When Glen Gulutzan was hired as coach and general manager of Las Vegas’ ECHL expansion franchise in 2003, he wasted no time molding the Wranglers into winners, guiding them to a 43-22-7 record and a playoff berth in their inaugural season.
Six years later, Gulutzan is thriving in a similar situation in the American Hockey League.
The 38-year-old coach of the expansion Texas Stars has led them to a 19-8-4 mark and the second-highest point total (42) in the 29-team league.
“We’ve got a really good crew of guys here,” said Gulutzan, who guided the Wranglers to a 254-124-55 (.650) record. “They’ve played pretty hard, and we’ve got lots of character, and that makes it easier.”
Gulutzan did everything but ride the Zamboni for the Wranglers, but he can focus solely on coaching for Texas, affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
“You’re thinking about hockey 24/7 instead of 100 other different things,” he said. “When you’re not coach and general manager and the immigration guy and all the other stuff, you can see the preparation coaches have time for.
“It’s kind of like a doctor who starts to specialize in something. As you specialize, you get better in one field.”
Former Wranglers goalie Brent Krahn has been a big key to the Stars’ strong start, going 10-2-0 with three shutouts and a league-leading 1.41 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
Texas, which is based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, also features two other former Wranglers in forwards Scott McCulloch and Matt Beaudoin, and current Las Vegas center Chris Neiszner played three games this season for the Stars.
“He’s the same guy up there,” Neiszner said of Gulutzan. “He’s moved up, but as far as demeanor, it’s the exact same, and philosophy. Gully is really a player’s coach. He’s very approachable, and he’ll be very honest with you, and that’s what you want as a hockey player.”
Gulutzan compared this year’s Texas team to the 2005-06 Wranglers squad that went 53-13-6 (112 points) and garnered him ECHL Coach of the Year honors.
“We had great defensemen, good quality people up front, good goaltending and lots of character,” Gulutzan said. “This team sort of resembles that team. We have a room full of hard-working, character guys, and whenever you have that, it makes it real easy for a coach.”
Seven of Gulutzan’s former Las Vegas players have gone on to play in the NHL, and he’s already promoted several from the Stars this season.
“Our biggest goal is to make sure our players are prepared to go play in Dallas when the Stars need them,” he said. “It’s quite an exciting time for them to get to the NHL, and it’s exciting for a coach to see the effort these guys put in and get their chance.”
Ultimately, Gulutzan would love to coach in the NHL, but for now he’s focused on proving himself in the AHL.
“Hopefully I can keep doing things well for Dallas and try to earn another contract,” the married father of four said. “I have a young family, and hopefully we can stay here for six years. That’s what every coach at this level aspires to.
“I need to be here for a while to develop myself as a coach.”
Gulutzan said he keeps tabs on the Wranglers (9-14-2) and, despite the team’s slow start, is impressed with first-year coach Ryan Mougenel.
“He’s doing it the right way, trying to promote his players and do good by those guys,” he said. “He’s going to do a good job, but it’s not easy this year. That division’s real competitive. They’re going to have to battle.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-383-0354.