Jim Nill is coming to Dallas with almost two decades of experience in the same system in Detroit. The Red Wings developmental model allows players to mature and develop slowly in the minors until they are ready to step into the NHL lineup. The Stars have a number of prospects on the verge of being regular NHLers. One of the immediate challenges Nill faces is how to best integrate the young talent into the lineup.
The Red Wings system has been so successful because they haven't been forced to bring players into key roles before they are ready too often which has allowed them to stay competitive while working the young players in over the years. The Stars roster, as currently constructed, may not afford that same luxury to Nill in the 2014 season. Some of the Stars prospects may be thrust into key roles quickly.
Nill is going to be faced with a few key developmental decisions early in his tenure. On the back end Nill is going to have to decide what to do with Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak is still developing, and likely will be for a long time given that he won't be able to drink until December of this year. With the big club this year Oleksiak was very up and down. He was alright defensively, but he really struggled to move the puck from his own end. However, after recording 33 points in 59 AHL games it wouldn't be difficult to construct an argument saying he is ready for NHL ice time.
Reilly Smith and Alex Chiasson both present Nill with interesting decisions. Both players now have one year of professional experience under their belts after succesful college careers. Chiasson scored a boatload of goals down the stretch, but he was a low possession player. Smith was the opposite. He consistently got the puck on net, but either just missed or suffered a good defensive play to thwart a number of goals. Both players seem like they should be ready for healthy levels of ice time in 2014, but whether or not they are ready to be counted on as primary offensive options is another question entirely.
The depth forwards are where Nill's decisions get interesting. Matt Fraser, Colton Sceviour, and Scott Glennie present different developmental issues. Fraser stepped into the lineup for a stretch after the trade deadline, but he was less than inspiring. He has nothing left to prove in the AHL. Do the Stars send him back for another AHL campaign, insert him into the lineup as a regular, or try to move him in a deal to get a center? Options A and C seem the most likely, with A leading in the clubhouse.
Sceviour and Glennie are two guys who had no future under Joe Nieuwendyk. They may not under Nill either, but at the very least they now have the opportunity to make a positive impression on a new administration. Sceviour has been a solid offensive contributor the past two seasons in the AHL, and is known for playing a solid two-way game. The Stars administration never gave him a shot in the NHL for whatever reason. Nill will be tasked with determining if the Stars have an inexpensive bottom six option waiting for the call, or if Nieuwendyk's staff made the right call by keeping Sceviour off of the NHL roster.
Glennie may be the most difficult call Nill will need to make. As a professional Glennie hasn't been very good. At some point he is going to have to develop a skill set capable of taking him to the NHL because his offensive game pretty clearly isn't what is going to carry him up the ladder. What does Nill do with him? No one in the organization needs a fresh start more than Glennie, but up to this point what has he done to show that he deserves a fresh start with the Stars organization in the first place?
Nill is going to have to determine if Glennie has a place in the organization at all. He isn't old by any means, but he is going to continue to be passed by prospects coming up the ladder. Do the Stars want to give him a fresh start and let him compete for fourth line minutes? Do the Stars want to use him as a healthy scratch instead of spending money to bring someone in from the outside? Do they just cut their losses and send him packing?
It wouldn't be entirely shocking to see most of this group on the NHL roster in 2014. Nill is going to need to determine how to best deploy the aforementioned players to maximize the success of the NHL club and development of the players in question. It's a big task, but one that Nill is uniquely qualified to carry out.