stars are 30-19-2 this year and currently sit third in the Pacific Division. The success of the team thus far in the season cannot be attributed to the same players that have carried the team in previous seasons. In fact, the credit for the season's success doesn't rest with any particular player. With many key players out of the lineup for extended stints this season, a large portion of the credit must be given to the Dallas coaching staff for their continued efforts to incorporate new players and methods in order to keep winning.
Dallas Stars assistant coach Mark Lamb works the offensive side of the ice and has had the challenge of missing multiple forwards from his lines.
"This season has certainly been challenging with some of our best players being injured off and on," said Lamb. "We've had to do a lot of trial and error with some of the young players we had come up from Iowa, and we've had to get creative in motivating the players and finding the right chemistry."
Currently, the Dallas Stars have missed a total of 136 man-games. During the entire 2005-2006 season, the man-games missed total reached 94, with Patrick Traverse missing the most action, 17 games, due to an ankle sprain. The season before, 2003-2004, the Stars missed a total of 190 games due to injury. That season Scott Young and Jere Lehtinen missed 24 games each. In Tippett's first year, the Stars missed 173 man games due to injury, with Sami Helenius missing 24.
"The consistency and the work ethic that this team has shown has been incredible," said Lamb. "I think this might be the hardest-working team I've ever been around and I think that's what's helped us stay successful. Every guy is willing to pull his weight and do whatever it takes to get the job done, which is all a coach can ask for."
While the offensive numbers and overall record of last season remain a Tippett best, this season is arguably his best work as an NHL head coach. Through his toughness, work ethic, and refusal to accept any excuse for losing, he continues to lead his team towards the postseason.
"This season has been a challenge from a coaching standpoint, mainly with having players in unfamilar roles," said Tippett. "With the injuries we've battled through, we've asked players to step up and expand their roles and they have done a great job. We've had to be creative as far as line combinations and matchups, both offensively and defensively. We have to keep plugging away now though, because getting healthy doesn't automatically mean we're going to win every time we step on the ice."
Despite missing key offensive players, including the franchise points leader Mike Modano for a large span, the 2006-2007 Dallas Stars have still managed te missing key offensive players, including the franchise points leader Mike Modano for a large span, the 2006-2007 Dallas Stars have still managed to produce offensively. Through 51 games played, the Stars score 2.7 goals per game on average. This mark falls short of the 3.1 goals per game scored by the 2005-2006 team, but remains in the ballpark of past seasons. In 2003-2004, the Stars scored 2.4 goals per game and in 2002-2003 they scored 3.0 goals per game.
Tippett's success can be measured by points percentage, which replaced the winning percentage statistic post lockout due to single points from overtime and shootout losses. Since 2002-2003 and with a minimum of 100 NHL games coached, Tippett's .632 points percentage is second only to Brian Murray (.650) and is tied with Randy Carlyle. Dave Lewis is fourth on the list with a .618 points percentage.
"I've been very fortunate to have been surrounded with high quality people here with the Stars," said Tippett. "From the top down, there is a commitment to winning and a high standard that we, as a coaching staff, have worked toward. Mr. Hicks shows an outstanding commitment to keeping this organization among the best in the league, on and off the ice, and Doug Armstrong has done an excellent job in building the team. Rick (Wilson) and Mark (Lamb) have been here with me since Day One, and we have an outstanding relationship. The same goes for Ulf (Dahlen) and Derek (MacKinnon) now and Andy (Moog) before them. We all respect each other's views and opinions and we have been able to maintain a solid relationship."
The Dallas Stars have scored 136 goals this season, the least of Pacific Division teams. But the Stars are still a force in the Western Conference because they abide by Tippett's mantra.
"Injuries are no excuse for not winning. We have to find ways to win."