With the regular season over, the players will soon be headed in their own directions for the summer. Some of them will go on to the World Championships, which begin later this week, while others will head home and have their first chance to relax in months.
However, before they go their separate ways, there are still a few items to take care of. One of the big ones on the list was to meet their new General Manager Jim Nill, who spoke with them yesterday.
It was a fairly short speech, as Nill met with them as a group, but it was vital in order to set the tone for next season. Mike Heika talks about what was said, and what some of the players' reactions were.
New Stars GM Jim Nill met with players for the first time Tuesday in Frisco, and gave them a message before sending them out to the off-season.
"We just talked about the season, and that this season is over now," he said. "Now we're focused on moving forward to next year. It's about having a good summer, training hard and go from there."
"We're here to win, that's the bottom line," he added. "One emphasis I made is it is important to have a great start to the season. The way the standings work with the three-point system, if you get behind early it's too hard to make up ground. It's important to have a great start and we want to be one of those teams that in that area where you don't have to be worrying about the playoffs come March."
Nill said he talked with players about making a lifestyle change where they think about being a player everday.
"I talked about a guy like Ray Whitney," he said. "We've got guys in that room who are 38, 39, 40, 41 years old...why are they still playing hockey? Because they're pros, they're everyday pros. They come every day to the rink, they do the right things and when they leave the rink, they do the right things. And they do it year after year. That's why they're still playing. We've got a young team here, and they need to learn that."
While it may not seem like much, there are times where a winning frame of mind can make all the difference. If the players expect to make the playoffs from the start, the hope is that they will prepare for an extended season while they can.
One of the issues over the last several years has been the expectations for this team. By all accounts, this was a team trying to rebuild while still remaining competitive -- something that is incredibly difficult to do. What's more, it was being done with a massive amount of turnover on a yearly basis. So, a player might come to Dallas, see that they have missed the playoffs for three or four years straight, see that they are trying to bring in a bunch of kids, and then lower their expectations for the season.
Now, there is no firm evidence that something like this ever happened with anyone on the Stars roster. But it is certainly something you see in every day jobs, especially if you work in groups on a regular basis. When the mentality is that perfection is not required, perfection will not be attained. When something can be put off to a later date, it will most assuredly not be turned in early. That's not necessarily a knock against any of the employees or the system itself, but the atmosphere that accepts anything less than their best.
I think that may be where a large part of the disappointment stems from this season. The Dallas Stars owner believed that this team had the talent to make the post season, and I'm inclined to agree. Forget the roster configuration after the trade deadline. Before that date, there was Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy, and Jaromir Jagr all on the team. There was enough talent and skill on that roster to reach the playoffs, as long as they strove for perfection. They may not have ever gotten past the first round, but they certainly could have reached it.
When Tom Gaglardi said that this team underachieved, many people saw it merely as a PR move, a way to placate the fans after another playoffless year. It wasn't. He purchased this team wanting to rebuild it to a championship level, and to compete for the Stanley Cup on a regular basis. It is not about saying the right things to the press. It is about holding his team to a higher standard -- something that has not been done with the Stars since before Tom Hicks defaulted on his loans.
Remember when competing for a cup, a conference championship, a division championship, and advancing through at least a couple of rounds were the expectations of this team? And now the frame of mind for Stars fans, whether justified or not, is that sneaking into the 8th seed in the playoffs just to be eliminated by Chicago can be viewed as a success.
Obviously, there are good reasons for lowering expectations compared to the teams of old. But that doesn't mean that the Stars organization should continue thinking that way. This is where the new General Manager Jim Nill comes in. Having been with the Detroit Red Wings for so long, he knows championship level hockey. He knows the attitude and the atmosphere required to motivate the players. He expects nothing but their absolute best from them.
Like he said, "We are here to win, that's the bottom line."
And the path to winning begins with what the players choose to do with themselves this summer.
Coming up in today's links: More notes on the Stars as they prepare for a long offseason, the NHL playoffs have begun (and are already fantastic), and I try to post the correct video today.
- With the season complete, the Stars can now reveal who all was playing with injuries. Among the ones playing hurt: Aaron Rome, Jamie Benn, Trevor Daley, and Alex Goligoski. There is still one name missing of a player who had a less than stellar season, and I can't figure out what was wrong with him this year. [Dallas News]
- Jim Nill was on Marek Vs. Wyshynski radio yesterday, and gave some great insight. You can listen to the whole podcast here. [Puck Daddy]
- This question has been posed a number of times - Should Benn be moved back to wing? Ideally he could, but then who do you replace him with at center? It's the main position where the Stars are already lacking, even with Benn filling that role on the top line. [Dallas News]
- In this paywalled article by Tim Cowlishaw, he gives Stars fans reason to say "Hey, at least we're not the Cowboys." [Dallas News]
- Kari Lehtonen spoke with the press yesterday, and had some great answers to questions posed. [Stars Inside Edge]
- If you follow all of the draft/prospect news that gets assembled from the guys like Huw and Ismael, this should come as no surprise. But when Hockey's Future gives your organization a head nod for its depth in the college ranks, we can appreciate just how far the organization has come. [Hockeys Future]
- Brenden Morrow gave a radio interview about his shot at a Stanley Cup. I know all of us wish him luck. (Even if that means other players on his team also have to win) [CBS Pittsburgh]
- If you want to watch the playoffs, but don't know who to cheer for, here is the Bandwagon Fan's Guide to all 16 teams. [Grantland]
- Minnesota tried their best, but the Hawks managed to take game 1 in overtime. Major props to Josh Harding for keeping the Wild in it. [Puck Daddy]
- Meanwhile, the LA Kings lose in glorious fashion, dropping game 1 to the Blues. Seriously, click over and watch the highlights. [Puck Daddy]
- The Ducks defeated the Wings last night in regulation. I'm still predicting this series to have more OT time than any of the others. [NHL]
- For your video of the day, I tried to post this last time, but I was having some issues with the Stars TV channel. The one posted Monday was a 20th anniversary special that they aired in the arena. The one below is the "Arena Open" that gets the fans pumped up before the players come out on the ice. Like I said before, I love it.