Per Sean Shapiro of The Athletic, Rick Bowness has not been ruled out as the head coach for next season.
Given the possible plan for restarting the season and beginning next being so constrained, this is not shocking. However, it does not make it the correct decision. Jim Nill simply could have provided a vague answer, as most hockey persons do, and moved on to the next question. To hire Rick Bowness as the permanent head coach would simply add another offense to the long list of transgressions by the Dallas Stars organization to their fans.
The 2017-2018 season was a nightmare for many Stars fans. The team collapsed and missed the playoffs, failing to follow up on a successful 2015-2016 campaign. The consensus issue with that team was the goaltending.
While true, the offense did not light the world on fire, coming in at 19th in goals for in the season. Defensively, the team was above average, finishing 7th in goals against.
Now, let us compare these stats to the 2019-2020 Dallas Stars. As of when the season was postponed, Dallas was 28th in goals for and second in goals against. Comparatively, the 19′ Stars were a much better defensive team than the 17′ team but were also demonstratively worse offensively. The 17′ team sported 4 players with 67 or more points while the 19 teams would be lucky to have one.
So, what is the difference truly between the two teams?
For one, Goaltending. If Bishop and Khudobin were on the 17′ team, you could argue Dallas makes a deep playoff run and potentially hoists a Stanley Cup instead of sitting at home during the playoffs. The negligence of the Dallas Stars in regard to building their roster and supporting elite goaltending as been their biggest transgression through the decade. The arrival of Ben Bishop and eventually Anton Khudobin have helped solve that issue, however.
The other difference between the two teams? The offense. While Ken Hitchcock will by no means ever be praised as an offensive genius, the 17′ Stars were a better offensive team than the 19 teams under Rick Bowness. How is that evidenced? For one, the 17′ team SHOT THE PUCK at a much higher rate than the ’19 Stars. Dallas has shot the puck nearly a full percentage point less this season compared to 2017. This translates to 400 fewer shots at this point, with only 13 games remaining. While many fans hate hearing “SHOOT” in the stands, it is hard to argue that the Stars under Rick Bowness almost seem afraid of shooting. It is incredibly simplistic, but, if you don’t shoot, you can’t score.
The offense has been a problem for the 19′ Stars for certain. But the issues with Rick and the team do not stop there. A popular topic among Stars fans has been ice time. This is a topic that Rick Bowness has dodged and attempted to weasel out of numerous times this season when pressed by some of the media. His most notable excuse was arguing shifts matter more than the time on the ice. Basically, arguing that a player can spend less time on the ice but take more shifts so has a greater impact. On the surface certainly has plausibility. But unfortunately for Bowness, his excuse held no water.
Stars fans are a passionate group. Many of them will not simply accept what the coach is saying as gospel, despite what some members of the Stars media and marketing department would like. Thankfully some Stars fans, such as Morgan, decided to take it upon themselves to expose the falsity in Rick’s statement. As evidenced in numerous charts that Morgan created, the shift numbers and the ice time do not often match-up.
Even when accounting for potential variables such as multiple icings, there were multiple times when shift numbers were identical, but the ice time would be different by as much as 2-3 minutes. But, shifts are the end all be all, right Rick? Wrong. Bowness and his offensive system are stuck in the 1980s and did not expect anyone to look deeply into the numbers. The number of shifts argument was a nice red herring, but ultimately irrelevant.
Yes, Bowness did take over a difficult situation. The sudden firing of Jim Montgomery came as shock to the whole Stars community and he should be praised for the job he did short-term. However, that does not mean he is worthy or qualified for the permanent position. 87-257-39 is Rick Bowness’ head coaching record prior to taking over the Stars. His record speaks for itself. He is a quality assistant coach who can really coach defense. The thing in pro sports is that some people are head coaches, some people are coordinators, and very few are both. Rick Bowness is no exception to this rule.
The argument against hiring Rick Bowness is clear. Jim Nill would be making a huge mistake if he pulled that trigger. But, as previously stated, it would not come as a complete shock given the restart plan if it happened. Jim Nill would be betting his job on it however if he did. The fact is Jim Nill has shown to be a quality general manager. The Tyler Seguin and Mats Zuccarello trades show that. But, for every good thing, there is at least one repeated bad thing to accompany it. Julius Honka, Valeri Nichushkin are but a few names to list as bad decisions that Nill and the team failed to move on from timely.
Dallas has made the playoffs three times out of ten years. Inexcusable and mediocre at best. The Stars organization has wasted YEARS of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Kari Lehtonen, Trevor Daley, John Klingberg, Brenden Morrow. The list goes on. The malpractice and continual negligence of these players by the front office and owner Tom Gaglardi is inexcusable and the fans deserve answers. To waste the talent and the years while many of these players were on cheaper contracts or to give an extension to a player past their prime, it is a waste.
Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, even the St. Louis Blues. All with generational talents. ALL made moves to continually ensure they could bring at least one Stanley Cup to their cities.
How many moves compare to the moves made by the Dallas Stars? The Tyler Seguin trade arguably is one that could compare the most, but were the Dallas Stars really built for a championship at that point?
The Blues went out and added Ryan O’Reilly who was the difference in their Cup. Mats Zuccarello is not the same caliber player as O’Reilly and the impacts on their teams are not even close to similar.
The fact is that Jim Nill has done some wonderful things in Dallas, but the clock is ticking. Picking Rick Bowness to be his next permanent head coach should and would be the last mistake he would be allowed to make as Stars General Manager. Jim Nill has drafted some quality players in his time in Dallas, he deserves credit for doing so. But the developmental issues cannot be ignored. While players like Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz have helped turn the story around, the high profile failures are still there. Jim Nill is not the only person though who needs to be blamed for the Stars mediocrity. No, there is another.
A man who should be more high profile given his position, but seemingly is constantly left out when criticizing the Dallas Stars is Tom Gaglardi. Tom has been able to enjoy a high seat since 2011 when he bought the team. Tom has done wonderful things for the hockey community and helped grow hockey in Texas. All praiseworthy endeavors indeed. However, Tom has allowed this culture of mediocrity to persist and continue through the years with his negligent handling of the team. The people he has allowed to be in place have not done enough to improve the organization and team. Evidenced by three playoff appearances in ten years.
Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban, Dan Hunt, Ray Davis, and Bob Simpson have all been cast into the spotlight with criticism for how they run their organizations. Yet, consistently Tom has been left alone. A privilege that he has enjoyed for far too long. His off-ice contributions cannot be questioned, all noble endeavors that are praiseworthy indeed. The Dallas Stars Foundation is a phenomenal organization that has done great work during this quarantine period and well before. The additional rinks throughout the state have done much to help hockey grow.
But one cannot forget that is widely believed that the comments by Jim Lites were shared and likely echoed by one Tom Gaglardi. An owner of a professional hockey team not only condoning but essentially supporting the calling of players on his own team horse****. One has to wonder if Tom truly cared about winning, then why has he allowed mediocrity to exist up and down the organization for so long? If he cared about winning would he not push more for going after big-name free agents and making moves at the deadline to address obvious holes? Would he not apply more pressure to ensure the next head coach is the right man for the job? It is a question that needs to be asked.
Dallas has wasted the years of many players due to negligence in team-building and player development. The team has improved recently and has a chance to win a Stanley Cup in the next 3 years. However, if Jim Nill makes the decision to hire Rick Bowness as the permanent head coach, that window will all be but closed and wasted.
The next three years will define the legacy of Jim Nill and this Dallas Stars era.
He better make it count.
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