"If we were to listen to the fat guys eating Doritos sitting on their couch posting on message boards ... then we would trade all season and never get anything done."- Former (and we can't stress that enough) Stars president Jim Lites back in the summer of 2007
For as long as pro sports teams have had general managers who for the most part get to shape and build the team as they see fit, there have been fans of said pro sports teams who have felt they know how to do the job better than said general manager.
Chances are if you're reading this then you are - at least most of the time - an armchair GM. I'm not saying all of you feel you could do a better job than any of the 30 general managers currently employed by the NHL, but it's very likely that every single move your favorite teams have made gets an instant grade from you and a swift thumbs up or thumbs down.
Dallas Stars fans of course are no different. Back in the summer of 2007 Stars fans flooded message boards and talk radio lamenting the fact the Stars had done little to improve their situation while other teams around them seemingly got better through free agency and trades made. Granted the criticism by fans then was a little more warranted, and Mr. Lites words quoted above to a packed house at a Stars season ticket holders luncheon before the season didn't help win any confidence from those fans, but they did echo a small truth about sports fans in general: If it was up to some fans, a thousand moves would be made each season in order to ice a winning team.
That is simply the nature of being a sports fan and it's always been that way. Fans not only invest money into their teams through merchandise and tickets, but arguably more so invest themselves emotionally to those teams and thus feel they have a right to vent every time the GM takes what they think is a wrong turn with the ship.
I don't knock fans for being like that or thinking that way because I'm like that myself.
In fact I've just started recovering from two full months of wondering just what the hell is going on with my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wondering if they'll ever see the playoffs ever again and quietly crying myself to sleep every night while clutching my copy of the Bucs 2003 championship DVD and making sob-filled pleas for Joey Galloway and Derrick Brooks to come back and that I'll never let the Glazer family or Bucs GM Mark Dominik ever cut them again.
But even while I grit my teeth over the thought of Sgt. Kellen Winslow being the Bucs biggest offensive threat of the season, I can see where the team is trying to rebuild for the future so I will hold out hope and faith that what looks to be a lengthy and rocky road back to Super Bowl glory will be worth this short term pain in the end.
The Dallas Stars have a much shorter road to playoff glory, don't have to go through quite so many dramatic player moves and yet new Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk has already drawn the ire of many Stars fans and hockey media for his moves or lack of 'em to be exact.
If you're one such fan that has been kept awake at night wondering why the Stars have allowed free agent after free agent to pass them by, wondering why the Stars held out for a Swedish kid who hasn't seen a second of NHL action in goal only to have him pass on us to join the Toronto Maple Defensemen or wondering what the hold up is resigning Sergei Zubov and scared that the Stars top defensive pairing at this point looks like it may be Daley and Robidas... I'm here to say two simple words:
It's easy for a fan to see the massive changes Brian Burke has made with the Leafs and compare that to the itty-bitty moves made by Nieuwy in Dallas and start to instantly wonder if the Stars plucked the right guy from Toronto.
But if we were to compare the GMs to say artists, then you could say Burkie has been virtually given a huge blank canvas to work with and is allowed to fill it with as many expensive paints as the NHL salary cap will allow. Nieuwendyk on the other hand has been given a small post-it note and a green pencil crayon, yet some fans are expecting the same kind of artistry from Nieuwendyk as the Leaf fans are getting from Burke
It didn't help that Stars fans have been handed Jeff Woywitka and Karlis Skrastins while the Leafs get Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek. They even got more antsy on Tuesday afternoon when it was revealed that Jonas Gustavsson chose Toronto over Dallas and suddenly the Stars not only lost out on the next Patrick Roy (or the next Tommy Salo depending on who you talk to) but they also missed out on goaltending studs that could maybe brought in and threaten to take away Marty Turco's starting spot!
The grumblings from Stars fans got turned up a few volumes and suddenly questions about Joe Nieuwendyk's ability as GM come into question! The guy hasn't even had the chance to see his team hit the ice for a training camp session yet he was starting to be tagged by some fans as a disappointment?
A day later Nieuwendyk took advantage of the Ottawa Senators very tight cap situation and plucked goalie Alex Auldfrom the Sens and with that the big backup goalie crisis of 2009 is taken care of! Auld as we've already covered here, is a very capable veteran NHL backup netminder, can take on 20 to 25 starts this season and push Turco to be better the entire time. All Joe had to give up for Auld was a mere sixth round pick in the 2010 draft.
And if that wasn't enough to convince you that Nieuwendyk may be actually pretty darn good at this GM-ing thing, consider that the sixth round pick that he flipped to Ottawa in that trade was the pick he got a little under a month ago at the Montreal draft from San Jose. What did he give up to get that pick exactly? Just the Stars seventh round pick in the 09 draft!
So in effect the Stars got a proven NHL backup goalie with a very reasonable price tag that fits in the Stars budget for a seventh round draft pick. (I felt it is necessary to highlight that... It's that good a move!)
Not to shabby for a rookie GM huh?
Can we now simmer down the talk that he's quickly becoming a disapointment as Stars GM?
He's doing fine so far.