By Will Martin
Last Saturday night another regular season came to an end in North Texas for the Dallas Stars.
You might remember a time five years ago when the opponent they fell to 3-0 indeed was the last playoff team Dallas faced back in 2008.
The dreaded Detroit Red Wings. Dreaded in that with their shutout of the Dallas Stars Saturday night the playoffs awaited Motown for a 22nd consecutive year!
Apathy and a lack of talent/decision making/team chemistry/experience have all played a part in the last five years as to why the one-time Stanley Cup champions (1999) have not so much as sniffed a playoff revisit since being two games away from a return to the Stanley Cup.
Experience teaches us that when a team does a radical 180 at trading deadline then you know heads are going to roll. You can also bet the farm that ownership ‘is opting to go in a different direction’. This can also be meant to say, ‘Your approach has sucked royally. As owner of this franchise I will now place my pieces upon this potential Picasso.
Bye Bye Joe Nieuwendyk. Yes your hands were tied with budget constraints and the like. Won’t surprise me one bit if you decide to take your knowledge elsewhere-St. Louis-and the Blues to another level. The writing was on the wall.
Tom Gaglardi spoke the obvious when announcing this decision.
“Joe Nieuwendyk has represented the Dallas Stars extremely well as the club’s General Manager and has helped put pieces in place that will once again turn this team into a contender,” said Gaglardi. “I would like to thank Joe for his contributions to this hockey club and wish him and his family only the best in the future.
“However, I believe it is time to take this organization in a different direction with our intentions set on returning to the elite of the National Hockey League. My commitment to the Dallas Stars is unwavering, and I am confident we have found the right General Manager to return us to the pathway of success.”
Glen Gulutzan is next. Early odds-on favorite to be your next Dallas Stars coach? Guy Carbonneau would be ideal. As for your new GM, Dallas welcomes a man very familiar to the owner and to Jim Lites who once spent some time working in the Red Wings organization. Welcome to North Texas Jim Nill.
The formal introduction occurred via a press conference. Nill has already made it very clear what the objective is.
“The bar is set high,” Nill said. “I didn’t come here to be in the playoffs one year, lose another year, be in the playoffs two years and lose two years. That’s not why I came here. I came here to restore this franchise to what it was in Mike Modano’s years, Derian Hatcher’s years. We want to win here. The bar is going to be set high.”
Tom Gaglardi was in total agreement.
“We’ve got to aim higher, raise the bar higher and not be satisfied with where we’re at,” said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi. “It’s about having a winning attitude. You have to have people in the leadership roles that have the experience to know what to do, how to do it and how to get us there, and that’s really why we’re sitting here today.’’
To be sure how does one argue with 22 straight playoff appearances and four Stanley Cups? Nill having been a part of the last 19 years of the current Hockeytown Hurrahs.
“Learning how to win, being accountable to yourself and your teammates. The big thing we talk about is it needs to become a lifestyle,” Nill said. “When you come to the rink there are certain expectations; when you leave the rink, those same expectations exist. When the season is over, that doesn’t mean things change. You’ve got to still live your life the same way. That has to happen in the dressing room. It has to happen with the players. Your profession has to become your lifestyle.
“Young players all need to learn that. I was in Detroit with Steve Yzerman and he had to learn it. Every young player – (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg – they all had to learn it. But once you create that, you have the winning culture you need.”
Perhaps Jim Nill can teach Jerry Jones a thing or two about drafting lower picks for great results?
“Everybody knows who the top players are, it’s finding those secondary players around the core,” he said. “With this new CBA, it’s easy. You get a calculator out and you’ve got three forwards making $6 million, two defensemen making $6 million, a goalie making $6 million and there’s not much left. You’ve got to fill in those holes and you’ve got to find secondary players. It’s those later draft picks.
“To really build a successful team, you need two or three drafts where you have four or five players come up at the same time. You get a (Brett) Ritchie, (Matej) Stransky, you get three, four or five guys coming up at the same time, that’s how you become a winner.”
With a team boasting such young talent as a Jamie Benn, Brendan Dillon, Philip Larsen, Cody Eakin, Loui Eriksson, Vernon Fiddler, Matt Fraser, Ryan Garbutt, Antoine Roussel, and a Tom Wandell what kind of time frame does Jim Nill expect for a successful turnaround?
“None of us knows what tomorrow brings. We’re going to do the best job of developing as fast as we can, but we’re going to stick to the game plan,” he said. “So many things can change with the CBA nowadays. You are one or two injuries away – you lose one or two of your best players, I can tell you it is tough. It is tough to pull along. We’re going to stick to the game plan. What that timeframe is, I really don’t want to say what that is. We’re going to do the best we can, as quickly as we can.”
Enter the Hammer of new ownership now banging onto a new piece of canvas with a new GM, a new direction, a new vision, and a new strategy to take Dallas back to a land of opportunity and gold. Who better to do that than the man who did the very same thing with the dreaded, hated, yet respected Detroit rival?
For the 1st time since the building opened in July of 2001, no playoff basketball or hockey in Dallas until October. Don’t get too comfortable with the apathy, folks!
Welcome to Dallas Mr. Nill. Best wishes from Mr. Will.