Ken Hitchcock has not had a great start to his second stint as Stars head coach.
But, actually, is it really all that terrible? We need some context.
The first time Ken Hitchcock was given the Stars’ job was January 8, 1996. At that point in time, the Stars were 11-19-8, and had lost 6 of the previous 8 games. General Manager Bob Gainey realized that running double duty as general manager and head coach wasn’t working. Maybe it was that stretch where the Stars lost 11 of 13 games, maybe it was the 4 game losing streak to end the previous regular season, or maybe losing 5-2 the previous night in Chicago was too much to handle. Who knows.
Anyway, Kenny Boy got the gig on January 8, 1996. That night, Reunion Arena hosted the Los Angeles Kings. What started auspiciously, with the hometown kids up 1-0 10 minutes in, didn’t last. LA got 2 in response, Dallas gets 2 more, LA gets 2 more, Dallas gets 1 more. The game ended in a 4-4 overtime tie, because back in those days, the NHL still had ties.
Two days later, Detroit comes to town, and shuts out the Stars 4-0.
At that point in time, the Stars have spent a total of 2 minutes, 45 seconds with a lead under Hitchcock.
And another two days later, and another home game. This time, the Florida Panthers. Would this time be different?
Let’s relive the night’s moments once again, and find out together!
First Period, 1:05 into the game. Harvey, to Gilchrist, to DAVE GAGNER!
Four minutes and fifty-nine seconds later, it’s Gilchrist to GUY CARBONNEAU! 2-0 STARS! A shorthanded goal to double the lead!
Tonight, already, the Stars have led for longer in a single period than the previous three games combined. Let’s see if it lasts!
Oh, and by the way, we’re still in the first period. Oh, and Florida has a power play for like another minute fifty. Jere Lehtinen got called for High Sticking.
Back to the action, it’s 6:50 into the first period, and the Stars have managed a shorthanded goal during their 56 seconds of penalty killing.
But then! Jesse Belanger cuts that lead in half and puts the Panthers on the board.
Oh well, whatever, still up 2-1. Just nobody do anything stupid and give them another power play.
Dave Gagner decided that while playing clean and not spending time in the box was pretty neat, all the cool kids were bragging about their time in the clink. So, he decides to interfere, and gets two minutes for his valiant efforts.
This time, the penalty kill almost didn’t fail! They lasted a whole minute fifty-two without so much as conceding a goal, until they conceded that goal. Scores level, 2-2.
But not for long! Barely two minutes later, Bill Huard of all people scores his third goal in green, and Stars are back in front!
And then Florida’s Stu Barnes decided to hook someone, and Kevin Hatcher got really angry and tried to fight him, and then that made Dave Lowry mad because Dave Lowry kinda liked Stu, and so he decides to try and fight Kevin, and we had a 4 on 3 situation.
Dave Gagner, power play aficionado, with his second of the night. 4-2 Dallas.
Second period! Things are looking up! 2 goal lead, Todd Harvey hasn’t been tossed yet, and things are mostly going to plan!
Four minutes thirteen into the second, and Brent Fedyk extends the lead again! Now, it’s 5-2! That’s excellent!
And then Todd Harvey finishes serving his third 2 minute penalty of the night, skates out of the box, and puts another one in with his first touch! 6-2 lead! Surely, that must be enough for Ken Hitchcock to get his first win as a head coach, right?
Actually no, everything went completely horrible.
Florida comes out and gets their third 3 minutes 12 seconds into the third. Thirty seconds later, they scored again. And then Joe Nieuwendyk got called for hooking, and gave Florida a power play in the middle of a pretty hot streak. Of course, Florida scores again. Now, it’s 6-5, with exactly 10 minutes left in regulation.
Ken Hitchcock makes the decision to bench goalie Manny Fernandez. At that time, Manny was just 21, and this was only his 4th game in the NHL.
Enter Darcy Wakaluk, the perennial second goalie of early 90s Dallas.
Does the decision to replace the struggling young kid with the dependable but unspectacular veteran work?
With 23 seconds left in the game, Stu Barnes put Florida level, 6-6. And then there was some overtime, and another tie.
How long exactly did it take Ken Hitchcock to get his first win?
He started off his tenure in Dallas going tie, loss, tie, loss, loss, loss, win.
It took two weeks, but finally, on January 22, 1996, the Stars beat the Canucks at home 6 to 4.
Interesting bit of trivia on that game. It featured Robert Petrovicky in one of 5 games he’d play for the Stars, and his only goal for Dallas. That’s the guy who was the last remaining active player from the Hartford Whalers and Springfield Indians. He only retired from professional hockey in the summer of 2016, having spent three years playing in his native Slovakia.
Anyway, back to the actual point I’m trying to make. The Stars only won 15 of the first 43 games under Ken Hitchcock. And things turned out pretty well in the end.
Yeah, it’s been a rough start to the season, but that’s not that big of a deal. Hell, the Penguins lost to Chicago 10-1 in their second game last season, and they won the damn cup!
So everyone, take a deep breath and relax. There’s probably going to be 82 games of regular season Dallas Stars hockey this year, and we only need to win like half of them to make the playoffs.
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