The Dallas Stars, who struggled last season after dealing with agitator Sean Avery and missed the playoffs, have fired Dave Tippett as coach, according to a source close to the situation, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun confirmed.
The move is the first by Joe Nieuwendyk, who was named general manager on May 31 in a shakeup of the front office.
According to TSN of Canada, the Stars are inquiring about Marc Crawford, who was fired as coach of the Los Angeles Kings in June 2008 and whose rights are still owned by the team.
Dallas Stars representative Rob Scichili said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday night that the Stars had nothing to release at this time.
Tippett had two years left on his contract.
He was hired by the Stars in 2002, and was 271-156-59 in six seasons, with two division titles. The team entered the season as a top contender to win the Western Conference, but ended up in 12th place in the conference.
Injuries and the Avery mess were problems that couldn't be overcome. In late March, when the Stars were still clinging to a sliver of playoff hopes, center Brad Richards suffered a spiral fracture in his left hand -- the day he returned from a broken right wrist.
Avery, who was signed by the Stars last summer to a guaranteed four-year, $15.5 million contract, already had been a subversive presence in the locker room, but the situation exploded in early December 2008, when he made crude remarks about Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf's girlfriend.
Subsequently, he was suspended by the NHL, and the Stars refused to take him back even after he was eligible to return.
An inkling of what Tippett was dealing with at the time came through in a comment he made during the turmoil. "From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team that has an atmosphere where players care about each other and play with each other and play with continuity, and I find it hard to believe that Sean could come back in that dressing room and we could find that continuity again," he said.
The next coach presumably will be able to start off on a better note. In Richards, captain Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro, the Stars have three quality forwards in their prime, plus a capable goalie in Marty Turco and whatever Mike Modano has left at 39.
Nieuwendyk, 42, spent the past two years being groomed for this opportunity, working in an apprentice role under GMs in Toronto and Florida. He played for the Stars for seven seasons, won a Stanley Cup, and led them to a second trip to the finals. Tippett had openly expressed his desire to remain as coach when Nieuwendyk was named GM, and owner Tom Hicks said that that decision would be left to Nieuwendyk.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.