Stars announce Lindy Ruff is their new head coach

Lindy Ruff will try and get the Dallas Stars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, with the club announcing the hiring of the longtime NHL head coach on Friday.

First big move for GM Jim Nill

Lindy Ruff, centre, poses with the new Dallas Stars jersey, flanked by general manager Jim Nill, left, and team president Jim Lites. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

The Dallas Stars said through social media early Friday that Lindy Ruff has been hired as head coach.

Ruff was named the franchise's 22nd coach 14 years after Dallas clinched its only Stanley Cup championship on a goal he has always questioned — Brett Hull's shot with his skate in the crease late in the third overtime of Game 6 that beat the Ruff-coached Buffalo Sabres

"It's a long time ago," Ruff said after his introduction. "I've had some great memories. I've gotten past that. I'm a coach, I want to coach, and this is an unbelievable opportunity. … It all worked out great for Dallas.

"It didn't work out so good for us back then. I can tell you one thing, 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."

The Stars, who have missed the playoffs the past five seasons, gave the 53-year-old Ruff a four-year contract. He is the seventh since the team moved to North Texas from Bloomington, Minn., in 1993.

Ruff's arrival was first hinted at Thursday when Stars owner Jim Lites appeared at a local chamber of commerce meeting.

Ruff compiled a 571-432-162 regular record overall as coach of Buffalo Sabres for over 16 years. He was hired on July 21, 1997 and let go on Feb. 20 this year, during which time there were 170 coaching changes around the NHL.

He had an association with the Sabres for nearly a quarter-century, having been an NHL player in Buffalo in the 1980s. Before returning to the city as head coach, Ruff served on Doug MacLean's staff with the Florida Panthers in the mid-1990s.

Controversial goal

Ruff led the Sabres to a Stanley Cup final appearance in 1999, with the irony being that he's now at the helm of the Dallas team that defeated Buffalo on a controversial championship goal.

Buffalo fans thought Hull's skate was in the goalie's crease before he had control of the puck and the goal shouldn't have been allowed.

"The league said it was a goal. I just argued that it wasn't," Ruff said. "My first thing was asking whether this was being reviewed and couldn't get an answer. … It's all behind me."

Dallas has not made the playoffs since 2008, the longest post-season drought in franchise history, although they were in the mix for a playoff berth until the final weekend of the past season.

"After speaking at length with Jim Nill, it was clear that all the right pieces are coming together to return this club to the upper-echelon of the NHL," Ruff said. "I look forward to leading its resurgence."

Nill took over as Dallas general manager in late April, succeeding Joe Nieuwendyk. One of Nill's first moves was to fire Glen Gulutzan as coach after two years on the job.

Under Ruff, the Sabres made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons and eight times overall. They made the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and 2007.

"When you coach for that number of years and in the same place, the exciting part for me is in talking to a lot of other coaches, from former coaches here to coaches that have gone from organization to organization, how it revitalized them, energized them," Ruff said. "I'm excited about working with Jim and all his experiences that he had in Detroit. It was just a real good fit."

The Stars were said to have also interviewed veteran NHL head coaches Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella. Vigneault, let go in May by Vancouver, has been named head coach of the New York Rangers, Tortorella's most recent job.

In addition to his vast experience with the Sabres, Ruff coached Canada to a silver at the world championships in 2009. Under his helm this spring, Canada had an impressive preliminary round but ultimately finished fifth.

The Warburg, Alta., native was also part of Mike Babcock's staff for the gold medal team in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympics.

With files from The Associated Press