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Sunday, June 26, 2022

DeBoer returns as Stars coach and hopes to provoke attack

DALLAS ( Associated Press) — Pete DeBoer did not hesitate to return to work with the Dallas Stars about a month after he was fired from the Vegas Golden Knights.

Now the 54-year-old is ready to try and provoke an offense from the only playoff team to lose in the 2021-22 regular season.

“One from Vegas rocked me,” DeBoer said during his opening press conference Wednesday, sitting next to general manager Jim Neill and captain Jamie Benn in the audience.

“I think as a coach and a veteran coach who has been through this before, you lick your wounds for days, think about what you could have done differently,” he said. “And then the phone starts ringing and you start diving into the teams that are interested, and you start to worry again.”

It made sense that DeBoer would not wait for his fifth chance as an NHL head coach. Being fired from Vegas bothered him because he thought the coaching staff had kept playoff hopes alive longer than expected in an injury-riddled season.

In addition, DeBoer never took a year off between other seasons. In fact, Vegas hired him the same season he was fired by San Jose (2019-20) and he led the Golden Knights to the Western Conference Finals in the Canadian playoff bubble before they lost to Dallas. .

DeBoer, whose first NHL head coaching job was in Florida, reached the Stanley Cup Final twice in his first season, with New Jersey in 2011-12 and with San Jose four years later. Because Neill believes Dallas has a lineup capable of such a run, he said the decision was an easy one.

“I’m a man with a big resume,” Neill said. “It’s a tough league and it’s hard to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations. I know Pete can do it.”

The Stars want to score more goals without sacrificing the defensive structure that was a priority under Rick Bowness, who led Dallas to the Stanley Cup Finals as interim coach before being given a two-year contract.

After losing to Calgary in overtime in Game 7 of the first round, the 67-year-old Bowness said he was leaving.

Dallas had the second scoring line in franchise history with Jason Robertson, the fourth 40-goal scorer in Stars history, Roop Hintz, and Joe Pavelski, soon to be 38, who captained DeBoer with the Sharks and signed an extension for one year with Dallas during the season.

The problem was the highest-paid players and previously top-scoring hitters in Benn and Tyler Seguin.

Benn had just 18 goals and a minus 13 rating was the worst of his 13 NHL seasons. Séguin, a six-time All-Star who missed all but three games in 2020/21 with a torn labrum and knee surgery, scored minus 21 with 24 goals (49 points). Seguin played later that season against Calgary with a broken bone in his left leg.

“I don’t think it’s a secret,” DeBoer said. “We want to unlock the attacking play of this group. What can we do to improve our play style to become better? Secondly, individually, which individual players can we get more from and what are the plans for that? And that sometimes goes hand in hand with the style of play.”

Dallas has one of the best young defensemen in the league, Miro Heiskanen, who turns 23 next month. When the season starts, he will be the same age as goaltender Jake Ettinger, whose breakout season ended with a stellar performance against Calgary.

Anton Khudobin, 36, with one year left on his contract, should be healthy again next season, and DeBoer has the experience of giving veteran goaltenders another chance after leaving them.

“Like all young goalkeepers, you have to temper it. We all saw what he did in the playoffs,” DeBoer said of Ettinger, who played at Boston University with DeBoer’s son. “It follows this next year. And our responsibility as coaches and as a team is to make sure we maintain that foundation and structure around it.”

Neill-hired DeBoer will remain for just one year on his own contract, but the coach said he received assurances from owner Tom Gaglardi that Neill would be “a part of it while I’m here.” Neill, 64, said he planned to be general manager for several years and worked with Gaglardi on a succession plan.

“I think when you step outside of this organization and see the perspective from the outside, and you look at the drafts and the young talent coming in and the mixture of veterans and young guys, the future of this organization is really bright,” DeBoer said. . “It’s a big part of Jim and what he does, so that was a big part of it for me.”

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