'Lots of fire' left in Rick Bowness at end of his Stars contract

Head coach Rick Bowness and his Dallas Stars are not off to a great start. (CP/file)

FRISCO, Texas — Rick Bowness has been on an NHL bench for a record 2,562 regular-season games as a head coach or an assistant over nearly four decades. The 67-year-old coach is not ready to be done yet even though he is at the end of his contract with the Dallas Stars.

"The playoffs bring out your passion. ... That excitement and that pressure and everything, that's what we live for,'' Bowness said Tuesday. "It's tough to walk out of that rink losing in overtime in Game 7, but it also shows you that, yeah, I'm an old man, but still lots of fire left in me.''

Two days after the wildcard Stars ended their season in a 3-2 loss at Calgary, and two seasons after he took them to a most unusual Stanley Cup Final, it was unclear if Bowness will be back.

General manager Jim Nill, who has only one year left on his contract, did exit interviews with players Tuesday. He said he would be sitting down with owner Tom Gaglardi to determine the team's direction, including the coaching situation.

Bowness got a two-year contract after that 2020 final as interim head coach, a stint that included the 4 1/2-month pause in the season because of the pandemic and two months in a postseason bubble in Canada. There was then a shortened, 56-game season when the Stars had an NHL-high 14 losses after regulation and missed the playoffs. They had 98 points this season.

"The players respect him. He's handled the situation very well,'' Nill said. "He's done a good job. But as I said, we'll sit down with everybody, reassess everything here over the next five or six days, and go from there.''

Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn, both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Bowness are the only other head coaches with games in five different decades. Bowness did so with Winnipeg (1989), Boston (1991-92), Ottawa (1992-96), the New York Islanders (1996-98), Phoenix (2004) and Dallas (2019-22). He also was an assistant for Vancouver and Tampa Bay.

Bowness is 89-62-25 with Dallas, and he said a one-year contract would be perfect for him. The hockey lifer could go elsewhere in a different role if not brought back by the Stars.

"If I want them, the options will be there,'' Bowness said confidently.

Whether with Bowness or another coach next season, the Stars need to find more consistent scoring outside their top line that didn't include six-time All-Star Tyler Seguin or captain Jamie Benn. The Stars were the only one of the 16 playoffs teams that were outscored during the regular season.

Young skaters Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson were on the top line with 37-year-old Joe Pavelski, already re-signed for next season, that combined for 232 points, second-most in franchise history for a trio, with Robertson only the fourth 40-goal scorer.

Dallas does feel like it now has its franchise goalie in 23-year-old Jake Oettinger, whose 64 saves in the final game were among 272 in seven games against Calgary before Johnny Gaudreau's series-ending goal.

"I'm even more motivated to get back to that position,'' Oettinger said. "Every second I was on the ice, I was having the time of my life, and it was it a dream come true. ... I've never wanted to win more than I do right now.''

Oettinger began this season in the minors even after making his NHL debut in a couple of 2020 playoff games and playing in half of the Stars' games last season. With injuries to Anton Khudobin (hip) and Braden Holtby (lower body), and veteran Ben Bishop having to end his playing career because of a degenerative knee issue, Oettinger took advantage of his opportunity to be the top netminder.

"A phenomenal young goalie. He's going to be great for this organization for a long time,'' Benn said.

Benn had only 18 goals (46 points), and a career-worst rating of minus-13. Seguin, who missed all but three games last season because of a torn hip labrum and knee surgery, was minus-21 with 24 goals (49 points), but played the end of this season and against Calgary with a fractured bone in his left foot. Benn had only one playoff goal and Seguin two, one an empty-netter.

"They've still got some prime years ahead of them. Tyler's had some injuries, Jamie's had some injuries, but they're still got more to give,'' Nill said. "They're a big part of our team, and we need them to be better.''

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