Stars' five best coaching candidates to replace Ken Hitchcock

Who are the best candidates to replace the retired Ken Hitchcock on the Stars' bench? Keep these coaches in mind.

Ken Hitchcock, one of the NHL's last remaining and most successful offensive asphyxiators, announced an end of his head-coaching career Friday following a disappointing single-season reunion with the Stars, acknowledging this is "the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over."

Hitchcock, 66, leaves behind a complicated legacy, but his 823 regular-season wins rank third all time behind only Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville.

As the Stars begin their search for a replacement, general manager Jim Nill, who's nearing the end of his own rope, would be wise to heed those parting words and embrace a new era of forward-thinkers after hiring failed retreads in Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff before him. It sounds like he'll look to do just that.

MORE: Seattle's future NHL franchise name possibilities, ranked

"I want to be pretty open-minded about this," Nill told reporters, via the Dallas Morning News. "You're seeing some successful young coaches come in and some successful coaches out there that have some great resumes. The game is changing, and you have to evolve."

Fortunately, there are a number of options available who fit such a criteria in an offseason that may produce few top vacancies.

The Stars' job may not carry the heft of Broadway, but there's a lot to like. Whoever takes over will inherit a talented veteran locker room and superstars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who each took a step back under Hitchcock. A quick restoration for a team that's missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons is attainable, if not expected.

Let's take a look at five candidates who could be a fit, listed in no particular order.

MORE: NHL Draft lottery odds to select Rasmus Dahlin

Todd Nelson

Current job: Grand Rapids (AHL) head coach
Age: 48
NHL record: 17-25-9

Nelson boasts one of the top AHL resumes of any coach waiting for a promotion. Grand Rapids won 41 games this season, the sixth time in seven years Nelson guided his team to at least that many victories. He won the Calder Cup in 2017, has a 308-199-63 career record in the minors with Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City, and is known for maximizing offensive talent in a modern, speed-reliant system. Most remember Nelson from his interim stint behind the Oilers' bench in the pre-Connor McDavid 2014-15 season. He and Nill didn't overlap in the Red Wings organization, but don't underestimate Nill's deep connections there.

Jim Montgomery

Current job: University of Denver head coach
Age: 48
NHL record : 0-0-0

It's rare to see a coach go directly from the NCAA to an NHL head coaching job, but Montgomery has built a perennial power in Denver. The success of Philadelphia's Dave Hakstol, the most recent to make the unorthodox jump, could pave the way. Montgomery led the Pioneers to the NCAA tournament in each of his first five seasons and won a national championship in 2017, serving as a launchpad to the NHL for Will Butcher, Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom and Danton Heinen. His name was hot in last year's round of NHL coaching searches before he withdrew from consideration for the Panthers' job after two interviews. Montgomery will be in the mix again this year, if he wants to be.

Todd Reirden

Current job: Capitals assistant coach
Age: 46
NHL record: 0-0-0

Reirden is renowned for his ability to develop young talent. Every year, his name surfaces in coaching rumors, but Capitals have blocked him from interviewing for open jobs in recent seasons. His availability could be in doubt again should Barry Trotz become the fall guy after another failed playoff run, in which case Reirden would be a top option to slide into that job. But it's just a matter of time until his gets a head-coaching shot. Before Washington, Reirden was an assistant with the Penguins under Dan Bylsma.

Bill Peters

Current job: Hurricanes head coach
Age: 51
NHL record: 137-138-53

Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon often waxes poetic about Peters' coaching philosophies and a belief he can be the answer to Carolina's turnaround, but it isn't clear if the feeling is mutual. Dundon is having trouble filling the vacant general manager position, a search that turned ugly when word got out about apparent well-below-market offers. If Peters isn't satisfied in this situation, his contract includes an out clause which allows him to speak to other team. And there's a connection to Nill, who worked with Peters in Detroit from 2011-13. Peters hasn't made the playoffs in four seasons in Raleigh, but he's respected in NHL circles for his emphasis on possession analytics and would be an interesting hire for the Stars should they opt for a candidate with some experience.

Alain Vigneault

Current job: Free agent
Age: 56
NHL record: 648-435-98

MORE: Rangers' five best coaching candidates to replace Alain Vigneault

Vigneault, recently fired by the Rangers, doesn't fit the "young coach" bill Nill referenced, but his 648 wins are now fourth among active coaches following Hitchcock's retirement, so he checks the "successful" box.

Vigneault often rubbed Rangers observers the wrong way with his conservative approach and head-scratching lineup decisions. His hire wouldn't inspire a ton of confidence that the Stars are trying to change their ways, but a pair of trips to the Stanley Cup Final would command attention in a veteran locker room, if that's a concern Nill wants to address.