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Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill Preaches Patience With Struggling Hockey Club

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Haven't we heard enough of the dreaded "patience" word? Maybe not.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I remember a time when you said "patience" to a Dallas Stars fan and you'd better be prepared to duck for cover from flying objects.

Just be patient...while your team heads towards bankruptcy.
Just be patient...while your team is owned by banks that won't let you do what you need to improve the team.
Just be patient...while the youth is replenished and the pipeline rebuilt.
Just be patient...while free agency comes and goes and it becomes clear this isn't considered a desired destination.
Just be patient...while the new ownership and leadership group make changes to the general manager, front office and coaching staffs.
Just be patient...while the team learns new personnel, new system, and adjusts to new expectations.
Just be patient...while the blueline doesn't change except to add more inexperienced guys into the mix, when that was always going to be the Achilles heel of the season.

Sigh...can I be done with the patience part of Stars fandom yet? There are some Detroit Red Wings fans that don't even truly understand the meaning of that word when it comes to being patient with your hockey team to turn things around -- because they weren't alive in a year that the Wings didn't make the playoffs. I'm both jealous of those people and happy with my fandom experience so far; at least I'll know how to deal with seasons of missed playoffs and rebuilds! [So I'm a bit of an optimist, ok?]

I was once told that in order to work on being patient you'd likely be put into situations to test your patience more than you had before. Well, I didn't ask for patience this year for Christmas, but it seems that lesson will continue this season as a Stars fan, as general manager Jim Nill preaches patience with this team.

I think you've gotta stick with your game plan. We got off to a rough start and people are like, 'What's going on?'

Yes, we are all like "What's going on?" We've been trying to figure that out since about game three now, and the answers don't appear to be simple ones.

Hockey is a complex game. One action causes a chain reaction, much like ripples on a pond. It's easy to look at one player or a group of players and lay the issues all at their feet. But in such a tight knit community that hockey teams become, there are so many things that affect the play on the ice that fans aren't privy to. Like chemistry, locker room leadership styles, coaching decisions, injuries that are played through, personnel changes due to waivers/trades/call-ups/send downs, and a whole slew of other things both on and off the ice that all come together to form the current iteration that is the Dallas Stars.

It seems that some of those things have impacted the team in a way that was unexpected, and they've been trying to figure out how to get around holes that weren't necessarily expected at the beginning of the season.

"The other thing that has happened to us, and we don't use it as an excuse because it's not an excuse, but we've lost three players and they're all gone for the year. Rich Peverley is a big part of our team, so are [Patrik] Nemeth and [Valeri] Nichushkin. All three guys are big parts of our team. They were all regulars for us. We've had to fill in those holes. We've had to bring in different people, younger people, and it takes time for that to gel. So it's been a process, but that's part of the game and we're going to get through this and we're going to be better for it."

The Stars miss the versatility and fight of a guy like Peverley. They miss the leaps and bounds of development Nemeth made and his solid defensive play. They miss Nichushkin's dynamic offense and (at times) beastly possession capabilities.

Because of those things, and others, patience really comes into play this season because the Stars have been forced to play young guys with little to no experience at this level. Both the most exciting and most frustrating experience as a fan is watching a rookie in the lineup. Excitement to see what he could turn into, and frustration at the dunderheaded plays that lead to goals against.

It's all part of the process.

"We're very young on the back end. We've brought in four young guys, one of them is hurt now, Nemeth, but [John] Klingberg, Oleksiak and Jokipakka, the total up to today is probably 60 or 70 games total that they've played in the NHL. So we're young on the back end, and there are going to be some hiccups because of that. We've brought in some young guys up front. They've gotta go through it. You have to learn how to play a certain way in the League, and that's what we have to get to." [Editor's note: it's 69 total, Jim Nill is on top of it, y'all.]

A lot of fans were clamoring for the youth to get their shot. That time is here now, and we have to be patient while they develop into NHL regulars. Sometimes that means the club takes a step backwards (like potentially missing the playoffs this season) to take two leaps forward (to become that consistent, perennial contender).

Ah patience, you old friend you...