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How the Stars get back to contention

Ken Hitchcock is back behind the bench in Dallas. What kind of changes will he make to the Stars' playing style to get them back among the contenders? AP Photo/LM Otero

In the playoffs last spring, Ken Hitchcock and his former team, the St. Louis Blues, eliminated the Dallas Stars in seven games. Hitchcock is nothing if not a gracious winner, and he praised the Stars on the way out.

“They are the future of the NHL,” he said that night after a Game 7 win. “They are where the NHL is going. That’s what they are.”

In that series, the Stars gave the more experienced Blues all they could handle, and they did it without Tyler Seguin. They also had a style that was very uncharacteristic of teams like the Blues and Los Angeles Kings that had experienced success in the West. It was wide open. It was fun. The Stars were happy to win 5-4 or 6-5, as long as they won.

That comment stuck with a lot of people. Does Hitchcock, who was recently hired by Dallas as head coach even remember making it?

“I sure do,” he said when we chatted on Monday. “I thought the way the game was going was the way they were playing. I thought the game was going to lots of speed, lots of pressure on the forecheck, lots of pinching by defensemen. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the passive play in the neutral zone going on now.”

It’s funny how much can change in a year. The future of the NHL doesn’t appear to be quite so far south. Watch these playoffs, and it’s clear the future of the NHL is currently residing in two cities: Toronto and Edmonton.

Dallas?

It’s less team of the future and more of a fixer-upper.