The Dallas Stars on Friday officially announced Glen Gulutzan as their next head coach. Gulutzan becomes the second youngest head coach in the NHL at 39 but said he will rely on a wealth of playing experience and coaching experience in the minors.
Gulutzan played in major junior, Canadian college, several minor leagues, as well as in Sweden and Finland, and said those experiences have helped shape him as a coach. He answered questions Friday. Here are some of the excerpts:
How do you describe your coaching philosophy?
"One of the first things you want as a coach are some non-negotiable items that are backbones of your team. I would like to be a two-way hockey club. I think people get scared when coaches talk about defensive hockey, but defensive hockey is really 'hard-to-play-against' hockey where you are possessing the puck. You'll work real hard to get it, you'll work hard to get it back, and you'll be real structured in your defensive zone when the other team is attacking. I think the best way to describe that philosophy is a hard, two-way game that has some tempo. I think that is today's hockey. You have to be able to play a little of both."
Having no experience as a player or coach in the NHL, how do you look at the challenge of trying to coach veteran NHL players?
"I think with every player, especially the veteran players, there is some selling that has to go on. I think first and foremost, you can show the veteran players that what you are trying to do can benefit them, and in turn, it will benefit the team as a whole. I think that's your first point in selling it. If they can truly believe that you are trying to help them, then I think that's what makes everybody buy in. Because at the end of the day -- whether you are a veteran or a young guy -- these guys haven't made it to this level not wanting to win. I think you have to dwell on that a little bit as a coach."
You made a smooth transition from the ECHL to the AHL. Will that experience help you make the jump to the NHL?
"I remember after that first game in the AHL, I came home and talked to my wife, and I said it was a lot faster. But at the end of the day, it's the same game and the same mistakes are being made. It's just at a higher level with bigger, stronger players. I can remember my first impression of the American Hockey League, and am sure I'm going to have that same first impression come October."
Do you have some knowledge of the AHL players that could help you?
"Having coached those guys at the AHL level, having watched some of their transformation and now getting them up here, if you're there with them at the grassroots, you know them as a player. It's almost like you're raising a child, I think. Now you see them coming up, maturing and becoming effective players here. If you know their path, I think it's easier to relate with them and help them. You understand their strengths and weaknesses I think that experience will be valuable going forward with Tomas (Vincour), (Jamie) Benn, (Philip) Larsen and those types of players."
Who are some of the coaches who had the most influence on you?
"I've taken big pieces from every coach I've played for. Lorne Molleken was big in Saskatoon. I played in Finland for a year with Jukka Jalonen, who is the Finnish national coach and won the gold medal at the world championships and was at the Olympics, I learned a lot from him. I went to university in Saskatchewan and Brent McCune was there, and I took bits and pieces from him. Guy Gadowsky is a prominent NCAA coach (Penn State), and I took a lot from him when I was in Fresno. Jim Playfair had a huge impact on me when I was involved with the Calgary organization in Las Vegas. All of those coaches were important to me and what I have learned. But If I had to narrow it down to one guy, I would say I was most influenced by my father (Gene), who taught school for 38 years and coached hockey for 30. Just the way he treated people with all sorts of diverse kids in northern Saskatchewan, he was the one I learned the most from."
Why do you think this is a good job to have?
"It's an opportunity. If you have belief in the people running the organization and have the same philosophy, you have the fit. Everyone knows the pieces are here."