For 16 years, Stu Barnes played the game with a lot of heart, a high level of hockey awareness and a natural ability to lead by example. If you've seen him in a National Hockey League uniform during his accomplished career, you know that he always left everything out on the ice each and every one of his 1,252 games (including 116 playoff contests) he played.
Barnes officially announced his retirement as an NHL player and then immediately signed a two-year contract yesterday to become an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars. He replaces the departed Ulf Dahlén, who decided to return home and become the new head coach for the Frölunda Indians of Elitserien (the Swedish Elite League).
Before we continue to talk about Barnes any further, the Stars posted a nice tribute video on their official web site.
video courtesy: Dallas Stars and NHL Productions
The 37-year-old former forward made his playing decision less than 24 hours after Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic opted to play for at least one more season.
"I was truly fortunate to play as long as I did, and I knew this was the time for me to wrap up my playing days," Barnes said in the team's news release. "A great opportunity to become an assistant coach was presented to me by the Stars and I look forward to making that transition and learning a new part of the game."
Drafted fourth overall in the 1989 Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Barnes finished with 597 regular season points (261 goals and 336 assists) in 1,136 games in his career. He participated in the playoffs 12 times in his 16 seasons, including two appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals. His first trip was in 1996 for the Florida Panthers, an expansion franchise only in their third NHL season. The second time ironically was for his current employer's opponent in the 1999 championship series, the Buffalo Sabres. Barnes also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins before he was acquired by the Stars on March 10, 2003.
Barnes finished his playing career by appearing in 329 regular season games for the Stars and accumulated 120 points (53 goals and 67 assists). He would also total 14 points (6 goals and 8 assists) in 38 playoff games while wearing a Dallas uniform.
His five-year tenure in North Texas certainly didn't go without notice.
"We congratulate Stu on an outstanding playing career and we are very excited that he will now join our coaching staff," Stars co-general manager Les Jackson said. "Stu was a consummate professional on and off the ice throughout his career, and was the type of player who always exhibited the qualities you would associate with a future coach. Stu will be an excellent addition to our staff, which we feel is among the best in the league."
Stars television color analyst Daryl Reaugh praised the Stars in his Razor With An Edge blog that Barnes was the perfect hire to replace Dahlén behind the bench as an assistant under head coach Dave Tippett.
"Ten years after being on the other side of Dallas' Stanley Cup victory over the Sabres he'll be joining the coaching staff to add his knowledge and his perspective - and perhaps that ring that proved so elusive during his days on skates," Reaugh wrote.
According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Barnes is expected to learn the role of an assistant coach by working at least early on from the press box.
"It's just continuing to learn more about the game," Barnes told Tracey Myers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I felt fortunate to play as long as I had. Now I have an opportunity to learn from a different angle. I want to help in any way I can. It's going to be a fun learning process, and hopefully we’ll have a lot of success."
The Stars also announced yesterday that both of Tippett's other two members of his coaching staff in associate coach Rick Wilson and assistant coach Mark Lamb were signed to new two-year contracts.