Dallas Stars fans were divided yesterday by the team's decision to stand pat at the trade deadline and not make a big move, whether that was adding firepower to a playoff bubble team or shipping off a few valuable players for future assets. In the end, the Stars decided to stick with the team in place now and continue to look at improving the roster this summer, when the price to improve would not include trading assets the Stars obviously covet and would like to keep.
Joe Nieuwendyk talked to the media after the deadline passed and stated that he believes the team right now and the recent surge in the standings played a factor in his decision not to break the Stars up. What was apparent, however, was that the Stars certainly thought long and hard about certain deals that were on the table but nothing was good enough to make the Stars jump at changing the team right now.
Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi also spoke publicly after the deadline passed, walking down the street to the new home of Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket to join the Hardline. It was apparent that many fans were interested in hearing what Gaglardi would have to say about Nieuwendyk's decision not to make any big trades and if one thing was made clear during his time on the air, it's that he and Nieuwendyk are completely on the same page.
They believe in this team right now and while they want to improve the team and become more competitive, it's also obvious they want to be smart and not make a move that turns into a major mistake down the road. It's also apparent that the Stars believe in the young core of the team and while they are moving to improve and build around them, the Stars will remain competitive and don't see the path forward needing to be a "rebuild."
After the jump, a transcription of Gaglardi's talk with The Hardline and some more thoughts on what this all means for the Stars moving forward.
Gaglardi immediately responded as to whether the recent four-game winning streak had an effect on the decision not to make any trades, something that many feel might not be the best decision. While I doubt the actual winning streak had a direct impact on whether the team was going to be a "fire sale" or not, I think the recent hard work and improved play of the team since the All-Star break was a bigger factor than just the past four games.
"I think the four game win streak was a bit of a factor for us. If you look back, we always this team was a playoff team and capable of getting there," Gaglardi told The Ticket. "We had a bit of some inconsistent play there in the middle of the season after a great start. So we've seen now what we've put together and what was supposed to happen and it shows up at the right time. We're in a good spot to make a run at it. That was part of it.
"Having said that, we were very interested in listening...there were some interesting discussions the past couple of weeks between [Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk] and and some other teams and we're committed to being better for longer and if that means we get a little younger right now, that's something we're going to consider doing."
"We worked hard and listened to a lot but in the end there wasn't a deal there that made us a better hockey team, so we stayed pat."
Hearing this and listening to Nieuwendyk yesterday, I don't believe the plan was ever going to become a "fire sale". Perhaps if the Stars were way out of the playoff race then we'd have seen players like Sheldon Souray traded but with the Stars at the very least remaining competitive, there was no reason to sell the farm.
What about improvement? Gaglardi would touch on this, going on to say that the Stars were looking to add to the team but in the end refused to pay the high prices needed to make such a move.
"The market changed a little there at the end, the prices became high for the types of players we coveted," Gaglardi said. "When we talk about our core here in Dallas, we're talking about guys in their mid-20's....the Jamie Benns, Loui Erikssons, Kari Lehtonens, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski -- those guys were untouchable for us."
Does this mean that attempting to trade for a player to improve the team now and in the future meant touching the core players of the team? Most likely, and the Stars were right not to even think about touching that core group of players. The question then turned to Steve Ott and whether the Stars were close to trading a veteran.
"We have a few guys that are older, a Steve Ott for instance, and a lot of teams were coveting Steve and I'm happy he's still a Dallas Star today," said Gaglardi. "There's tough decisions to be made here in Dallas and we want to take the next step forward to becoming a better team and those were the type of deals we wanted. But in the end there was nothing that was good enough to make us change what we like about this team right now."
This is what fans debated the past week, whether trading a player like Steve Ott would be worth whatever return the Stars could get. We can now infer that the Stars highly coveted forward James van Riemsdyk but were unwiling to trade Ott for a return anything less that a similar-caliber player. The Canucks were supposedly going hard after Ott but with Cody Hodgson never being available in such a deal, the Stars were right in making the decision to keep the team together.
Gaglardi was then asked about how he sees this team being improved upon moving forward and whether he was looking to make a splash at the trade deadline, even if it didn't work out.
"I don't really care to make a big splash myself. I have a pretty good idea of what I want us to do here and frankly I'd rather us do something this summer," Gaglardi said, echoing what he's stated a few times since purchasing the team. "We have a group, we have a team we like and it's always a worry if you tinker with your locker room and you like what's going on."
Gaglardi would go on to state how they are pleased with how the team is playing lately and how injuries have been a factor in this inconsistency this season. With the Stars finally taking advantage of a mediocre group of teams pushing for the playoffs, management was hesitant to break up the team if a trade could not be made to actually improve the team. This was always about getting better, not taking a step backwards -- even if it improved the Stars a few years in the future -- and Gaglardi made it known that he wants this team to be competitive, now and next season.
When asked how a team should be built, Gaglardi would state that in the current system making big trades to improve a team in the process of being built is incredibly hard to do. He referenced how the system changed after the lockout and how it's affecting the trade deadline, something we certainly witnessed yesterday with a fairly inactive deadline by most teams.
"That old system disappeared after 2004 and the lockout and I think it's a different way of building a team now," said Gaglardi. "That's part of the reason you're not seeing crazy deals right now. Teams only have finite amounts of money, you make a mistake and you can't buy your way out of it. So I think the way you built your team prior to the lockout versus post-lockout are two different things."
Gaglardi would once again cite the Buffalo Sabres as an example of how not to over-commit in free agency and spend too much to build a team, with it becoming very clear that Gaglardi believes in building through the draft while augmenting that improvement with smart acquisitions -- whether that's a trade or through free agency.
The Hardline would then talk about how the Stars have fallen out of relevancy in Dallas and Gaglardi would once again state that he believes the quickest to bringing the fans back is simple -- win.
"This market is a huge, glorious market and the Stars have been a top-ten revenue team for most of their existence and to get back there, we have to get better on the ice. We have to get competitive but we don't want to make mistakes along the way. We have a great farm system, we have five young kids turning pro next season, a few of them may make our team next year.
"We've got some really nice things happening now with the core group of guys that I referred to earlier we know in the next two or three years we're going to be a heck of a team and we don't want to mess that up. This isn't a rebuild."
"Having said that," Gaglardi would continue, "We'd like to add some guys to the mix to get deeper at the scoring position and that's something we were prepared to do at this deadline and perhaps even this summer, but so far that didn't happen."
What's important to take away from what Gaglardi was saying is that while they're happy with the core that is in place, they certainly aren't content to not improve around that core as well.
It's also apparent that fans are frustrated another lack of movement at the deadline was incredibly frustrating, especially after three years of little to know improvement. This is something that Gaglardi is well aware of and he directly referenced how tough it has been to rebuild the fanbase after three years of being team without an owner or any real direction as to how this team should be built.
Gaglardi would address this issue and how the team is looking to not just build the team back up to being contenders, but also are focused on getting the fans back to the AAC -- and getting them enthusiastic about this team once again.
"We had a team that really ran rudderless for three years without an owner and as we saw, these things can fall in a hurry," Gaglardi said. "It's pretty tough for a fan to get excited in an owner and the management when you're owned by a consortium of 45 banks. If you go back to the attendance as recently as 2007, we were still a very successful team. It fell in a hurry and it can come back in a hurry. We've got to make the right moves."
Gaglardi would also touch on something that has been a point of contention with fans over the past four years or so, as the team has been unable to be as involved locally as we've seen in the past.
"It's about the right management, about making the right decisions and about being active in the community -- something I think the team lost sight of. We haven't been visible, we haven't been marketing, but that's all changing. A lot of that's all changed already."
It's obvious that the Stars don't see themselves in a position that needs a true rebuild. While many fans might disagree, there's nothing the Stars are saying that reflects a strategy of being content with mediocrity or continuing forward with an aging team. Instead, they've identified a young core of players they want to build around, which is essentially what a "rebuild" is intended to do.
Instead, the Stars are enthusiastic about the future of the team and are unwilling to compromise that future in order to achieve short term improvements. The Stars are hopeful they can remain competitive this season and while also not making a commitment that this is the exact same team we'll be seeing in the future. The Stars are trying to get to the playoffs this season while also maintaining their plan for building for the future, something that is not an easy task to undertake.
Nevertheless, Gaglardi is feeling good about this team's direction while also noting that improvement is needed. At the very least, it's something to feel enthusiastic and hopeful about. We asked the Stars to show us a direction and while we might not have seen the definitive moves many wanted, they've made a commitment in a very certain direction -- and at least that's a start.
"It's pretty nice when you're in the situation we're in, said Gaglardi. "We've got an upward vector here. There's no question around the NHL, we're an up and coming team."