So we've had a week now to digest this whole Joe Nieuwendyk news and for the most part it seems like Stars fans are fairly happy with the move and the hockey world in general seems to have given a bit of a nod of approval as Joe is a genuinely well liked good guy and in a short time with two different clubs has earned a shot to lead a hockey team as much as anyone.
But I can't help but think of the guys he replaced, Brett Hull and Les Jackson. "Hull/Jack" as we have come to know them...
(Quick aside here, was the term "Hull/Jack" really the best we could do for a nickname? So much missed potential there for witty and clever monikers. Personally I was kinda hoping my "The quiet guy and the mouth man" nickname for them would catch on, but alas in this A.D.D. world we live in, only having to say two syllables will always win out over eight.)
The overall feeling by some fans as well is that the hiring of Nieuwendyk is made even more acceptable by the fact that it at least gets Hull - and Jackson to a lesser extent - out of the GM office. But I ask all of you, was two headed beast we knew as 'Hull/Jack' really that bad for Stars fans and the franchise overall?
Think about it for a second before you make a mad dash to slam your fist on the 'hell yes' buzzer...
They only had a little over a year to make any kind of impact on the Stars and I think they moves they made were solid. The two biggest most visible moves of course were the Brad Richards trade and the Sean Avery signing. Both moves have had their share of critics - the Avery signing more so obviously - and can be seen as sharp negatives to their run as co-GMs, but there were three smaller less attention grabbing decisions that I think they should be commended for:
- Signed Mike Ribeiro to a long term deal - Signing 27 year old Ribeiro to a five year deal was a huge coup for the co-GM's and was a sign that there was an eye looking to the future of the club and the five million dollar price tag all things considered is a solid deal compared to what his stats would have commanded for a salary had he hit the free agent market. Considering the chemistry between Morrow and Ribeiro, it was also important to have Ribs locked up for as long as Morrow is set to be in a Stars uniform.
Let the youth movement begin! - Sure it was helped out by all the injuries the team suffered and the lack of an AHL affiliate may have also handcuffed them, but young players like Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Tom Wandell and Nicklas Grossman were allowed to earn spots on the team. They took a chance on Fabian Brunnstrum - a kid with no North American hockey experience at all - and got a decent return on him despite the injuries. Sure the Tobias Stephan experiment could be listed as a failure, but again it was a case of allowing a young prospect to step up and take a roster spot. Sure bringing in someone like a Brendan Shanahan or a Mark Recchi would have made for a decent move to bring in veteran leadership and stability and take rookie mistakes made by the likes of a Neal or Wandell out of the equation, but it would have only been a temporary stop-gap measure that at the end of the season wouldn't have helped the Stars in the future.
- They stuck with Tippett - Some of you may see this as a negative, but I see it as a solid positive non-move. Two months into the 08-09 season fans and media had started clamoring for Tippett to lose his job as the Stars were in a severe slump and looking bad on the ice nightly, but thankfully Hull and Jackson refused to make a knee-jerk reaction that could have easily finished off the Stars early no matter what they had done with Avery afterward. Dave Tippett by way of his repeated playoff appearances and solid regular season record had earned the right to be given a grace period by Stars management. Sure some coaching moves made in mid-season work out and turn around team's fortunes (re: Pittsburgh and Ottawa) but in the case of the Stars there was already plenty of turmoil so a change in coaches and possibly team philosophy would have hurt more than helped. Tippett in turn almost coached a very short handed and nearly crippled Stars club into the playoffs and showed he was worth keeping faith in.
As owner Tom Hicks made very well known during the Nieuwendyk presser, bringing in Joe wasn't at all an indictment on the job Hull/Jack had done. Brett Hull and Les Jackson took a situation that had never been done in pro sports ever and not only did pretty well but it can be argued helped speed along the turnover of the Stars roster from an older group to a younger set with as little a disturbance as possible and staying away from the true "rebuilding" phase that keeps so many teams down for seasons on end.
So in that regard the brief Hull/Jack era should be considered a pretty successful one.