Better Luck Next Year
New Dallas Stars GM brings hope to downtrodden hockey fans
The Dallas Stars season ended last weekend, and for the fifth straight time, the team did not make the playoffs. That franchise record will not be making it into programs next season. Joe Nieuwendyk isn’t going to be in those programs either.
Club owner Tom Gaglardi fired the former general manager a day after the season ended. It hopefully signifies the end of an era that has reduced the Stars to a second-tier franchise in Dallas.
Brenden Morrow, former captain and final thread from the great Stars teams of the late ’90s and early ’00s, was traded to Pittsburgh. Offseason free-agent pickups Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy, expected to lead a playoff push this season, were dumped before the deadline to complete the fire sale.
Owner Tom Gaglardi showed he’s committed to winning by bringing in Nill, who brings a keen eye and an expectation for winning.
To make matters worse, the Stars finished last in the Pacific Division, 16 points behind division-winning Anaheim, with 48 points. And the team failed to rank above 21 in league attendance for the third year in a row.
Granted, it was an improvement over being 28 out of 30, like the 2011-12 season, but still off the mark from when the Stars were perennially in the top 10 in attendance a decade ago.
Quite frankly, this team hasn’t endeared themselves to the common fan for a while now, and their performance hasn’t been worthy of the hardcore fans’ support.
Bandwagon fans exist for the simple reason that it’s not very fun to spend time and money on a team that fails to deliver. And the established fan base the Stars formerly enjoyed has withered due to sheer mediocrity and an unwillingness to try, really try, to put a better team on the ice.
Lose for a hundred years, and a team can be an endearing failure. Lose for five years, and it’s merely a disaster.
Thankfully for Stars’ fans, Gaglardi hired longtime Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill. The Red Wings beat the Stars 3-0 in the last game of the season to clinch a playoff spot for the 22nd straight season. That’s a record among all North American sports.
Nill brings a keen eye and an expectation for winning that means there might be a lean season or two as players come and go, but his hiring promises a brighter future.
It’s expected that current head coach Glen Gulutzan will not return for next season. Nill has said that he will meet with everyone on the staff before making decisions, but Gulutzan is a lame-duck coach if there ever was one.
The minor league Texas Stars offer another glimmer of hope after finishing the regular season on top of the Western Conference. Nill and Detroit are known for cultivating a deep farm and growing talent from within, and that recipe will hopefully transfer.
Homegrown players are the keystones of a successful franchise; the Texas Rangers have been able to enjoy their recent success thanks to strong drafting and savvy trading of minor leaguers. If the Stars are patient and smart, they can enjoy a rebirth of sorts.
The Stars might not make the playoffs next year. It’s more than likely they won’t, although a move to the Midwest Division will help against having to play a quarter of their games in a different time zone.
But, as the saying goes, it is darkest before the dawn. Gaglardi showed he’s committed to winning by bringing in Nill. It’s a waiting game now to see what Nill does, but for the first time in a while, there’s legitimate reason for optimism about the offseason.