DAL DeBoer seeks 1st Cup win

DALLAS -- When Pete DeBoer makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he makes noise.

DeBoer has appeared in the playoffs nine times in his 16 seasons as an NHL coach. Seven times -- including five straight -- he has advanced at least as far as the third round.

He did it again Friday when the Dallas Stars defeated the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in double overtime in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round. They will play the Edmonton Oilers or Vancouver Canucks in the conference final.

“Of course I’m proud of that,” he said at the airport Saturday after the Stars returned from Denver. “… To be in the final four that many times is really a privilege. Just got to try to end up in the top spot one of these times.”

DeBoer has won 86 playoff games, tied with Ken Hitchcock and Peter Laviolette for 11th in NHL history, one behind Jon Cooper for 10th.

He has won 17 best-of-7 series, tied with Mike Keenan for seventh in League history, one behind Cooper, Toe Blake and Darryl Sutter, who are tied for fourth behind Scotty Bowman (47), Joel Quenneville (23) and Al Arbour (21).

He has gone to the Stanley Cup Final twice, with the New Jersey Devils in 2012 and the San Jose Sharks in 2016. He took the Sharks to the third round in 2019, the Vegas Golden Knights there in 2020 and 2021, and the Stars there the past two seasons.

Coaching in the playoffs is different than it is in the regular season.

“I love the fact that you’re playing one opponent, and you can dial in,” he said. “And for me, it’s sifting through everything and finding the two or three things that are really important in your mind in the series to win and making sure your team understands that and executes.”

You also must adjust as the series goes on.

“He’s a hell of a coach, along with the rest of the coaching staff and everyone involved,” Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. “They put down a great game plan for us, and we just try to go out there and execute it.”

But what matters most to DeBoer isn’t numbers or X's and O's.

“What matters to me is, honestly, the journey when you get to go deep in the playoffs,” he said. “I obviously haven’t won the whole thing, but whether [going deep means] a conference final or a Final, you galvanize with a group and a team and bunch of men together through that journey, because it’s so hard and it takes so much sacrifice, both personally and on the ice. That’s the juice that we coach for, and there’s nothing better.”

DeBoer has developed lasting bonds with his players throughout his career. You could see it and hear it after the past two series.

After the Stars defeated the Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round, cameras and microphones picked up conversations in the handshake line. Some of DeBoer’s former players wished him luck. Others went further.

At one point, DeBoer greeted defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez, who played for him in Vegas, and then forward Tomas Hertl, who played for him in San Jose.

Pietrangelo told him, “My wife said if we’re not going to win, she wants you guys to win, so good luck.” DeBoer told Martinez and Hertl that he missed them. Martinez told him: “I miss you too. Go get one, eh?” Hertl told him: “Good luck. Win it all, huh? Cheering for you guys.”

It was the other way around last season, when Vegas defeated Dallas in the conference final and went on to win the Cup.

“It’s the best league in the world in my mind,” DeBoer said. “It’s the best place to work. I said it last year when we lost to Vegas. If we couldn’t win, there was a bunch of men there that I coached that I really wanted and hoped would win. You know, I think you see that around the League. If you can’t be doing it, there’s a lot of other people there that you develop relationships with over the years in this league that you would like to see win.”

After the game Friday, DeBoer shared a moment with Colorado forward Zach Parise, who played for him in New Jersey. More than a decade later, Parise said: “I love Pete. I loved playing for him. He’s a world-class coach, and so, you know, he’s the type of guy, now that we’re out, you cheer for him. Just got a lot of respect for him.”

“That was special to hear Zach say that, obviously,” DeBoer said.

Imagine the bond DeBoer (1,179 regular-season games coached) will have with defenseman Ryan Suter (1,444 regular-season games played), forward Joe Pavelski (1,332), Benn (1,112) and center Matt Duchene (1,056) if they can complete this journey together by each winning the Cup for the first time.

“There’s a lot of guys that would, I think, love to see those guys reach the ultimate goal,” DeBoer said. “There’s some special people and athletes in that group you’re talking about there, so it’s definitely a motivating factor.”