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Dallas Stars Move Up In 2020 NHL Front-Office Confidence Rankings

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The team has surged from 19th place in 2019 to 10th in 2020. But some questions still linger about the organization under Jim Nill’s tenure.

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Media Day Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Nothing succeeds like success. And increased confidence in the Dallas Stars’ organizational vision is now evident after their trip to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

The Victory Green Gang has surged to 10th place in Dom Luszczyszyn’s fifth annual NHL front-office confidence survey on the strength of its roster building, cap management, and vision. Their position marks a nine-place gain from the 2019 edition, in which the Stars ranked 19th. Luszczyszyn, a well-established analytics maven and a national NHL reporter with The Athletic, created the survey, which also measures drafting and development, trading, and free agency.

Homegrown talent plays a big part in the Stars’ improved ranking. The playoffs performances of up-and-comers like Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz, drafted by Dallas and brought up in its system from their days with the Texas Stars and beyond, have proven a strong affirmation for GM Jim Nill’s organizational strategy:

It’s taken a while for the team’s ever-evolving vision to get results, but it was worth the wait for a lengthy playoff run. The Stars have a strong team built on defence and there’s the utmost confidence in the front office in building out that roster. This is Jim Nill we’re talking about and he’s not afraid to make a splash when necessary, getting decently high marks in both free agency and trading. Dallas’ cap management received the highest marks from the fans, likely a product of a Cup finalist having ample cap space with only RFA Roope Hintz left to sign. They’re in a good position to add if necessary.

It hasn’t always been this way. Notably, the Stars’ 2019 ranking suffered in large part because of the team’s reputation for being the home and breeding ground of first-round draft busts.

And some questions still remain about the Stars’ development of their own prospects. Once-promising first-rounders like Valeri Nichushkin, Jack Campbell, and even Jamie Oleksiak had to go to different teams to become everyday NHL’ers. Indeed, one angle we may be missing on the recent Julius Honka re-signing is the opportunity it represents for the team to change the narrative that they draft for sought-after skills, only to try to beat the very same skills out of those highly regarded recruits. Survey comments seem to focus on the difficult juggling act among trading, drafting and free agency:

“Dallas has shown they can construct a roster that can go the distance, has made huge strides in player development and most recently, shown they know what they truly lack through the most recent draft. They drafted mostly for playmaking and offence over size and high floor/low ceiling-projected players for the first time in many years.”

“The Stars’ front office seems either really strong or really bad. The Roman Polak signing (and re-signing!), trade for Kris Russell, Esa Lindell’s big contract, and poor development of Nichushkin, Honka, Oleksiak, and even Jack Campbell stand out as some negatives. They’ve done some great things, too, though — the Seguin trade, Gurianov and Hintz seemed to have panned out well and they are pretty consistently able to reel in big free agent signings while being cap conscious.”

Learn more about the methodology, and see how the rest of the league stacks up. [The Athletic]