The Dallas Stars organization had a hectic night on Saturday night. Not only did the final game of the season need to be played, but news broke that Joe Nieuwendyk was being dismissed from his position with the Stars.
More than likely, this was news that was scheduled to wait until after the season ended, but, as we have seen numerous times before, once a story leaks, it does not take it long to spread. And so, but the end of the first intermission, it seemed like all but a done deal that Nieuwendyk would not return.
While his contract still had one year remaining on it, it was certainly up in the air on whether or not he would keep his job through the end of the term. After all, if you bring in a new coach after this season, and then bring in a new GM the next, you know the new General Manager is going to want his own people in place. And it would be odd to bring in a new coach for only one season, only to remove him for the next.
The timing of GM Joe's departure fits well for making wholesale management changes. And while it may be a sad day for many fans to see him go, most people recognize that it is just a part of the business. Even Joe Nieuwendyk recognizes that.
Nieuwendyk, although no longer GM, still cares about the Stars organization, and is looking forward to watching the kids that he drafted and signed develop into professionals.
"I guess the statement I want to make is that I am very thankful for being part of this organization for 11 years, 7 as a player and 4 as a general manager. I am very proud of what we accomplished. I know at the end of the day we get measured by getting to the playoffs and challenging for Stanley Cups, but I feel like we've made a lot of progress in four years.
"I am especially proud of this group that has taken the ice this last three-and-a-half weeks and I told them that after the game last night. It's the most proud of a group that I have been in the four years I've been here. They were kind of a group that was left for dead, no one gave them a chance and a group of veterans stepped up and grabbed this team and young players played their hearts out. I couldn't be more proud of how they reacted to the last three-and-a-half weeks. They left everything they had out on the ice and they made me proud."
The timing of his departure is somewhat unfortunate, as most of his work in the drafts is just now beginning to bear fruit. To go from a completely empty prospect pool to one that is overflowing (as least in defensemen), is a great testament to what he was able to do to improve this club. In fact, the success of the Texas Stars this season is a great indicator of what lies in store for Dallas over the next few years. His main priority was to get the prospect pool loaded with talented players, and it is safe to say he did the job efficiently.
"...I said from day one that it was important to retool the stockpile of players, and that's the way you have to do it these days, you have to have that pipeline. We certainly have that pipeline now. You never know when those kids are ready. We didn't know about Cody Eakin or Brenden Dillon or where those kids were at, but they are certainly NHL players and a number of them are NHL players now."
Of course, that is not the only job that a general manager has. And it is likely that the shortcomings of the team in Dallas may be what has prompted this change more than anything else. Several days ago, Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi talked about his disappointment regarding the lack of playoffs for a fifth straight year. He believes the team underperformed, and could have made it to the post season this year. Instead, this will be the fifth season in Dallas without the playoffs. Nieuwendyk disagrees on the feeling of underachievement, however.
"I don't share that view. Like I said, year-to-year you don't know how things are going to pan out. In a shortened season, certainly with the changes we made with (Jaromir) Jagr and (Derek) Roy coming in, I am never going to use it as excuses, with some of the injuries and things like that, contract situations, but this team got better and better and it certainly turned into a team that I was very proud of after the trade deadline. It's a difficult league. It's a difficult conference. We ended up being the bridesmaids again and it was that way every four years. We have to get over the hump, but I was proud of the progress that was made."
In the end, this, at least to me, is an issue that needed to be dealt with. When Tom Gaglardi came to Dallas and rescued the team from the banks, he indicated that he and Nieuwendyk were on the same page, and that they both had the same idea of how to get there. Now, however, there is an admitted difference in views on where the team stands. If an owner believes a team underachieved while the general manager does not, they are no longer walking down the same path.
This does not mean Tom Gaglardi believed that Nieuwendyk was doing a terrible job, or that there was any major disagreements between the two. Simply that it was time for a change in direction. And with Jim Nill coming in as a replacement, that change is even more understandable.
Ultimately, Joe Nieuwendyk came along at a rough spot in the history of the Dallas Stars. He was forced to operate a team on a shoe string budget, with no big free agents to sign, and no prospects to bring in to replace the big time free agents that left. And, despite all of that, he was able to keep the team competitive year in and year out. He was handed an impossible task for those first few years, and did his absolute best to accomplish it. Things may not have gone as perfectly as planned, but he has certainly left this club in far better shape than when he found it. And for that, I am incredibly thankful.
Coming up in today's links: More thoughts on GM Joe and the new GM Jim, some Dallas Stars players still have hockey to play, and a look at the NHL playoffs.
- Tom Gaglardi speaks on the decision to relieve Nieuwendyk of his duties, as well as bringing in Jim Nill to take over. [Stars Inside Edge]
- With a new GM, this will be more of Tom Gaglardi's team than it has been in the past. Rick Gosselin believes this means it is time for him to open his wallet and start spending money. [Dallas News]
- This is a bit dated, but still worth the read, as Mike Heika has his observations from the season ending game. [Dallas News]
- Our own Josh Lile talks about why the changing of the guard is a necessary one. [WFAA]
- Here is the thoughts from a native Detroit news station on the type of guy they lost in Jim Nill. It's nice to know that we beat them in something on Saturday. [WZZM]
- Speaking of losing, thanks to how things finished on Saturday, the Stars have a 2.1% chance to nab the first overall pick. Insert Dumb & Dumber quote here. [Stars Inside Edge]
- There's some exciting news for a couple of the Dallas Stars players, as both Brenden Dillon and Stephane Robias have been named on Canada's World Championship roster. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The Boston Bruins lost their season finale, and failed to clinch their division. They now sit 4th in the standings. That means they will face Toronto in the first round, and might face the Pens in the second. That's not very good news for our hopes of an additional first round pick. [Puck Daddy]
- Make sure you write these times down. Here is your playoff TV schedule for the entire first round. If I recall correctly, NBS Sports has plans to stream all games online as well. But don't quote me on that. [Puck Daddy]
- The Wild had a pretty spectacular collapse to finish the season, very nearly missing the playoffs. Their reward? Facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Whoops. [NHL]
- For your video of the day, here is the Arena open video. If you didn't get a chance to make it to a Stars game in person this year, this is what was shown before the Stars came out onto the ice for the beginning of the game. I thoroughly enjoyed it the two times I got to see it this year.