A day after the 14-year anniversary of former Dallas Star Brett Hull’s controversial Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres, the coach of that Sabres team was introduced as coach of the Stars.
Naturally, the triple overtime goal that was made controversial by the presence of Hull’s skate in the Buffalo crease was still a talking point during negotiations to bring Lindy Ruff to Dallas.
“I said to Jim [Nill] when I first agreed to meet with him, ‘I’ll meet with you, but we can’t meet in the crease,’” Ruff said at a news conference Friday.
Ruff comes to the Stars as the 12th winningest coach in NHL history, sitting at No. 3 among active coaches with a 571-432-162 record, all with the Sabres in 15 seasons (1997-2013).
That experience was key in new Stars general manager Jim Nill’s decision to hire Ruff, 53, as the 22nd head coach in franchise history.
“When we started this process, we said we had certain attributes we wanted in a coach,” Nill said. “It was experience; it was dealing under pressure and all these things. I pulled out the list and Lindy Ruff had [15 seasons] in one place and he’s won Presidents’ Trophies, has gone to the finals and won gold medals. I went through the whole process and he’s the guy that kept coming to the top. He’s a perfect fit for us.”
In his tenure in Buffalo, Ruff took his team to the postseason eight times, including the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. He picked up coach of the year honors in 2006, winning the Jack Adams Award.
With new direction at both general manager and coach, the organization hopes to bring a fast-paced and exciting product to the ice at American Airlines Center.
“Ideally, if you can have good puck possession into the zone and in the zone, it usually forces the other team into that get-it-out, get-it-in and change, and you get to come the other way,” Ruff said. “It’s a tough style and a demanding style, and you have to have players that will make the right decisions.”
It will take some time for Ruff to know the organization’s players and name a captain, but he had previous experience with Stars defensemen Brenden Dillon and Stephane Robidas, serving as Team Canada’s coach for the World Championships this spring. He was also an associate coach for the gold-medal-winning team in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Ultimately what Ruff must do in Dallas is win, breaking the franchise-worst, five-year playoff drought.
“If you create the lifestyle, set the bar high enough and we have success, hockey in Texas will be awesome,” Ruff said. “I saw that in Western New York with our fans, and if the product is there and you win and you’re playing a good brand of hockey, it doesn’t matter where you are at.”
And it doesn’t matter where Ruff is coaching. He said he will bring the same amount of passion that was displayed when he felt, at the time, that Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals ended on an illegal goal.
“That same emotion and same passion will be here in Dallas if the same type of thing happens or anything similar, because that’s the fire I have,” Ruff said. “That’s what you are going to look forward to.”