Dallas Stars: Tom Gaglardi

Nill practices patience turning Stars around

October, 22, 2013
Jim NillAP Photo/Tony GutierrezJim Nill says the Stars are probably about two years away from where they'd like to be.

FRISCO, Texas -- There isn’t much hanging on the walls of Jim Nill’s office, which sits just above the practice ice at Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco, home of the Dallas Stars.

There are nails, at least. But no pictures of Stars hockey players or even a few he helped bring to the Detroit Red Wings in his long tenure there.

“That’s on the list,” Nill said. “Be patient.”

Patience is something Nill is working hard to preach -- and even harder to practice.

The 55-year-old Western Canada native admits that the competitor in him makes it difficult for him to accept that turning around a Stars franchise that last made the playoffs when George W. Bush was still in the White House (and not yet living in Dallas) isn’t going to happen quickly.

“I’ve got to be honest: I think we’re going to turn the corner, but we’re probably two years away from what we should be,” Nill said last week. “The core of the team is 20 to 26 years of age. That’s young. You give those guys two years to mature and what we have coming up in the system and I think in two years we’ll have a solid core. That’s how Stanley Cup champions are built. We are in the early stage, but we have the talent.”

Tyler Seguin #91, Sergei Gonchar #55, Erik Cole #72, Jamie Benn #14 and Alex Chiasson
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJim Nill wants to find a young core to build the club around and keep improving.
It’s early in Nill’s inaugural season, but already his patience is getting tested. Dallas is 3-5-0 and is struggling on defense. The club is near the bottom of the league in shots against and, as you can imagine, is taking too many penalties thanks to the puck spending an inordinate amount of time in the Stars’ own end. It doesn’t help that starting goalie Kari Lehtonen has missed most of those games after tweaking his groin earlier in the season. He’s slated to return Thursday against Calgary.

“We just have to stay patient,” Nill said.

There’s that word again. What you won’t see in Nill is any kind of panic. That’s just not his style. Neither is skating into a new environment and showing off his guns despite his freshly-minted status as the Stars’ sheriff. But he has a way -- perhaps it’s his keen knowledge of the game and calm, yet assured demeanor -- of allowing his belief and confidence to seep into every aspect of the organization. He’s in charge, there’s no doubt about that. But he doesn’t have to flaunt it or demand it.

“The guy has no ego,” Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said. “He’s knows what he’s talking about. He’s on his game. He’s very competitive and hungry.”

Part of that comes from the fact that he was Ken Holland’s right-hand man in Detroit for so long, helping that organization draft, develop and hold onto key pieces that have made them the envy of most clubs in the NHL. And part of it is Nill has the ability to make those working for him feel immediately like they have a critical say in the direction of the franchise.
Maybe it’s that whole patience thing again. After all, Nill had chances to leave Detroit and didn’t. Part of it was his family. Part of it was his wife’s health -- Bekki has incurable liver cancer. It was discovered two years ago and 12 years after her breast cancer went into remission.

But when the Stars called, the Nills decided it was time for a move. That was after 19 years in management with the Red Wings and another three before that as a player.

Nill said he was sold after meeting Gaglardi and becoming convinced that there was stability in ownership and a commitment to winning. And he knew there were key pieces on the ice to building a contender.

“Any successful team is built from goaltending to defense to center ice,” Nill said. “You have to be good down the middle.”

Nill called Lehtonen a “great goalie” and is convinced he’s a player the team can build around.

“I don’t think he realizes how good he can be,” Nill said. “He’s at that age where he can figure it out.”

But the other two parts of Nill’s equation are going to take some work. He knew that before he arrived.

“There’s weakness on defense and we have to do something, but I know there are some prospects coming up,” Nill said. “That takes time. Defense is a tough position to learn. You need experience. The other big spot is center ice. That was a major hole.”

Nill went about plugging it. He moved Jamie Benn back to wing, his natural position, and named him team capatin. Nill made the biggest trade of his brief tenure, giving up a packaged centered by Loui Eriksson to get Tyler Seguin, a talented 21-year-old center. The deal didn’t come without some risk. Seguin made waves even before he skated in Dallas, putting some things on Twitter he shouldn’t have. But Nill managed to land one of the best centers available and did so by doing his homework. Boston needed to make a move with the salary cap dipping and the Stars had the ability to do it and improve their forward group. Nill made sure the Bruins had the Stars in mind when they were ready to make a move.

It was a deal in the mold of Nill’s philosophy: Find a young core to build the club around and then keep improving. Nill believes in doing that through draft and development, key trades and quality signings. It’s a blueprint that has made the Red Wings the envy of every organization in the NHL. You know the names -- Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary -- guys developed or obtained by the Wings that made up their core and shoved the winning window wide open.

Of course, sometime mistakes are made. You could argue, at least right now, that $10 million for two years of an aging Sergei Gonchar might not have been money well spent. But Nill will also argue that having Gonchar and even Shawn Horcoff teach the younger guys about life off the ice will help them two or three years down the road, when Gonchar and Horcoff aren’t a part of this club anymore.
Nill believes strongly in what he’s doing and he’s not going to change course, even when the ice gets a bit choppy.

“You have to have stability,” Nill said. “If you start making changes every two years on philosophy, you’re going to chase your tail.

“We’re going to draft and develop. That’s the key in the world of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement, which includes a salary cap). You have to make smart signings. If you get committed to somebody long-term for big money and it’s the wrong person, your hands are tied.

“We want to be a high-paced, hungry, competitive team. We’ll play hard and move the puck. You can’t play to not make a mistake. We want to make plays. But you have to be smart. That takes time to learn.”

Nill also knows it takes a coach to help make that happen. He made the decision to fire Glen Gulutzan shortly after he took the job and began a search. Nill wanted someone with experience who could motivate and teach a young group. So he hired Lindy Ruff.

“The process of hiring a coach was probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my young career as a GM,” Nill said. “You know people, but you don’t know them. You interview and some people are naturally polished and some aren’t. That may not mean anything.

“I don’t want to say I got lucky, but I got the right guy. He’s a great person. The one thing I didn’t realize is he’s such a detailed guy. His passion is unbelievable.”

Nill didn’t overhaul the existing management group. Instead, he came in and evaluated the people left after Joe Nieuwendyk’s departure and decided to keep most of them. Les Jackson, the assistant GM, is respected in the game for his ability to evaluate talent as he runs the club’s scouting department. Mark Janko and Scott White do a fair amount of negotiating contracts and keeping up-to-date on the CBA, which a quick glance makes it appear you need several advanced degrees to understand.

“He cares about every detail in the entire organization from players, player salaries and treating the players with respect as well as staff, training staff, scouts, everybody,” Janko said. “He wants to know about everything that happens every day, but not in a controlling way. It’s more in a leadership way.”

The Stars clearly have their leader. And he’s telling anyone who will listen that while he’s frustrated with his team’s start, he’s staying patient.

“Patience is tough for everybody,” Gaglardi said. “I expect to get better. I don’t want to go backward. How far that takes us in terms of making the playoffs or how many rounds we win? I don’t know. I think this is a core of guys that in the next couple of years are going to improve and then in year three or four or five, we’ve got a real shot to win. That’s what we’re building for. But it takes time.”

In the meantime, Nill and his staff will continue to look for any way to improve the club while never wavering from their philosophy. Perhaps with some of that patience, Nill could hang a few photos on his office wall, though?
DALLAS -- Ten years after leaving the Dallas Stars organization, Bob Gainey returned Wednesday and was formally introduced as the team’s new Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department.

“It's a good time for me because I have followed the trail of the changes and the progress in the NHL from the administrative view over the past 20 years,” Gainey said during a press conference at American Airlines Center. “We’ve had a number of changes to the CBA, there’s been expansion and big changes a few years ago on how the game is played on the ice with rule changes. I've been able to live and adapt through all of that and take certain parts out of each of them that can apply today.”

The 58-year-old Gainey, who was acting in a similar capacity with the Montreal Canadiens until a couple months ago, said he will be a “consultant without boundaries.” He will offer input on various issues throughout the organization, on both the hockey side and the business side.

“I’ve had many experiences in pro hockey over a long period of time in the NHL,” Gainey said. “My goal would be to use some of those experiences, some of those valuable lessons learned to assist Tom Gaglardi in his ownership position, to assist Jim Lites in his position as president and CEO and to assist Joe Nieuwendyk in his operation of the hockey department in any way possible to bring the Dallas Stars in a better competitive light, better financial light and to rejoin in the sports community in Dallas as an important player.”

Gainey, who won five Stanley Cups as a player with Montreal, was the head coach of the Stars from 1990 to 1996 and general manager from 1992 to 2002. He was the architect of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. He was GM in Montreal from 2003 to 2010, making the playoffs four of five years and finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2007-08.

“Bob Gainey is a winner,” said Lites. “We want to win the Stanley Cup. That's our goal, and that’s all we’re thinking about. Having a person of Bob's stature will help us get there.”

As far as Gainey’s exact responsibilities and how everything will work, that is still a work in progress.

“As we move ahead we’ll continue to define the description of things,” said Nieuwendyk. “Using Bob as a resource, so much history, so much experience, wisdom and insight, I will be able to benefit a lot from those things. We’ll define things as we move along. From my perspective, it’s a tremendous opportunity. I am really looking forward to communicating with Bob on a number of levels with team related issues.”

And it will take some time for Gainey to re-familiarize himself with the organization. He’ll spend time learning the players so he can offer input on that side of things.

“An outside set of eyes can bring a different view. Somebody that is overvalued, I might have a different view of that or somebody that is undervalued, I could have a different view of that,” Gainey said. “I am going to need to see training camp, some of the season and some of the games in Austin to be able to apply my opinion and my analysis to the players that are in the system.”

The hiring of Gainey is another step in the process as the Stars try to move forward Gaglardi, who said turning around a team that has missed the playoffs four years in a row will take time, but that adding someone of Gainey’s caliber on the management side of things is a big boost.

“We want to get better and we need to get better obviously and that's a process, unfortunately,” Gaglardi said. “I wish there were quicker ways to get there, but the only way to do this the right way is with young players and through the draft and developing players. That's what I've learned in my stint as an owner in another league (Western Hockey League) and I don’t think it’s any different in this league. Free agency is one route to get better, but it's wrought with pitfalls. You have to be very smart, and at some level lucky, to benefit that way. And obviously there are trades.

“The best way I know how to get better is to have great management, so it’s exciting for me to have a man of Bob’s experience, status and wisdom express a desire to join our organization. It was a no-brainer for us.”
The Dallas Stars made the hiring of former GM Bob Gainey as a consultant official today. Gainey will be introduced at a press conference next Wednesday. Here's the release from the Stars.
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has hired Bob Gainey as Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department.

Gainey, 58, returns for his second stint with the Stars’ organization. He was the club’s head coach from 1990-1996, and served as General Manager of the team from 1992-2002. Gainey was truly the architect in leading the Stars franchise to seven consecutive playoff berths, five division titles, two Stanley Cup Finals appearances, and of course, the 1999 Stanley Cup championship.

"I have great faith in the vision Tom Gaglardi, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jim Lites have in rebuilding this franchise,” said Gainey. “I'm looking forward to rejoining the organization, and lending my advice and guidance as we strive to get the Stars back on top."

"I'm extremely pleased that we are adding a respected hockey man the caliber of Bob Gainey as a senior advisor to our staff,” said Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “His experience and wisdom in this business is second-to-none, and he'll be an incredible asset as we continue to build our team to championship levels."

A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Gainey most recently worked in the Montreal Canadiens organization, serving in a variety of capacities, including general manager of the club from 2003-2010. He served as the Habs’ interim head coach on two occasions and was most recently a special advisor to the general manager. In his time with the Canadiens, he helped lead the team to playoff berths in four of five seasons as GM, including the 2007-08 season when Montreal ended the regular season with the Eastern Conference’s best record.

“The Stars had a fantastic opportunity to add a universally-respected hockey man in Bob Gainey to the mix, and his presence and voice will be extremely beneficial to the group moving forward,” said Stars President Jim Lites.

A 1992 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gainey won five Stanley Cups as a player, an NHL-record four Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward, as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the 1978 Playoffs. In 1,160 career regular season NHL games, all with the Montreal Canadiens, Gainey amassed 239 goals and 262 assists for 501 points. He added 73 points (25 goals, 48 points) in 182 career Stanley Playoff contests.
The Dallas Stars are close to hiring former GM Bob Gainey as a consultant, team president and CEO Jim Lites said Wednesday. An official announcement is expected next week.

“I’m a big fan,” Lites said. “We’re excited because of what Bob brings to this market, to this team and to the needs we’ve identified collectively. I just think he is going to be great.”

Gainey, who won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, joined the Stars franchise as head coach in 1990 and became GM in 1992. He stepped down as coach in 1996, but kept the GM title through 2002. He was the GM when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999.

He also served as Montreal’s GM from 2003-2010 and had been a consultant with the Canadiens until just recently.

Lites said Gainey could consult on a variety issues throughout the organization, especially as an extra voice of input for GM Joe Nieuwendyk.

“He’s actually offered to help in any way he can,” Lites said. “But’s he’s really going to be a senior adviser guy on issues like, not so much who should we hire as opposed to do we need to hire anybody? How do you want to grow? How do we make ourselves bigger and better? Do we need more experience in a particular place? Do we need a more experienced guy in Cedar Park and who should those candidates be?

“At the end of the day those decisions will be made by Joe but Joe will enjoy, I think, a deeper, richer voice. And Joe has been real supportive. Joe has good chemistry with Bob."

Lites added that the hiring of Gainey is another sign that Tom Gaglardi is willing to do what it takes to get the franchise on the right track.

“The market will appreciate that Tom Gaglardi is saying that I am going to make us better,” Lites said. “You don’t get Bob Gainey for ten bucks.”

Prospect Note: OHL Finals

Dallas Stars prospects Jamie Oleksiak and Brett Ritchie are on the brink of elimination in the Ontario Hockey League Finals. Their Niagara team lost 4-1 to London Wednesday night in Game 4 of the series.

London leads the series 3-1. Ritchie had an assist in Wednesday’s game. Game 5 is Friday night.

The winner of the series will advance to the Memorial Cup, which will feature the champions of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and this year’s host team, the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.
FRISCO -- Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan usually takes a break after the season, but not this year. He’s not used to missing the playoffs.

Gulutzan’s teams made it both seasons he coached in the AHL and five of six years when he was in the ECHL. So, after missing the postseason tournament in his first season as an NHL head coach, Gulutzan and his staff will stay busy preparing for next season.

“Usually I’ve taken a little bit of a break, but this year we won’t. We’ve got to dig in to a few things. We’re asking the players to be better in certain areas and us coaches have to be better. We have to be held to the same standard,” Gulutzan said. “Chances are we won’t work on Fridays, but Monday through Thursday and at nights watching other teams play – we’re going to go through video here until we are ready to go.”

The Stars coach said he probably won’t watch too much of the first round of the playoffs. The emotions are still raw after not getting into postseason play. But he’ll have plenty of video of his team to watch.

Gulutzan spent all day Wednesday holding exit interviews with his players. Talks he said were productive.

“From an interview standpoint they were good and enlightening. They probably ran a little bit longer than everybody wanted, but you’ve got to tidy up loose ends and look for anything that can move you forward,” he said. “I thought we had some good honest dialogue with lots of players and lots of positive stuff that came out of a finish that we really didn’t want. We got a lot of positive stuff and I think everybody is going to be better for it next year.”

Gulutzan is optimistic about things moving forward. He believes the team made strides this season, despite missing the playoffs. And with owner Tom Gaglardi now at the helm and GM Joe Nieuwendyk having more flexibility to add pieces, Gulutzan believes the Stars are ready to take another step forward next season.

“If you look at the young guys we brought up, our D, our goaltending , the way some guys had career years, like Jamie Benn and some of the players we brought in a year ago, if we can build off that a little bit,” Gulutzan said. “Every year you are trying to make your team a little bit better, we did so this year even though we maybe didn’t show it in the standings. We certainly did make some strides with the personnel we brought in. We’ve got to continue to develop from within and maybe bring a couple guys in and put ourselves to be position to be first in the division with one game to go.”
FRISCO -- The Dallas Stars cleaned out their lockers in Frisco Wednesday and there were mixed emotions. There was disappointment that the team was packing it up and shutting it down for the season just as the Stanley Cup playoffs were getting underway.

“It’s very disappointing. We were very close but not able to make it,” said goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “It hasn’t hit me yet and it probably won’t until other teams start playing tonight. That’s going to be hard to see, them going for the Cup and we’re just eating popcorn and watching.”

There was some optimism as well. The past couple of years the Stars have headed into the offseason under the cloud of uncertain ownership. But now, with Tom Gaglardi firmly in place as the team’s owner, things are looking up for next season and beyond.

“It’s going to be nice to have an owner here this summer. Our future is bright,” said forward Jamie Benn. “We have a lot of good young players. You saw that in the last game. I think we’re going up. We’re going to keep progressing here and see what we can do.”

This is the fourth straight season the Stars have missed the playoffs, three of them under current GM Joe Nieuwendyk. But for the first time since he has taken over, Nieuwendyk will not have his hands tied by a tight budget and will have the backing of a strong owner.

“This summer is different than many summers because since day one that Tom Gaglardi took over you could feel that a cloud moved away from our organization,” said Nieuwendyk. “He’s passionate about winning, he cares about our group and we sensed that from the day he took over. There was a different buzz about our team and that is exciting, not only for the last couple months but looking ahead to next season and this summer.

“It’s a different dynamic in play this summer, having that stability, having that backing, now I feel like we’re a player again.”

The Stars, who are in a good position as far as the salary cap and have an owner who is willing to spend some to money if the situation is right, are expected to be an active player in the free agent market when it opens July 1. They should be a more active player when it comes to trade talks as well.

“The good news is we have flexibility. You need cap room and flexibility to be successful, if you don’t have you can’t,” said Stars president Jim Lites. “The difference between this year and last year there now is a guy there that you can call and say we have an opportunity to sign this player to this contract and he can make a difference for us for ten years. That opportunity didn’t exist before. That’s in the unrestricted free agent market.

“And, almost as important now, I think, is our opportunity to participate in is what I call the ‘we want to make a change but we’ve got no flexibility market,’ which is how this franchise acquired Brad Richards. A contract was stifling a team that overspent on a player, and it helps you get better. I think we’re there now. I think that is the biggest difference.”

As far as a budget for spending, Nieuwendyk said that is still to be determined. And there is still the question of what kind of system the Stars and the other 29 teams will be operating under when the league and the NHLPA negotiate a new CBA. The current one expires September 15.

The salary cap is expected to go up from the current level of $64.3 million prior to free agency on July 1, but the new system could bring changes and the possibility of a lower cap. Nieuwendyk said the Stars will have to play things smart and be prepared.

“We don’t know what the landscape is going to look like September 15, but what I will say is that we are well positioned as any team moving forward,” Nieuwendyk said. “We can’t say what the cap will be or what some of the dynamics that will be in play, but we are open for business and will be able to talk to a lot of teams about trades, free agency when it comes to July, and ways of making our team better."

Q&A with Tom Gaglardi

April, 8, 2012
Here’s a brief question and answer with Stars owner Tom Gaglardi on the team’s season.

Thoughts on the season

“You have ups and downs and right now it is a down. I think to properly comment on it you need to take some time because the highs are too high and the lows are too low. Seven or ten days ago, we were really proud of what the guys had done in terms of we were the second hottest team in the league since the All-Star break. We put ourselves from kind of out of it into being in it, and feeling like we’re pretty certain we’re going to be in the playoffs. Then a stretch of games where we lost our mojo, kind of forgot how to win. For the most part, even with the rough ending, most of the guys worked pretty hard and tried hard, but the X-factor wasn’t there as far as figuring out how to win games. A lot of that could be the power play, I don’t know. It’s disappointing. I think we’re as good or better than teams that are in the playoffs, so it is a tough pill to swallow.”

On making decisions moving forward

“I’ve been owner half a season, so this is a new experience. I’ve been involved in the mini-NHL in terms of the Western Hockey League; you just can’t make big decisions right now. Everybody is disappointed. To properly reflect on it the best thing I can do is go away and find a beach for a couple of weeks. We can all do that and then make proper, pragmatic and sound decisions on where we’re going.

“The rhetoric hasn’t changed. We have a pretty good idea of where we’re at as far as the competition, and we know we need to get better. This is a short-term setback for us. It would have been nice to get some guys some experience in the playoffs and that’s the most disappointing thing, but that doesn’t change where we were a month, two weeks ago or anything. We’ve got to get better and we’ll continue to do that.”

Do you expect to be active in free agency?


On what he sees as the team’s needs

“I don’t see a position that we don’t need to get better at. We need more scoring depth, clearly. Secondary scoring wasn’t there when we needed it. Our top line carried us there for a while, but once it stopped we weren’t able to muster up enough offense.

I think we’ve got to look at our power play, finished last in the league and broke a record for fewest goals as a franchise on the power play. That’s a real concern. A lot of the power play starts at the backend.

“I love our goalie. We’ve got good depth there with the kid that came up, (Richard) Bachman. I think he did a marvelous job this year. There’s also Jack Campbell in Texas, so we’re in solid shape there and these guys are all on contract, so we don’t have to worry about that position.

“But I think we have to look at everything – our scoring lines, our power play and our defense. We want to get better. I don’t think it is any one thing. We’ve got to be a deeper team. I don’t think anything has changed. We were saying that at the deadline, we’ve been saying that ever since I’ve been here.”

On the attendance over the final part of the season

“I think what we accomplished attendance-wise was beyond my expectations for sure. That’s why it’s a sad day. In any hockey organization the worst day of the season is when you realize you are not in the postseason. That’s what we are going through since (Thursday night) and to some extent after the San Jose game (on Tuesday). That was really our opportunity. It’s really a sad week.

But the leadership group upstairs – the nice thing is you walk in and Jim Lites and the guys are pumped and jacked because you can feel the momentum about changing the organization overall. Attendance is part of that, and we have a lot of great things happening. That’s what happens when you put together a great team of people, because management is everything. Management is underrated, it is everything. With good management will come success both on and off the ice. We’ll be doing that. But it feels good attendance-wise. It’s a nice surprise.

And in terms of the playoffs, the nature of the Western Conference is that we can say that our fans didn’t see playoff hockey this year, but the last 20 games we’re playoff hockey. Anyone who was at the San Jose game Tuesday night can’t say that wasn’t a playoff environment. The last 20 games have been like that. There’s no more gravity for a playoff game than what we faced the last several games and we got the fan base emotionally attached for a desperate attempt at the playoffs. We fell short, but at least we we’re in it. I guess this season we have one somewhat meaningless home game, and that’s not the end of the world. It is what it is and we’ll move on.”
Here’s a quote from Stars Tom Gaglardi on what he sees as the team’s needs as the Dallas Stars prepare to head off into the offseason.
“I don’t see a position that we don’t need to get better at. We need more scoring depth, clearly. Secondary scoring wasn’t there when we needed it. Our top line carried us there for a while, but once it stopped we weren’t able to muster up enough offense.

“I think we’ve got to look at our power play, finished last in the league and broke a record for fewest goals as a franchise on the power play. That’s a real concern. A lot of the power play starts at the backend.

“I love our goalie. We’ve got good depth there with the kid that came up, (Richard) Bachman. I think he did a marvelous job this year. There’s also Jack Campbell in Texas, so we’re in solid shape there and these guys are all on contract, so we don’t have to worry about that position.

“But I think we have to look at everything – our scoring lines, our power play and our defense. We want to get better. I don’t think it is any one thing. We’ve got to be a deeper team. I don’t think anything has changed. We were saying that at the deadline, we’ve been saying that ever since I’ve been here.”

Gaglardi: 'A tough pill to swallow'

April, 6, 2012
Here’s a quote from Stars owner Tom Gaglardi on the team’s season, mostly on the end and missing the playoffs. Gaglardi was in Frisco on Friday as the Stars held their final practice of the season.
“You have ups and downs and right now it is a down. I think to properly comment on it you need to take some time because the highs are too high and the lows are too low. Seven or ten days ago, we were really proud of what the guys had done in terms of we were the second hottest team in the league since the All-Star break. We put ourselves from kind of out of it into being in it, and feeling like we’re pretty certain we’re going to be in the playoffs. Then a stretch of games where we lost our mojo, kind of forgot how to win. For the most part, even with the rough ending, most of the guys worked pretty hard and tried hard, but the X-factor wasn’t there as far as figuring out how to win games. A lot of that could be the power play, I don’t know. It’s disappointing. I think we’re as good or better than teams that are in the playoffs, so it is a tough pill to swallow.”

Tom Gaglardi's big hit

February, 29, 2012
Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi was making the media rounds in the area earlier this week, pumping up the team and the sport. D Magazine's FrontBurner blog ran this little video item on Gaglardi, which shows him as a man more interested in action than talk. The victim here is D Magazine editor Tim Rogers.

Stars have eye on future as deadline looms

February, 27, 2012
The NHL’s trade deadline hits at 2 p.m. CT and by then or shortly thereafter all the speculation about what the Dallas Stars may or may not do as far as trades will end. We will have all the answers. For now, all we can do is speculate.

It’s easy to get caught up in the Stars’ recent little run here and lose sight of the big picture, which is the future. The Stars want to be consistent contender, not a team battling for a lower playoff spot year in and year out. To build that is going to take a little time. The Stars want to do that by getting younger and building around Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley and Kari Lehtonen.

It’s also tough to ignore the Stars’ little run here and where they sit as Monday’s deadline looms. They are in a playoff spot, just one point out of seventh place, three points out of sixth and three points away from the Pacific Division lead. At the same time, they only have a three point margin over eleventh place. Nothing is secure here. They haven’t locked up anything. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played.

So, the Stars are in a spot where they’d like to try to balance the present and the future as much as possible, but things still tilt towards the future. Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who has made that clear several times, did it again on Fox 4 Sunday night.

“It’s important to make the playoffs. We are trying very hard to do it, but I don’t think it’s the biggest goal in the world for us right now,” Gaglardi said. “What we want to try to do is make our team better for longer. We think it’s a playoff team and as a consequence, Joe Nieuwendyk is listening to a lot of teams who are preying on some of our older, better players. Those are conversations we think at today’s cycle, where we are as a team, we have to listen to.”

So that means they are going to listen to offers for a guy like Steve Ott. He is the kind of player teams covet at the deadline. He can win faceoffs, kill penalties, bring physicality and grit, and pop in some goals, too. And for the Stars, he can bring a nice return.

But the Stars listening doesn’t mean they are going to move him. It will take a great deal for someone to pry Ott out of Dallas, and the Stars are going to need a young player who, I believe, can will help them now and be a part of the plan moving forward.

The Stars will listen to offers for other players as well and it likely will be the same scenario – it will cost to get them. Mike Ribeiro’s name has been in the rumor mill. Other names probably will come up as well. They should listen.

Again, listening doesn’t mean they have to do anything. Could they do nothing? Sure. No reason to make a deal just to make a deal. If there’s a deal that fits what you’re trying to do, make it. If there’s nothing there, don’t. Could they do some minor deal to help them now? That’s possible, too. The playoffs may not “biggest goal in the world right now,” but it is still a goal and something like that isn’t going to derail the master plan, which is to get better in the long run.

Q & A with Stars owner Tom Gaglardi

February, 11, 2012
Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who shared his thoughts on the team and the upcoming trade deadline.

On his assessment of the team’s play so far this season (Note: interview was done day after the Phoenix game and prior to the back-to-back games with Columbus and Buffalo)

“We’re inconsistent. I think we have a playoff caliber team. I think we’ve proven that through different stages of the year. Clearly, there are some hallmarks of a young team with the inconsistency. We’ve had some puzzling nights, but mostly we work hard. It’s not a team that I would say I am regularly upset about being outworked. I can’t stand being outworked. I think we all know the caliber of our roster vis--vis the other clubs, and where we sit. The thing we can’t accept is being outworked. But that’s not something that has troubled me a lot this season.

And our back-to-back record has been woeful. That’s something that has got to stop. We’ve played in some tough buildings against some tough teams, but I am getting tired of the excuse there.”

On the importance of making the playoffs this season

“I think it is pretty important. I think it is important in terms of building your season ticket base. I don’t think it’s as important as the media has written because, in the long term, we want to be a competitive team for the longer term more than we necessarily care about this year.

“If we make moves at the deadline and if we make moves in the summer, they are more likely moves about being better longer than being better now. Having said that, we’re not going to do a deal that makes us worse now. I don’t see that happening because Joe (Nieuwendyk) still thinks we can make the playoffs, and we don’t want to jeopardize that.

“It is important to make the playoffs, but if we are going to look to improve our team then it won’t be something that makes us less competitive the next three to five years. There’s a balance there, I think.

“We’ve got some nice pieces in place with Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley – we’ve got five, six or seven pieces that teams would like to have. I think if we can build around that then that is probably we’re going to try to do.”

On how much where the Stars are in the standings will dictate what happens at the deadline

“We have a lot of games in February. We’re going to have a clearer picture, or not, by the deadline of where we are in the standings. We still might be in the same spot, we might be in better shape or we might be in worse shape. I honestly don’t think that is going to change a whole lot with what we are going to do. It might a little bit, but we’re not a franchise that is going to trade its best older player for three first round draft picks. I don’t see us doing that deal.

“We want to get better for the longer term and not just for the shorter blip. I think that might take the Stars out of the running for certain players you might see available at the trade deadline, those older guys. We think there are things we can do and there are players that we have identified that would fit what we want. “

Could those things cost a lot?

“They might. I don’t know. We’ll see. The theme, as I see it, is we want to get deeper where we are weak, but not at the expense of where we are today. And I think there are things that we can do. There are transactions that may or may not be available to accomplish that. I think if you ask Joe, he’ll tell you the same thing.”

On what he sees as the team’s needs

“We have quite a bit of depth at defense. The Hockey News had us in the middle of the league (ranked 15th recently). I think we’re a bit better than that. We lack that big No. 1 guy, but then so do a lot of teams. You get into that No. 2 and No. 3 three spot with (Alex) Goligoski and (Trevor) Daley – those are the guys you’d have at No. 2 and No.3 – and those are pretty good players.

“I like our D, we’ve got a lot of depth. Some of the guys that haven’t been playing regularly would be playing regularly on other teams, I think. And it’s nice to see guys like (Philip) Larsen step up and grab a pretty regular spot. I don’t think anybody saw that coming at the beginning of the year.

“Would we like to have a Zdeno Chara or a Nick Lidstrom? Yeah, but so would 20-odd other teams. But I think we’re in pretty good shape there.

“On the farm we’ve got some kids coming with (Patrik) Nemeth and (Jamie) Oleksiak and guys we think can play. We’re in pretty good shape there.

“I think we struggle on offense. A lot of times we don’t score enough goals. And our power play has been awfully inconsistent as well. I think our role players, we’re in pretty good shape there. As a glaring weakness on our team, in my mind, it’s top six. We’re young and we’re not deep enough.”
The Dallas Stars continue to talk to Mike Modano about a job in the organization, according to team president Jim Lites.

Modano announced his retirement in September after a 21-year career in the NHL, 20 of them with the Stars franchise.

Lites said Modano, the franchise’s all-time leader in just about every offensive category, likely will join the team on the business side of things, but the Stars want to make sure they find the right job for Modano, not just any job.

“Mike will do whatever we want; I just want to make sure we use him effectively. I want to make sure he is comfortable with what he is doing and it is substantive,” Lites said. “So what we want to do with Mo is get him comfortable and know what he wants to do because if we have him do things he is not comfortable doing, it will fail and that won’t be good. We hopeful and we’re getting closer.”

Modano’s met with Lites several times and he’s met with Tom Gaglardi, who discussed Modano joining the Stars when he took over the team last month.

“The guy is the most important player I think to ever have worn a Stars jersey. In my opinion, he’s the best American-born hockey player to ever play in the NHL. I’ve gotten to know Mike in the last little while and enjoyed my time with him,” Gaglardi said. “I’ve expressed an interest that I’d like to have him involved in some capacity with the Dallas Stars and Mike has expressed the same thing to me, and more recently to Jim Lites. Those are discussions I expect to have with Mike to figure out what he wants to do and where he might be able to fit. It’s my intention to include Mike Modano with the Dallas Stars organization.”

Lites said he’s not sure when Modano might join the organization, but he did not rule out the possibility of it happening at some point this season.

As for Modano’s number being retired by the Stars, a team official said that is in the early planning stages. No date has been set.

Stars lowering individual ticket prices

December, 8, 2011
FRISCO -- Tom Gaglardi is ready to launch his first initiative as the new owner of the Dallas Stars. The team is cutting prices for individual tickets starting Friday. The new prices affect most seating areas of American Airlines Center.

“One of the first things we did as a management team was look at individual ticket prices,” Gaglardi said. “The fans spoke and we listened. We’re pleased that we can now offer a $9 ticket and we feel that these new prices make Stars games more affordable. Our team needs a full building every night to give us a true home-ice advantage.”

The new prices go into effect immediately for the remainder of the Stars games for the 2011-12 season. Highlights of the plan include:

Mezzanine (Upper Level) Pricing

*The introduction of a $9 ticket (down from $15)

*A re-pricing of much of the Mezzanine; 85.6% of the upper level is now priced at $25-or-less

*The best seats of the Mezzanine have been reduced to $40 from $45

Lower Level Pricing

*A re-classification in the lower bowl to two main price points: $70 and $110

*Almost two-thirds (63.6%) of the seats in the lower bowl are now $70

*Over 1,500 seats have been reduced 30% from $100 to $70

*The best seats in the house (center ice) have been reduced from $150 to $110

The goal is simple. The Stars want to get people in the building. The Stars rank 29th in the league with an average attendance of 11,469 so far this season. In 2009-10 they averaged 17,215, ranking 17th.

“It’s pretty obvious we have a challenge. Our team has been faceless and ownerless for a bit of time,” said Stars president Jim Lites. “We’ve seen an erosion of our season base and our ticket base in general. It’s always alarming and it happens in situations like this.”

The season ticket base is around 6,000 and the Stars have been selling about 5,500 individual tickets per game. Now, with Gaglardi and Lites at the helm, the Stars are starting the process of rebuilding attendance.

Since the new ownership came with the season already underway, the decision was made to tackle individual tickets first.

“We want to take advantage of the attention that is on us. The team is performing real well, so eyes are on us,” said Lites. “Tom said to me I want to react quickly, I want to do the right thing, what can we do? We studied what other teams have done where there was an ownership change in midseason, including the Texas Rangers in our market a year ago. Chuck Greenberg got a lot of positive feedback and fans by adjusting some prices. In their case it was less tickets and more concessions and parking. In our case we are starting with the basic premise of tickets because we need fans.”

The Stars did some market research and one issue stood out.

“Price, in every area of the building, is the first negative that our research revealed,” said Lites. “In talking about it with Mr. Gaglardi he said, ‘Jim, do what you’ve got to do to fill the building.’ I did some rescaling and simplifying of prices and some pretty dramatic changes in prices kind of across the board, almost everywhere. This is the result of the research that was done, what the fans were telling us and how Mr. Gaglardi and our management team have chosen to respond.”

The lower of individual ticket prices is one step in the process. Lites said addressing the season ticket sales will come down the road.

“We’re studying what the best franchises are doing,” said Lites. “What are they offering their season ticket holders? What’s special?”

Lites mentioned a YouTube video of Pittsburgh Penguins players delivering season ticket packages to season ticket holders. Don’t be surprised if Dallas Stars players are doing the same in the near future.

As for the new individual ticket prices, fans can take advantage starting Friday December 9 at 10 a.m. by going to DallasStars.com or by calling 214 GO STARS.

New owner taking smart approach to cap

November, 23, 2011
Those that want Tom Gaglardi to simply open up his checkbook and get the Dallas Stars to the ceiling of the salary cap might be a little disappointed. It's not that Gaglardi isn't going to spend. He is. He made that clear earlier this week.

"In the mid to long term, this has to be one of the top payroll teams," Gaglardi said. "We’re in a big enough market to support that. We’re going to win, but I don’t think it makes any sense to go out and roll the dice and get it done with a big name free agent right away."

Jumping to the ceiling doesn't guarantee anything. Some owners don't mind coming in and making a big splash. Gaglardi seems content to stand pat for now. And I think that's smart.

If GM Joe Nieuwendyk needs some reinforcements (and he will), he'll have the money to do that. But there's no reason to start throwing money around at this point. Nieuwendyk has done a nice job of identifying the core of the team and adding to that with short-term free agent contracts that allowed the club to stay at the basement of the cap. To keep some of those talented young players in Dallas for a long time, the club must have room under the cap to sign them in the future. (It's not unlike the Rangers, who know they have to sign some critical players in the next few seasons).

Gaglardi trusts Nieuwendyk and when the GM needs to make some moves and spend some more money, he'll have the ability to do that. That's important. But it doesn't mean he'll go out and throw large money and a big name free agent or someone he can grab at the trade deadline that has a long-term deal, only to find out in a few years that because of that, a member or two of the core can't be re-signed. That's not the plan.

Nieuwendyk has a smart blueprint and Gaglardi intends to follow it. As the salaries for the younger players increase, so will the payroll. And it won't take long to get it up where it should be for this market. Just don't expect that to happen all at once.