Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk joined Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket on Friday during the annual "Norm-a-thon" to raise money for the Austin Street Center for the homeless, and offered some comments on the lockout and his team's situation coming out of it, if indeed there is an end.
A brief transcription follows. Thanks to Erin Bolen for contributions to the transcription.
"I think the NHL and the player's association both realize that now time is of the essence," said Nieuwendyk of the state of negotiations. "We're getting to the point now where it is going to be the deadline of season or no season. So I think at the very least this is going to spark off conversations again between the two leaders there, and we'll see where it goes. I like to think the NHL thinks this will get it done. I'm not so sure. But we'll see what their response is in the next 24 hours, I think."
Have the Stars seeing an advantage from the lockout in their minor league system?
"That's been the one silver lining in all of this for our team especially as this is the first year we've had a number of prospects, blue chip prospects, that are on the same team in Austin, and it's been fun watching them," said Nieuwendyk. "I'm actually down here right now... There's probably three kids that will join our team right way. Just to see the experience they've gained this year playing against high-level talent... It's been a good experience for our young kids."
That would be Brenden Dillon, Tomas Vincour and Cody Eakin, for those keeping score at home, though Vincour may have suffered a somewhat serious injury recently and coach Desjardins told media last night in Cedar Park that he could be out for a little while. With three weeks to go until a potential shortened NHL season, we'll keep our fingers crossed that everyone playing can stay healthy down there.
Norm then asked how much Joe Nieuwendyk could stay in contact with Jamie Benn, for instance...
"Every now and then a little bit of contact but certainly not much," the GM said of his star player. "Jamie elected to go over to Germany to keep playing and you can't blame the players for wanting to play and to keep their skills sharp. I know that he came back for Christmas. His grandfather was ill. So I'm up to speed on what's going on in his life and follow his statistics online and just hope that they all stay safe until we get going."
Benn is believed to still be in the Vancouver area. Training camp would be short for the rest of the team. It would be even shorter for Benn, who would start contact negotiations immediately upon a CBA signing.
A six or seven day training camp will be woefully inadequate for some who have not been playing at game speed. Norm asked Nieuwendyk if he's worried about it where some of his more veteran players are concerned:
"A little bit. You trust and hope they're all doing the right things, and I think for the most part they are. I know we have a number of guys skating in Plano here in the local rinks. But from my standpoint, you never know what you're going to get when we do get going. It's going to be a shortened training camp. And you hope everyone's been doing the best they can to get their conditioning up and that it wouldn't take long for us to get going again."
A 48 game season sprint could benefit some teams where playoff positioning is concerned, depending on who starts well. Hitzges asked Nieuwendyk if his team is ready to break through, even in a shortened season?
"I try and always look at things half full. If we do happen to get going here, I think it may be a benefit to us because of some of the players you mentioned," he said of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. "I really think those guys are going to help us. We've been on the cusp of breaking through. I really feel like this team has the capacity to break through. They're going to do so much for this team not only on the ice, but off the ice as well."
GM Joe went on to say that veteran leadership like that coming in will help take pressure off of Brenden Morrow, who could focus on just playing with help in the locker room.
How close are we to a drop dead date? Nieuwendyk's math agrees with most of the hockey world at present...
"I think we're getting really close to that. If you do the math, you know in order to get a 48 game schedule things have to happen pretty quick here, and this isn't something that's going to get wrapped up in 24 hours. I think they need probably 5-6 days to wrap up all the legalities of it too, so we're probably looking at somewhere around 11th or 12th of January where we've got to be in training camps if we're going to start a week later."
"I know both sides desperately want to play, and that's why it's been so frustrating for everyone involved but I'm really optimistic and hopeful that we're back in a few weeks.
Nieuwendyk speaks of the season as something he full expects to have. The NHLPA and NHL are having more conference calls this Sunday morning, with in-person talks likely this evening or tomorrow. Hang on to whatever interest you have remaining. We'll know for sure in about 10 or 11 days.