Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock has announced his retirement from coaching. As Elliotte Friedman explained in his most recent 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, Hitchcock had signed just a one-year deal in Dallas with the intention to move into a consulting role. Still, some believed that he wouldn’t really give up the bench, especially after the disappointment of this season. In a letter announcing it, Hitchcock says thank you to everyone who has been a part of his career:
The game of hockey has been my entire life and I could never repay what the game did for me and all the wonderful people I got to meet in my career. I would like to thank everyone for their friendship and support over the years. I have contemplated this since our last game and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over.
Hitchcock will go down as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the NHL, ranking fourth all-time in games coached and third in wins. He won a Stanley Cup with the Stars during his first tenure in 1999, only to take them back to the Finals a year later. This season though wasn’t exactly a sunset to ride out on.
The Stars loaded up in the offseason, bringing in players like Alexander Radulov and Ben Bishop, only to struggle for large chunks of the season and eventually miss the playoffs entirely. Though several players took steps forward in their development under Hitchcock, the Stars couldn’t find much consistency and would lose 12 of their final 17 games to fall out of the running.
Now a search begins for the Stars, who will need to find a new coach in time for the 2018-19 season. Since this was not a quick decision, the team has likely at least somewhat planned for their future and has a list of candidates in mind. The team does have quite a bit of experience among their assistants, including Curt Fraser who has head coaching experience with the Atlanta Thrashers, Stu Barnes with long ties to the Dallas organization as both a player and assistant, and Rick Wilson who replaced Hitchcock as interim coach of the Stars in the 2001-02 season.