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Stars fire Crawford after missing playoffs again

DALLAS (AP) - This season, Marc Crawford guided the Dallas Stars to the most points of any team in NHL history that didn't make the playoffs.

It wasn't enough to keep his job, either.

Crawford was fired Tuesday after just two seasons in charge. Although Dallas' playoff bid went to the final minutes of the regular season, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk seemed to have already decided his club needed a coach to become a contender for the Stanley Cup.

"We have a lot of good things in place," Nieuwendyk said. "I just felt that, moving forward, we're going to need someone else taking the reigns to take us to the next level."

Nieuwendyk persuaded his bosses to dump Crawford with a year left on his contract. The significance is that the team is run by creditors who are trying to sell the club. By agreeing to this, they approved paying for a new coach, as well as picking up the remaining tab for Crawford unless he gets hired elsewhere.

Nieuwendyk indicated he is in no hurry to find a replacement, saying he will need to figure out the profile of the kind of coach the team needs, both on and off the ice. Other factors could include whether star Brad Richards is re-signed, and whether there's a new owner.

The Stars would've been on a plane to Vancouver on Tuesday, bound for their playoff opener had they won the season finale at Minnesota on Sunday. A loss by Chicago earlier in the day left it up to Dallas to determine whether it made it or not. The Stars were up 2-1 against a non-playoff team but lost 5-3.

The Stars finished with 95 points, matching the 2006-07 Colorado Avalanche for the most of any non-playoff team.

Crawford won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996, but he's missed the postseason in his last five seasons - two in Dallas, two in Los Angeles and one in Vancouver. His teams have won a single playoff series in his last 11 years in charge. Over 15 seasons as a head coach, he is 549-421-103 with 78 overtime losses.

"I would like to thank Marc for the hard work he provided to the Dallas Stars," Nieuwendyk said. "We wish him the best in the future."

Crawford became the fifth coach fired or to retire since Saturday, which means the Stars will have a lot of competition. Florida, Minnesota, Ottawa and New Jersey also are in the market.

Crawford went 79-60-25 in Dallas, but couldn't get the Stars over the hump in the Western Conference. The Stars haven't made the playoffs since advancing to the conference finals in 2008 and last season failed to advance in consecutive seasons for the first time since moving to Dallas in 1993.

The Stars won four straight in a mad dash to make the playoffs this year before the season-ending loss to Minnesota.

Crawford's hiring in June 2009 was the first big move by Nieuwendyk, the Conn Smythe Award winner for Dallas in 1999. Nieuwendyk liked his tough, organized approach as Team Canada coach in the 1998 Olympics and Crawford's resume suggested good things would happen in Dallas.

As a rookie head coach for Quebec in 1994-95, the Nordiques made the playoffs and at 34 Crawford became the youngest recipient of the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL coach of the year. The team moved to Colorado and won the Stanley Cup a year later and he stayed with that franchise until 1998.

Crawford was in Vancouver from 1999-2006, and he piled up 246 wins there. The Canucks failed to advance far in the playoffs and he later spent two seasons with the Kings and another year in the television booth before Dallas came calling.

Crawford replaced Dave Tippett, who was fired after taking over for Ken Hitchcock midway through 2001-02 season. The Stars won their only Stanley Cup in 1999 and those memories seem long ago for a franchise that also parted with veteran star Mike Modano before the season.