The Dallas Stars: Anyone Remember Hockey?

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The General Manager

Like Jim Lites, Jim Nill has a long history with the Detroit Red Wings and that is a good thing. Even after Jim Lites left the Red Wings continued to excel and become the model franchise of not only the NHL but arguably North American pro sports. They have made the playoffs 22 years in a row and won 4 Stanley Cups.

Oct 5, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar (55) skates the puck during the second period of a hockey game against the Washington Capitals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Nill was there for 19 of those years and as Assistant General Manger was primarily responsible for scouting, drafting and player development. What makes his time in Detroit so impressive is that part of having that much success means your team is never drafting in ideal situations.

You are always drafting very late in every round so you have to be very good at identifying talent and Nill most definitely is. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard and Johan Franzen are all Nill draft picks and most of them were taken very late in the draft. The most famous of them is probably Zetterberg who was drafted in the 8th round and is now the Captain for the Red Wings and was playoff MVP in 2008.

Teams have been after Nill for years but the situation was never the right fit for him.

Until now.
At the press conference to announce his hiring Nill had this to say about coming to Dallas,

"I am honored and very excited at this opportunity to be the Dallas Stars General Manager and I want to thank Tom Gaglardi and Jim Lites for believing that I am the right person for this job. There have been a few other openings out there that have been presented to me in the past, but I was waiting for the right one to take, and coming to Dallas was that right one. I am eager to get started building on the pieces that already exist and helping return this team to the playoffs."

The Coach

Lindy Ruff was a second round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 1979. He was a brash, tough player known for his hard work and excellent character. He played 12 seasons in the NHL, 10 with Sabres including three as the team’s Captain. He would be traded to the New York Rangers in 1989 but he would return to Buffalo in 1997 as head coach and remained there until late in the 2013 season when after 16 years he was removed as head coach after the Sabres had a very disappointing year.

Sep 20, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff behind the bench in the third period agains the Florida Panthers at AT

The rumors where the players in Buffalo had tuned him out. In reality Buffalo spent a lot of money on free agents for two years in row and they weren’t performing. Whenever a GM spends the owner’s money and things don’t work out it’s the coach that goes first.

The Sabres changed hands in 2011 and previous ownership were not big spenders.

Buffalo is a small market team without deep pockets so for years they competed and performed well by getting the most out of what they could afford and that was because of Ruff’s ability to get the most out of his players.

He was twice nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year, winning the award in 2005-2006. He led the Sabres to 4 Eastern Conference finals and one Stanley Cup Finals where ironically they were defeated by the Stars in ’99. He has over 1100 games in the NHL and over 500 wins. A truly impressive resume and track record of success that will fit right in with Lites and Nill.
While most of the focus of this season will be about the Stars young guns. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin the real success and future of the franchise will be wearing suits and fighting back grey hairs and as long as they fill the stands with pretty girls, find the next best prospect and get the most of out of every player on the roster you might just remember that they still do play hockey at the AAC.