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Shakeup in Dallas

Stars fire coach Hitchcock, reassign GM Gainey

Posted: Friday January 25, 2002 10:32 AM
Updated: Friday January 25, 2002 10:03 PM
  Ken Hitchcock Ken Hitchcock led the Stars to a Stanley Cup title in 1999. Getty Images/NHLI

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Ken Hitchcock was fired by the Dallas Stars on Friday after six seasons and the team's only Stanley Cup championship.

General manager Bob Gainey also decided to move into a consultant role immediately. He previously had said he would step down after the season.

Assistant coach Rick Wilson will become interim coach, and assistant general manager Doug Armstrong will take over as GM.

"It isn't something that arrived in a flash," Gainey said during a news conference. "It has been the ongoing sputtering and stalling of our team."

Hitchcock, 50, led the Stars to two Stanley Cup finals appearances -- winning the title in 1999 -- and five straight division titles. He was 277-160-60-6 since taking over with 43 games left in the 1995-96 season. His postseason record is 47-33.

SI's Michael Farber
Ken Hitchcock’s shelf life must have been up in Dallas. He is a man with a plan and a vision, a man who believes in details. His only problem is that he can nag his players to the point of distraction. Some of the jagged edges were smoothed over, but his prickly relationships with so many of his players made it an uncomfortable room.

  • Click here for more from Farber. 

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    Ken Hitchcock thinks the Stars haven't played up to their abilities this season.
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    "Without question you're going to look at Ken's record with our team and even our record today, and see it is a difficult decision," Gainey said.

    Wilson, an assistant with the Stars organization for 10 years, also was an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings for three years.

    The moves came after Hitchcock and Mike Modano had an intense conversation after practice Thursday about the star player's frustrations with the team. The Stars, who have lost two straight games, are seventh in the Western Conference at 23-17-6-4.

    Hitchcock also talked to several other players Thursday, urging them to quit complaining about the team's problems and start finding solutions.

    "You got to want it, and collectively we don't," team captain Derian Hatcher said after Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

    "I think it will definitely shake the team up," Hatcher said Friday. "Do I think it was the right move? I can't say that. Pretty much he's used the same tactics since the Stanley Cup. Nothing's changed. It's been the same and maybe people did stop listening."

    Modano said the firing caught him off guard.

      Click on the above graphic for a larger version. CNNSI.com

    "It was a bit of a surprise. We have to realize we have our jobs to do. We weren't responding to anything as players," Modano said.

    Modano downplayed the discussion he had with Hitchcock after practice Thursday, saying it was simply one of several he's had with the coach about the team's performance.

    Dallas, swept from last season's playoffs in the second round, is off to a slow start in part because several of Gainey's off-season moves didn't click.

    "Everybody connected to the group has some responsibility," Gainey said. "Ken is paying a price today."

    Gainey announced last month that he would step down as general manager after the season and Armstrong would take over.

    Armstrong has been Gainey's assistant since 1993. Gainey, in the NHL for 28 years, said in December he would be a Stars consultant for a year.

    Armstong said he's not planning any major moves.

    "I'll turn the team over to Wilson and the players," he said. "They have to respond. We'll judge things from today forward. This is not the time to make long-term plans."

    Wilson said: "We'll tweak as we go. We'll change as we see the need and the opportunity. Why this thing got off track I'm not sure, but we're going to move forward."

    Gainey followed a Hall of Fame playing career in Montreal with a stellar tenure as a coach and general manager of the Stars franchise. Over 11 seasons, his teams reached the Stanley Cup finals three times, winning it once.

    Hired as coach of the Minnesota North Stars in 1990, Gainey guided his first team to the Cup finals. He added GM to his duties the following year and held both jobs through January 1996, when he turned over the coaching duties to Hitchcock.

    "Ken and I have been attached and partners for quite a while," Gainey said. "I did feel that it was my choice to bring him back and support him through some difficult times in the past year or 18 months, and it should be my responsibility to address that situation myself, which I did with a phone call to [owner] Tom Hicks on Wednesday night."

    Hitchcock, who got the news from Gainey over the phone, wasn't available Friday.

    "He didn't comment really either way," Gainey said. "As he usually does, he said he's going to get a cup of coffee and think things over."

     
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