There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing the reemergence of the Dallas Stars as one of the National Hockey League’s elite franchises. And, make no mistake, that’s what they are now. Dallas did what it did this past season. It was good, but clearly not good enough. As an organization, the Stars realized where they fell short. With a no nonsense approach they acted accordingly. Call them the anti-Toronto Maple Leafs. In what is nothing short of stunning, nobody wants to play in Toronto, yet, as Vern Fiddler notes, they’re willing to sacrifice and compromise to stay in Dallas:
Honestly, I had better offers. But I wanted to stay with this team and finish the job … There is a real attraction to playing here and playing to win, and seeing this through. I think this is going to be a really good team, and I want to be a part of that.
This is Dallas. It’s in Texas. Toronto is in Ontario. Not Ontario, California. Ontario, Canada. Though you could probably sell more NHLers on Ontario, California before the one in Canada. Because that would mean they could play in the West for a potential dynasty in Los Angeles or a team that also got better on and around July 1 — the Anaheim Ducks. Which brings us back to Dallas.
If being a part of the Red Wings organization for so long taught Stars General Manager Jim Nill anything it’s that there’s no time to rest if you want to not only be great but maintain greatness the way the Red Wings did during their heyday. You must act aggressively. Spezza and Hemsky, not Polak and Komarov.
But, with that said, it’s not an automatic transition from member of one great organization to being an integral part in the creation of another. There’s something that’s missing when Steve Yzerman goes to Tampa. Or Brendan Shanahan goes to Toronto (or the league front office). Or Trevor Linden to Vancouver. Or, thinking back, Gretzky to Phoenix. These moves reflect an ill tendency in our society to take folks proficient in one area and assume that that proficiency will apply in another related, yet fundamentally different role.
I see it all the time in radio — stations and companies taking non-radio people and assuming because they can act or do television or sing or whatever, they can do a radio show. See, for example, the David Lee Roth experiment post-Howard Stern. The list goes on … and it applies to the rebirth in Dallas.
The Stars saw the err of their ways when they tried to make an all-around good guy and otherworldly player, Joe Nieuwendyk, a general manager. Again — great player and good guy, but no business being an executive. In most cases, we’re talking fish out of water. Dallas is doing it the right way now — putting a seasoned executive in an executive role.
It’s no coincidence Luc Robitaille assumes the proper role in the LA Kings organization — President of Business Operations. The Kings put Lucky Luc in a place where his talent and presence can have a real impact. And, quite simply, he won’t screw anything up. One day, he might be ready for the role of general manager, but it will only come after Dean Lombardi taught him everything he knows.
Dean Lombardi. Doug Armstrong. Les Jackson. Jim Nill. These are the guys that build and maintain winners. In Nill’s case, it’s beautiful to watch not only because it has happened so fast, but because, in Dallas’s case, it’s not haste and it doesn’t make waste … it’s a quick, but controlled process resulting in assembly of an immediate contender to the Kings’ Stanley Cup defense.