As Heika pointed out, Nill and Vigneault share a connection. Both played in the St. Louis Blues organization in the early 1980s and were later with the Ottawa Senators after their playing careers were over.
The other big name on Nill's list is former Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. Also rumored to be on a short list for the Vancouver Canucks open position, he and Vigneault will be the top two names free agent head coaches on the market.
New Stars general manager Jim Nill, who is in Toronto this week for the NHL draft combine, had a talk with Ruff in Ontario, according to the source. The two could have more serious discussions as the coach search progresses, but the Stars are expected to take their time in going through the interview process.
Fired back in February, Ruff has been waiting out the NHL coaching market. He hasn't even taken a spot on TSN's "The Panel", the go-to for fired NHL coaches. Instead, Ruff spent his spring coaching Canada at the World Championships.
Nill is getting his ducks in a row for a summer that could see some change on the roster as the new GM tries to imprint his vision on the team. But will his assessment of the Stars' current state result in the need for a heavily experienced coach, like a Ruff or Vigneault, over Glen Gulutzan 2.0? That will depend on what style of play Nill wants from his head coach.
The biggest question on everyone's mind, however, is just what sort of coach Nill is interested in hiring. Part of that mystery is that it's unknown what sort of team he'd like the Dallas Stars to be; the best estimate is that the style employed by the Red Wings is one that Nill would like to replicate in Dallas -- a heavy puck possession team with good defensive awareness and depth at forward conducive that uses a good combination of speed and size and two-way awareness to find success nearly every single season.
The key to such a system -- or any system at all, really -- is how such a system is coached. Perhaps the biggest issue that plagued Nieuwenyk and Gulutzan the past two years is that the Dallas Stars lacked any sort of identifiable system or structure, and "pesky" is not a very good example of such a system. The Stars desperately need an identity and that starts with Nill but will ultimately be defined by the coach he hires.
Nieuwendyk's first hire was Marc Crawford, which resulted in modest improvement. Gulutzan's arrival had ups and downs, but things remain stagnant. The Stars have a good core locked up for the next several seasons. The question is, do they fit into what Nill see for this team?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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