Rick Bowness steps down as Dallas Stars coach

The Dallas Stars have announced that coach Rick Bowness will step down, effective immediately. His contract was set to expire at the end of this season, which by league standards is around June 30 (or after the Stanley Cup Finals are over).

“I want to thank all of the passionate fans and dedicated staff for their support and hard work during my time here,” Bowness said in the Stars press release. “It was an honor for me and my family to represent the Stars and the city of Dallas.”

By stepping down, Bowness essentially allows the Stars to begin their head coaching search immediately, before the draft and free agency prep gets too far along.

At the end of the season’s media availability after the Stars were eliminated in Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Bowness and general manager Jim Nill did not commit to the future of the coach with the organization. Nill cited the need to meet with team owners to determine which path the team would choose to take with his contract expiring.

Bowness still has a desire to coach and was confident that if he wants to continue being behind the bench there will be opportunities for him, whether in Dallas or elsewhere in the NHL. But winning wasn’t Bowness’s only motivation, which the players always spoke of with respect in the dressing room.

“[The Stanley Cup] is still the driving force,” Bowness said. “But as you get older, you also want to leave an impact on the game, and that legacy becomes just as important to me. Do I want a cup? Absolutely. Will it define me? No, I don’t. I won’t let it happen. Having an impact on their lives, and not just coaching and trying to make them better, means more to me than having my name on the Cup. It does.”

Bowness choked up a bit during his final availability, perhaps because he knew it might be the last time he would manage this group of players he’s become so close to. You do this after facing all the adversity this team has faced in the last three seasons, between the abrupt dismissal of Jim Montgomery, a Winter Classic, a free fall, a season ended due to the pandemic of COVID-19, an unexpected Stanley Cup final in a bubble where they stayed over 65 days, ice storms, COVID outbreaks, season-ending and career-ending injuries, and all the other little ups and lows experienced over an 82-game grind.

“Thank you all, it’s been a pleasure,” Bowness said when the availability ended. “I tell you, you will miss me. You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to miss me.

What is clear is that Bowness, the person, will be missed in Dallas. He had respect for the players in the locker room and always treated them as people first – not robot athletes.

“Rick is one of the most respected and loved people to ever coach in the NHL,” Nill said via Stars PR. “His dedication and commitment to the game, and the impact he has had on countless players, coaches and support staff throughout his five decades in the League, is unmatched. He dedicated his life to our game, and we’re honored to say the Dallas Stars are part of his legacy. When called upon to lead our team a few seasons ago, he took on the role seamlessly and helped guide our team through unprecedented global events that affected our players and staff on and off ice. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Rick, Judy and the rest of their family the very best for the future.

With Bowness’s departure, the organization also left Derek Laxdal, who was in charge of the power play, John Stevens, who coached the defense, and assistant coach Todd Nelson.

Video coaches Kelly Forbes and Matt Rodell and goalkeeping coach Jeff Reese will retain their roles. Which makes sense – Forbes is one of the best in the league, and Reese has done an amazing job with Jake Oettinger so far. There is absolutely no reason to play with these roles when things are going well in this regard.

Nill is entering the final year of his contract as the Stars’ general manager. He made several coaching changes – Lindy Ruff, Ken Hitchcock, Jim Montgomery, Rick Bowness – during his tenure. With the core of the team moving towards a future built around Oettinger, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Miro Heiskanen, the next coaching hire will be key to whether this team can truly ‘build on the fly’ or s ‘there are pieces that need to be torn down to be rebuilt into a team that can constantly compete.

Time is already running out to find the next bench boss.

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