Stars need to get identity back: Crawford

Marc Crawford was officially introduced Thursday as the new coach of the Dallas Stars.

Marc Crawford was officially introduced Thursday as the new coach of the Dallas Stars.

Crawford, 48, spent last season as a Hockey Night in Canada analyst after being let go by the Los Angeles Kings following two seasons as that team's head coach.

Crawford told he's raring to get back behind the bench.

"When you watch the game from on high for a year it really is a unique perspective, and for me it was very refreshing, [but] for me I'm very anxious to get behind the bench where the emotion is a little bit more fuelled," he said.

The Stars fired head coach Dave Tippett on Wednesday after the club failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons as head coach. Dallas (36-35-11) finished 12th in the Western Conference.

Dallas endured injuries to key players like Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov and couldn't deal with the big personality of Sean Avery, who was sent packing.

The Stars simply underperformed, many observed, and this from a club that was largely the same one that reached the Western Conference final just over a year ago.

"They got away a little bit from the identity of the Dallas Stars, which is a hard-working team that plays a real aggressive game both with the puck and without the puck, and I'll look to re-instill that," said Crawford.

The Crawford hire continues an offseason of transition for the club. Dallas hired Joe Nieuwendyk as general manager less than two weeks ago — replacing Les Jackson and Brett Hull, who served as co-GMs this past season. Hull and Jackson were re-assigned to other front office posts.

"What Marc will bring is a real command at the top. The players will know who's in charge," Nieuwendyk said at the news conference announcing the move. "They will be held accountable on a daily basis. That's what I think is necessary."

Nieuwendyk played for Crawford as a member of the 1998 Canadian Olympic squad. Now roles are reversed, which suits Crawford just fine.

"I'm more emotional and maybe risk-taking and he's a very thoughtful guy who's well-researched and I think the two go really well together," he said.

The veteran coach said it was an exciting prospect to join a team that, last season aside, has been known for its stability. The Stars essentially have been coached by just two men since 1995 other than a brief gap in between —Tippett and predecessor Ken Hitchcock.

Crawford won a Stanley Cup in 1996 as coach of the Colorado Avalanche during his four years with that franchise, and spent nearly seven years as coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

'I do have a strong belief in myself'

Vancouver could not get past the second round of the playoffs in his tenure, twice losing to the Colorado Avalanche team in seven games.

Crawford didn't made the playoffs in his last three seasons as a coach, although it should be pointed out that the Kings haven't made the postseason under anyone in seven years. The Vancouver club of 2005-06, meanwhile, was clearly a team in transition, with goaltending issues as well.

Still, Crawford is aware that he's under the gun to post better results this time around.

"I do have a strong belief in myself and my methodology," he said. "I think I'm the best I've ever been as a coach right now.

"I'm totally impassioned about this opportunity, and I'm humbled by being out and the performance that my teams have had in the last couple of years ... and I'm determined."

Crawford has a career record of 470-361-52, with 100 ties. In addition to his NHL jobs and the coveted Olympic job, he has also been a head coach in the American Hockey League and Canadian junior ranks.

Calgary, New Jersey and Minnesota are the NHL clubs left with vacancies at head coach. The Carolina Hurricanes have yet to finalize bringing Paul Maurice back, while Wayne Gretzky's status remains in limbo pending a resolution to the ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes.