It is surprising that he has lasted this long, but Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff will be fired if the team does not make the playoffs, a high ranking official within the organization said.
“He’s got to win,” the official said. “You can’t fire the other 23 guys.”
In his fourth season with Dallas, Ruff has one year and $2 million remaining on his contract.
Through 50 games, Ruff is the head coach of what is easily the most disappointing team in the NHL this season. The Stars are 20-20-10 with 50 points, three points behind Calgary for the second and last wild card spot in the West.
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Ruff has a .578 winning percentage (151-105-40) with the Stars.
If the Stars fail to reach the playoffs it would be the second time in Ruff’s four years with the club.
Stars owner Tom Gaglardi has paid too much cash — the team’s payroll of $70 million ranks 12th in the NHL — for such a bad season.
The Stars finished first in the NHL’s Central Division last season and were the top seed in the Western Conference with 109 points. They were eliminated in seven games in the Western Conference semifinals. It was the first time since 2008 the team won a playoff series.
The Stars have been been crushed by injuries throughout the season to their best players — Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, et al. But even the few times Ruff’s team has been healthy, they have not put together much of a stretch to establish themselves as a playoff team, which is what they should be.
Ruff was hired by Stars GM Jim Nill and Gaglardi in the summer of 2013. Before coming to the Stars, Ruff was the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres for 15 seasons.
In Ruff’s first season in Dallas, the Stars qualified for the playoffs to break the club’s embarrassing run of five straight years missing the postseason. The following season – 2014-15 – the team narrowly missed the playoffs in the same year forward Jamie Benn led the league in scoring.
This season, the Stars have been chasing it from the start. Only once has the team had two more wins than losses, when it was 16-14-7 on Dec. 29.
The NHL is currently at the All-Star break and the Stars return to their schedule on Jan. 31 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars have 32 games remaining to make the playoffs, and save Lindy Ruff’s job.