Dallas Stars: Joe Nieuwendyk
I'll admit that when I first heard that Jaromir Jagr had signed with the Dallas Stars for $4.55 million, I was stunned. First, why would Jagr want to come to Dallas, a team that hasn't made the playoffs in four seasons? And second, at 40 years old, does he have enough left to be worth that kind of investment?
But it was clear when Joe Nieuwendyk talked with the media Tuesday evening that Jagr sold the Stars as much as they might have sold him. And this is a move that goes beyond what Jagr can do on the ice. That's not to diminish what he has left at all. The Stars seem so convinced, they've already penciled him in on the right wing of the top line, with Jamie Benn at center and Loui Eriksson holding down the left side.
"As we sit here in July, that looks pretty good," Nieuwendyk said.
No doubt it does. Jagr's arrival further the Stars' makeover. They've inserted three new top-6 forwards into their group with Derek Roy, Ray Whitney and now Jagr. Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott have been traded. Ott was being asked to be a top-6 forward, but he's not. And the three new players bring a fresh outlook to the dressing room.
It's also all of a sudden two lines that, at least on paper, have the ability to put more pucks in the net. (You know all of the ridiculous numbers Jagr has put up in his career, but he's never had a season of less than 50 points, and he managed 19 goals and 54 points for Philadelphia last year). That's a big deal for a Stars club that couldn't score last season. There are still some questions on defense with this team, but they appear to have a little more punch than they did last year, and maybe that's all they need to make the postseason. And making the postseason for a club that hasn't done so in four years would be a big deal, not only for the fan base, but for the young players. They need to experience a playoff run and what it takes to succeed. This is a growing team, not a Stanley Cup contender. But a huge step in that growth would be a playoff berth.
Jagr, though, can do more than that. The first person I thought about after hearing Nieuwendyk's excited voice was Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. Daniels sounded the same way when his club pulled off a trade in early July 2010 to acquire Cliff Lee. Obviously, that was different. Lee was thought to be the final piece for a team that could contend for the World Series. And he helped them win their first playoff series and ultimately get to the World Series.
But his impact was deeper than that. He mentored a young pitching staff, especially the left-handers. C.J. Wilson improved his game after seeing how Lee handled batters. Matt Harrison, even in spring training this year, talked about all the things he learned from Lee. And Lee was in Texas just four months.
That's what Jagr can do. He's a hard worker and made it clear to Nieuwendyk, Bob Gainey and Glen Gulutzan in a 45-minute conversation that he still had the passion to play. They didn't get the sense that Jagr was ready to simply skate around the NHL rinks and say his goodbyes to fans. Jagr isn't pondering retirement. He wants to play and he wants to help a young team.
It can only help the club's infusion of youth to see Jagr keep himself in shape with on- and off-ice workouts. It can only help for them to see someone dedicated to his craft and willing to do anything to win. It can only help if they are in the hunt for a playoff spot to have his veteran leadership in the dressing room to help guide them. It can only help at the box office too, where the Stars finally have a big-name player they can showcase to fans.
Is Jagr too old to really contribute? The Stars are betting $4.55 million on the answer being no. But the investment goes beyond what Jagr does on the ice -- and beyond just his one year in Dallas. That's why it makes sense. Let the young players learn from a guy like that, and then, when it's their time to lead the team and take it to the next level, they'll be better prepared to do so.
Gulutzan, who was hired last summer after two seasons as head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate, put together a 42-35-5 (.543) record in his first season. The Stars finished 10th in the Western Conference and 18th overall in the league.
“I think it was pretty solid,” Nieuwendyk said of Gulutzan’s first season. “He learned a lot and he’s going to grow with the team that we’re going to put together here in the next few years. I’ve always viewed him as a guy who is going to be a long-term coach. You have to go through some bumps to move ahead, and I think he experienced some bumps this year. We’re all going to push forward together.”
Heading into Saturday’s regular season finale against St. Louis, Gulutzan was asked to assess his first season as the bench boss of the Stars.
“I certainly learned a lot. I certainly know it’s a very tough league,” Gulutzan said. “The coaching staff certainly feels that we could have done a better job, certainly in a few areas to get this team into the playoffs. We take that responsibility seriously. We all have to get better. That’s certainly what we’re going to do next season. It’s certainly disappointing, these last few games, you have a goal in mind whether it’s your first season or your tenth. Everybody is competitive. We’ve just got to be better to get the job done. That’s the bottom line. “
As for what he learned in his first season, Gulutzan had this to say.
“The league is a lot more simple than you think it is. You have to be very consistent and you have do things a certain way night in and night out to get in,” he said. “It’s not some magic potion to get you in. It’s not anything mysterious to the other 29 coaches or the teams in this league. It’s a very simple formula, maybe almost boring at times. You have to stick with it for 82 games or the league will smack you down and put you in your place. That’s what I’ve learned.”
It wasn't that long ago that a regular-season tilt between the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars featured two of the top teams in the Western Conference and a Stars team that was stingy on defense, difficult to play against and opportunistic when given a scoring chance.
That was a team that won a Stanley Cup, with Joe Nieuwendyk capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy. It was an organization that contended with solid play at the blue line and goaltending that made all the big saves.
As the two prepare to face off at 7 p.m. tonight at American Airlines Center, Stars fans are starting to see signs of that type of team again, though it's a work in progress.
It's a team stressing the defensive part of the game. It's not that they don't want to score goals. They do. Nieuwendyk and coach Glen Gulutzan much prefer the 4-2 games to the 2-1 finals. But there's a belief that winning games starts inside your own blue line.
For that to even start to happen, though, Nieuwendyk had to change the most important position on the ice.
Click here to learn more about the key to the Stars' plan.
When the Stars beat Edmonton 4-1 Monday night they improved to 12-8-0 on the season. Their 24 points currently rank them sixth in the Western Conference and their .600 points percentage is sixth as well.
There have been ups and downs. They had an 11-3-0 start that featured winnings streaks of four and five games. Then there was the five-game losing streak that ended with Monday night’s victory over the Oilers.
“I’m pleased. We obviously went into a bit of a rut there, but I think we’re a learning team,” Nieuwendyk said. “Our coach is implementing some things, we’re learning how to try to put our game out there. I’m hoping [Monday] night was the start of something good again.”
In the victory over the Oilers, the Stars rolled out a balanced attack. Players from all four lines scored goals and eleven different players registered points. Nieuwendyk said depth is the biggest positive over the first 20 games, and that’s an issue he addressed with his offseason signings and an early season trade.
“I think Vernon Fiddler, (Eric) Nystrom and (Radek) Dvorak have given us a solid, real hardworking third line,” Nieuwendyk said. “We have better balance on our team than we’ve had the past couple years. “
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been superb for the Stars in the first quarter, posting a league-high 12 wins, a 2.35 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson have chipped in 19 points each over the first 20 games. Defenseman Sheldon Souray, another offseason signing, has been a big boost at both ends of the ice.
But Nieuwendyk said it will take everyone chipping in one way or another to carry the Stars over the course of the long season.
“We’re not going to win this on one or two guys,” Nieuwendyk said. “We need good work ethic and contributions from everybody.”
Moving forward, Nieuwendyk said he’d like to see a more consistent effort from the Stars, and not let frustration creep in the way it did when the Stars hit those bumps that are going to occur now and then over the grind of a long season.
“Consistency in our game. When we were 11-3-0 we were maybe reading our press clippings a little bit too much. Then we got a little dose of reality,” said Nieuwendyk. “I think maybe the key for the next 20 games is to find some consistency in our game. It’s going to be tough. You have to find a way to get your game out on the ice and not get frustrated. That’s been the theme the last week – let’s put the frustration aside and play our game and see how we measure up.
“It’s going to be tough and competitive all the way through. We see that in the standings. Sometimes you go through those growing pains and they make you stronger. All in all, our start has been pretty good through the first 20 games.”
*The Stars had an optional skate Tuesday. Toby Petersen, Jake Dowell, Krys Barch, Adam Pardy, Tom Wandell, Tomas Vincour and Andrew Raycroft were the players on the ice.
*Defenseman Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) skated on his own prior to the practice, handling and shooting pucks with his good hand. He also did some on-ice work with assistant coach Paul Jerrard.
Here's an excerpt from LeBrun's story:
On Dec. 19, 1995, Nieuwendyk was shipped to Dallas in a deal that sent Corey Millen and a prospect namedJarome Iginla to Calgary.
"We had some good draft picks coming down the line, like Jarome Iginla," former Stars GM Bob Gainey recently told ESPN.com about the Nieuwendyk acquisition. "There was a decision made that we would try and speed up that program, and see if we could enhance our team as we tried to establish ourselves in that new hockey community in Dallas."
The transition wasn't easy at first for Nieuwendyk.
"I really got in on the ground floor in Dallas," he said. "Hockey wasn't popular in those early years. We didn't have a very good team, and that first half-year I was there, I was thinking, 'Oh my God.' I had come from Calgary, where winning was everything. You go to Dallas where people were still learning what offsides were. It was a challenge and a very difficult transition."
But Gainey would bring in more big names, and the Stars became an NHL powerhouse in the late 1990s. They went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup finals to capture their first and only Cup. Nieuwendyk was sensational that spring, posting 11 goals and 21 playoff points en route to the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He was as motivated as ever.
"To ultimately win down there was an incredible experience because we had stolen some of the Dallas Cowboys' thunder. People fell in love with a bunch of blue-collar guys who were playing hard," Nieuwendyk said. "For me, it went back to the year before in the playoffs in 1998 with [Bryan] Marchment taking me into the boards. I miss those whole playoffs [he played only one game after the hit blew out his right ACL]. So the next year, it just really drove me.
"I think all the lessons I learned over my career, seeing how much it meant to our veteran guys in Calgary and I hadn't had a sniff at it over 10 years, you realized it wasn't easy. I was really focused for that playoff run."
The rest of the story is here.
Nieuwendyk was elected to Hall of Fame back in June along with former Star Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe.
“When you go through the course of your career you don’t think that you’re playing because you want to be a Hall of Famer. You play because you love the game and you love to compete and that’s what I tried to do over the course of my career,” said Nieuwendyk, who scored 564 goals in 1,257 NHL games .
He played 442 games for Dallas, where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999. He also won Stanley Cups in Calgary (1989) and New Jersey (2003).
Saturday’s ceremony, which will be star 6:45 p.m., will include a highlight video and the Stars presenting gifts to Nieuwendyk. Stars broadcasters Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh will be the emcees of the event.
The Stars also plan to honor Belfour for his election to the Hall of Fame later this season. That’s slated for February 4 when the Stars host the Minnesota Wild.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Nieuwendyk, Belfour, Gilmour and Howe will be held November 14 in Toronto.
Stars get look first look at East
Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils will be the Stars first game against an Eastern Conference opponent this season.
Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski, who played with Pittsburgh to start his NHL career, doesn’t see much difference between West and East.
“It’s splitting hairs. They’re all NHL players. Coaches don’t coach any differently,” Goligoski said. “A team like New Jersey, they are going to be very defensive. They have (Zach Parise) and (Ilya) Kovalchuk, who are go out there and wheel around and play the offense, but for the most part they’ll play pretty offensive. It’s pretty similar to the way things are out here.”
The Stars fared well against the East last season, posting an 11-5-2 record. The Western Conference as a whole fared well against the Eastern Conference in 2010-11.
West teams were 142-88-40 (.600) against the East last season, while East teams posted a 128-107-35 records against the West (.539).
So far this season it’s been a little tighter between the two conferences. In fact, it’s a dead heat as far as points percentage. The West is 20-13-6 (.590) vs. the East, while East teams are 19-12-8 (.590) vs. the West.
“No, quite the contrary. Obviously we’re going through this sale process and it is taking probably longer than any of us had anticipated. It is moving. I know that speaking with the league this thing will get resolved this season, prior to Christmas. It’s just been a long process. The good thing is it hasn’t taken away from anything what our team has been able to do. We increased our budget and went after players that could fill roles on our team and help us. We added seven players this summer and I feel really good about our team. We’ve been able to keep our off-ice issues away from the locker room and I think the guys are excited about the upcoming season.”
Nieuwendyk’s time frame is similar to what Tom Gaglardi, the Vancouver businessman who is trying to buy the Stars, said at the beginning of August. This all includes the sale winding its way through the courts to find out who the new owner will be.
The next big step is for a purchase agreement to get finalized and for the process to move into the courts. The latest word is that the case could be filed with the court by the middle of this month, just prior to training camp. Once it is filed we should start getting a better sense of how long the process will take and how it might play out as we wait to see if Gaglardi or another possible bidder will be the new owner of the Stars. Stay tuned.
Here was what Nieuwendyk had to say about Belak's death.
“Boy oh boy, it was a tough night sleeping. Just still in shock and devastated. Wade is one of those guys that was just a terrific teammate and everybody loved him. Everybody understood he had a difficult role playing in the National Hockey League, but he did so much more than that. He was great with the kids off the ice and he was a fan favorite and a media favorite. He was a terrific human being. It’s very difficult. I only played one year with him – it’s funny that I played only one year with him but he’s one of the guys I’ve kept in touch with since I’ve retired. It’s a tough time.”
*The Dallas Stars Icebreaker is scheduled for Saturday September 10 at Galleria Dallas. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature players signing autographs. More details will be available from the Stars as the event draws closer.
*The Stars are expected to honor Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour on separate nights this season. As you know, both Nieuwendyk and Belfour will be formally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November. The Stars are still in the planning stages of the Nieuwendyk and Belfour events, but expect them to be held in the fall.
FRISCO, Texas -- Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour won a Stanley Cup together with the Dallas Stars and now they’ll head into the Hockey Hall of Fame together.
Nieuwendyk and Belfour were two of four players elected to the Hall on Tuesday. Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe were the others.
Nieuwendyk, who was in his second year of eligibility, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP when the Stars won the Cup.
“I’m thrilled. I really am,” Nieuwendyk said at the Stars practice facility in Frisco. “It’s been a busy time with the draft and the work we have to do to get ready for free agency and this is a welcomed diversion, no question. I know how important it is in the history of the game and the select class of players that have gone into the Hall. I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
Nieuwendyk also won Stanley Cups with Calgary (1989) and New Jersey (2003). He won the Calder Trophy in 1988 as the NHL’s top rookie. He scored 564 goals in 1,257 NHL games.
“When you go through the course of your career you don’t think that you’re playing because you want to be a Hall of Famer. You play because you love the game and you love to compete and that’s what I tried to do over the course of my career,” he said. “I was fortunate to have success with a group of guys. To me that is what it is all about – the relationships and the teams that you have throughout your career. I was very fortunate in that regard.”
Belfour, who was in goal for the Stars when they won the Stanley Cup in 1999, made it into the Hall the first year he was eligible.
“It’s a great honor,” said Belfour. “I want to thank all my teammates that I played with over the years. Obviously, without them I couldn’t have had success. I want to thank all the great coaches I had over the years, my mom and dad, all my friends that backed me and that made me a better player and a better person on and off the ice. It kind of surprised me. There are a lot of mixed emotions because you always have it in your heart that you want to continue to play, but there is a point when it has to come to an end.”
Belfour was among the best goaltenders of his time, and his career numbers stack up among the best of all-time.
He’s third all-time in wins with 484, trailing only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. He’s tied for fourth all-time in games played with 963. He had 76 career shutouts, which is tied for ninth in NHL history. He won the Vezina Trophy twice, the Jennings Trophy four times and he won a Calder Trophy as well.
“I played with a lot of good goaltenders over my career and there was something ultra-unique about Eddie,” said Nieuwendyk. “I wouldn’t say he was socially with us all the time, but we knew he was preparing himself to play nets on any given night. He took his job very seriously. He competed at a high level and we knew Eddie was going to be there for us. If I had to go into a one game showdown, Eddie Belfour is the goalie that I would want in the net.”
Three players from that 1999 team are now in the Hall of Fame. Brett Hull is the other. Mike Modano is probably not far behind. Nieuwendyk thinks Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen will get consideration as well.
“It’s a reminder of the special time that we shared here from the mid-to-late 1990’s and the players we were associated with. It really was a terrific time for all of us and for the fans of Dallas. You appreciate those things when you go through your career and you don’t have those opportunities very often. We all came together for a common goal and it was very rewarding.”
I still don't get that. It was his first year of eligibility and the only thing I can figure is voters didn't want to put him in right away. I find that a bit ridiculous. He was just as much a Hall of Famer last year as he is this year. There was room for him to get in last year, just as there is this year. I think Tuesday will prove he's worthy of selection.
It's not difficult to make the case for Nieuwendyk. Check out this resume, which we also ran on this blog last year (there are a gaggle of hockey players very jealous of it):
* Three Stanley Cups with three different teams and in three different decades -- (Calgary in 1989, Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003).
* Few players were as clutch in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He played in 158 career postseason games and had 116 points, including 66 goals. He won the Conn Smythe Award (playoff MVP) in 1999, helping the Stars win the franchise's only Stanley Cup.
* He won a Gold Medal for Team Canada in 2002 and didn't win a medal with Team Canada in 1998 despite two goals in six games.
* Won the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1987-88 with Calgary, scoring 51 goals.
* Played in 1,257 games for five different teams (Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto and Florida). He scored 564 goals to go along with 562 assists for 1,126 points.
* He had two 50-goal seasons, two 40-goal seasons and four 30-goal seasons during his career.
* Was selected to the All-Star team four times (1988, 1989, 1990, 1994).
* He played 442 games for Dallas, scoring 178 goals and 162 assists.
What you don't see there is what Nieuwendyk did inside the dressing room of three different Stanley Cup-winning teams. Ask some of Nieuwendyk's teammates from that 1999 Stars team and they'll tell you that when Nieuwendyk had something to say, the guys listened. And his penchant for big goals at critical moments during that memorable playoff run got everyone's attention and showed his grit, determination and talent. It's why he won the Conn Smythe Award.
And it's those qualities, along with his impressive resume that make him a Hall of Famer. He's had to wait an extra year, but Nieuwendyk should get that phone call at some point on Tuesday letting him know he's in. He deserves it.
Here's what he had to say on free agents:
"I think we're in good shape," Nieuwendyk said. "Obviously we're not going to be able to sign Brad Richards, so along with his dollars and the budget we've been given by the National Hockey League, we're in a position where we can spend some money this time around. I am looking forward to it. We'll be busy all this week and come July 1 we'll be active pursuing free agents."
On the budget, he didn't give a specific number, but had this to say:
"Going into free agency we've been given a budget which exceeds what we were able to spend last year and goes above the floor the league sets on their pay structure," Nieuwendyk said. "We're excited. We have an opportunity to go out and get good players to help our hockey club."
The Stars spent between $46 million-$47 million last season. Right now, the Stars have about $38 million committed to the NHL roster with about six or seven roster spots open.
On the job Gulutzan did with the Texas Stars
“I think it is the overall package. Being able to follow our farm team as close as we have the last couple years and see the style of play that they have. No disrespect to the players that we have there, but we haven’t provided him with some of the high end talent that some of the American Hockey League teams have and he’s been able to manufacture a structure and style of play that has been ultra-competitive at the American Hockey League level. Look at what he did last year (2010 playoffs), taking Guy Boucher (Hamilton Bulldogs) to a Game 7 and winning in their building and getting to the Calder Cup Finals. It’s the organizational skills, it’s the ability to communicate, the bench demeanor. It’s the overall package that is going to translate into very positive things for our group here.”On the trend towards hiring younger coaches out of the AHL instead of guys with NHL head coaching experience
“I think it is a trend. I think the success of Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh) and Guy Boucher (Tampa Bay) in their first year out of the American Hockey League are examples of that. The league has gotten younger and I think maybe that is a factor. These coaches are young, innovative and have a good relationship with those young players. But I don’t want it to be a misconception that we have a young coach who happens to be with our young players. We have a young coach that we feel is going to be our leader. That’s where his strength lies. He young, but has a relationship with our guys. They’re certainly going to know who is in charge and they’ll play hard for him.”On the Stars' assistant coaches and putting together Gulutzan's staff
“Now that we have Glen on board, the next step will be for him to reach out to those guys over the next several days leading up to the draft. We’ll all be at the draft together. That will be a good time to meet face-to-face. That process will kick in now where Glen will meet with all those guys."
It's a critical decision in terms of selecting a leader that can help return the Stars to the playoffs and grow with a young team.
Read all about it here.
Now, the GMs want to take the word "blindside" out of the rule to allow more kinds of hits to fall under the rule.
"I think it is a broadening (of Rule 48), incorporating more of the hits that we don't like to fit within the rule. But now it has to go through its proper channels. We've made the recommendation. We'll meet with the competition committee. We obviously have to get input from the players' association and move this thing forward as the summer moves along," Nieuwendyk said.
More here from ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun.
Nieuwendyk also talked to reporters in Boston about his search for a head coach and his efforts to try to trade the negotiating rights of Brad Richards, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Pierre LeBrun had an update on that in a story on some of the other items from the GM meetings.
The Dallas Stars have interviewed four candidates so far in their head-coaching search: Kirk Muller, Peter Horachek (Preds assistant coach), Ken Hitchcock and Glen Gulutzan (Stars AHL coach).
GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he's nearing a decision this month.
"I'd ideally like to have it done before the draft, but certainly before free agency," he said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, trade talks involving the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Brad Richards continue.
"I have had discussions with teams. It's our intention as well to move those rights along, and so we're working towards that," Nieuwendyk said.
Richards, of course, would have to approve any trade. My impression is that there are mixed signals coming from the Richards' camp on whether Richards would be agreeable to waiving his no-trade clause, so we'll just have to be wait and see. I am not holding my breath waiting for it to happen, but I am not ruling it out either.
As for coaching search, Nieuwendyk talked about what he's looking for in a head coach earlier this week during a media briefing in Frisco.
"I am looking for a guy that can relate to players and grow with a young group of players," Nieuwendyk said. "I want a longer-term guy. I don't want the recycling. I want a long-term guy that can build with our young group of players. ... The offensive side of things hasn't been bad. Obviously, I'd like to be a little bit better on specialty teams. I think the structure and the fall back, forming more of an identity. That will be important in the qualities."
If you ask me, that sounds like Gulutzan. Although the more I learn about Horacheck, the more I am impressed. We should know who it is in a couple of weeks or so.
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