Seemingly lost in the hoopla surrounding the hiring of Joe Nieuwendyk and the "promotion" of Brett Hull is the fact that Les Jackson was sent back to do the job he had done before taking over as Stars co-General Manager.
After last summer's personal vouching for Sean Avery by Brett Hull and how that signing turned out for the team, there were many (including me) that believed Jackson would take over the job himself and Hull would be the one given a job "more suitable for his strengths." After all Hull has basically said at this point he was the intern to Jackson, who was doing the lion's share of the work anyway. How many people think of Hull as a guy to spend 18 hours a day scouting players, flying all over the world to attend games and put in the amount of time necessary to do the job of a General Manager? Jackson was doing that job, and he was doing a more than adequate job of it as well.
Unfortunately, it seems that he was caught up in the mess that Hull caused, and he was reassigned as well when the Stars decided to bring in Nieuwendyk to take over the job full-time. There are a number of reason's why Tom Hicks decided to go this route, rather than just keep Jackson on as the solo G.M., but perhaps Hicks felt this team needed a big breath of fresh air and change from somebody coming in from the "outside". While it's true that Nieuwendyk spent a long time here in Dallas and was beloved by fans, teammates and coaches alike, the reality is that he has been groomed as a General Manager during his time in the front offices of completely different franchises. While he and Les Jackson share a very similar outlook on how this franchise should run, Nieuwendyk has the chance to come in with fresh ideas and clean, unbiased look at how every aspect of the organization is running, making changes as he deems necessary.
And chances are very good that Nieuwendyk would have landed the Florida Panthers G.M. job after Jacques Martin left to become the head coach of Montreal. There would have been a small, frustrated roar among the Stars faithful had that happened. But that doesn't change the fact that Les Jackson was still shorted a bit by the Stars organization, after doing an admirable job for 18 months.
Since Les Jackson was not at the press conference yesterday, Mike Heika was able to talk with him briefly on the phone. Here is the brief quote from Jackson, who has shown nothing but class the past few days yet has to be severely disappointed.
"Honestly, I just want what's best for the team and the organization, and I want us to win,'' Jackson said in a phone interview. "That's how I've always looked at things.''
"He did everything, really,'' [Brett] Hull said. "He included me, I was definitely in on discussions, but Les took care of the day-to-day. He was the GM. And seeing everything inside, I honestly think he did a heck of a job.''
Heika then makes some really good points on just how good a job Jackson did for this franchise, and the toughest had to do with the team's AHL franchise (or lack thereof).
One of the toughest challenges thrown at Jackson was the minor league situation. Hicks Sports Group decided it wanted to move the AHL team to Cedar Park, Texas, build a great building in the Austin area and make some money there. The setup would be perfect once implemented, but getting there was the challenge.
The Stars had a contract with the Iowa Stars, but once the Iowa owners found out about the plan to leave, they used an escape clause in their contract and signed on with Anaheim as their affiliate. Jackson then had to go to work to find places for all of the Stars' prospects to play _ and he did. He left some players in Europe, he spread the rest among five AHL teams. It wasn't the perfect scenario, but he helped a lot of players get better this year in a very difficult situation.
He also states that Jackson has left the Stars in decent shape financially, especially considering the fact that owner Tom Hicks will be limiting spending.
The team that Nieuwendyk is inheriting is in pretty decent shape, thanks to Jackson. Can you second guess his decision to trade for Brad Richards? Could that $7.8 million be better spent in a tough economic time? Maybe. But this team has 18 players under contract for about $40 million. If Tom Hicks decides the budget is $44 million, the Stars can still be competitive. If he decides it's $50 million (and Nieuwendyk finds a way to add a top-level defenseman and backup goalie), I think it can definitely be a top team next season.
While we are all excited about Joe Neiuwendyk being back with the Stars, and his vision for this organization moving forward, we should also be extremely thankful for the job that Les Jackson for the Dallas Stars.