The past couple of weeks have been hard for the Dallas Stars and their fans. We've seen some insanely debilitating losses and break downs during games like we've never encountered before on a game-to-game basis. This has caused an outcry of differing emotions from fans, including a near-unanimous mentality that the Stars desperately need to make a trade, any trade, in the near future to get back to the winning way's we've enjoyed.
On last night's podcast, Mike Heika reminded us that Rome was not built in a day and Stars fans should not expect instant success from Joe Nieuwendyk as he builds this team in his image. Today on his blog, Heika went into more detail:
While Bob Gainey had a lot of money at times thanks to the new ownership of Tom Hicks, he also made some really slick trades to get the ball rolling, and I think those need to serve as a model for Nieuwendyk. Gainey spun his wheels and even made some frustrating moves (Ulf Dahlen to San Jose for Doug Zmolek and Mike Lalor, Mark Tinordi to Washington for Kevin Hatcher, Neal Broten to New Jersey for Corey Millen) before he started on a streak of finding the pieces. He picked up Guy Carbonneau as a desparation move simply because Bob Bassen blew his knee out. He used Hicks' money and a darn fine prospect named Jarome Iginla to get Nieuwendyk. He took on a young defenseman named Darryl Sydor who the Los Angeles Kings had tired of watching make mistakes (it cost him Shane Churla and Zmolek). And then he pulled the trade of the decade when he sent Kevin Hatcher to Pittsburgh for Sergei Zubov.
Nobody saw the potential for how big that deal could be (maybe not even Gainey), but he was smart enough to listen to his scouts and make that deal work. And having been there, nobody knew about it and it came out of nowhere. That's what a good GM does, he finds the deal that nobody else is thinking about.
I know that's a lot of history, but my point in all of this is that it took Gainey from Oct. 1995 to June of 1998 to put his team together _ and he had been a part of the organization since 1990 and GM of the team since 1992. We want to think he put that team together in a couple of months, but it took a long time.
Nieuwendyk deserves that patience.
I'm certain that Stars fans will come to understand this "rebuilding" process that Nieuwendyk is going through. Yet at the same time, fans are still looking for progress and something positive to hand their hat on; a team that produces nothing by negativity is destined to fall into the abyss of failing sports franchises.
Good thing the Stars aren't one of those teams.
The Dallas Stars are still in good position in the standings.
It must seem that with all of these issues and and all of the inconsistencies and overtime and shootout losses, the Dallas Stars must be mired in the basement of the Western Conference and are facing a near impossible climb to try and get right back into the playoff hunt. In reality, the Stars are still in 8th place in conference and are just six points behind 4th place Los Angeles. If the Stars can manage to stay even as they work through this rough patch and continue to at least salvage some points from the bad games, the team will be in perfect position when things start to operate much smoother.
There is a talented group of prospects playing great hockey down in Austin.
I know this doesn't directly affect the Stars at this moment, but the fact that their AHL affiliate is not only succeeding but dominating in their first season is reason enough to feel good about the future of the team. Not only are the Stars building a stable of talented players in the AHL, but they're playing them in the same system the Stars are employing in the NHL. This allows for a smooth transition for call ups and also get's the young prospects used to the system, one in which the players are flourishing.
Two words: James Neal
The young forward burst onto the scene last season when his high-energy and goal scoring ability made him put him in the running for the Calder Trophy, but this he's season he's taken it to a completely different level. He's shown the ability to not only score from any spot on the ice (and even when he's not really trying) but he's developed a knack for creating chances for his linemates as well. This was something we didn't see last season, and the way his game is evolving has all Stars fans excited for the long-term potential he shows.
Two more words: Brad Richards
He's tailed off a bit from the torrid pace he was on (granted, he's played in 2-4 less game than others around him) but Richards is still top ten in the NHL in overall scoring. He is now playing like the offensive genius we all knew he could be, while taking on a valuable leadership position in the locker room. He's serious about the game of hockey and he's dead serious about the Dallas Stars. No one wants this team to succeed more than Richards.
The young defensemen.
No, I'm not talking about Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen. I'm talking about the emergence of Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric as solid defensemen who look to be improving almost daily. Grossman is finally starting to learn how to use his size to his advantage and Fistric shows that the time he spent in the AHL last season has taught him some valuable lessons about how to play hockey in the NHL. Both players look to be on the verge of really starting to touch on the potential they showed a few seasons ago and Stars fans should be excited about the solidarity the team will have for years to come with these two on the blue line.
I know a lot of fans are frustrated by his lack of action so far this season, but he's already shown the ability to make significant moves while hampered by strict financial guidelines. The Alex Auld trade was a near work of genius, filling a gaping hole on the team while sacrificing a mid-round draft pick. Stars fans need to have faith that Nieuwendyk has the ability and drive to build this team into another champion and the good news is the pieces are already there: A dominant number one center, a talented (if raw) young defense, a stable of speedy and talented forwards....all that's missing is a long-term solution in net.
No pressure, Joe.