Owner Tom Gaglardi was quick with some humor when asked about the job GM Jim Nill did this offseason with the Dallas Stars’ roster.
“He’s a good listener. I told him to do all those things,” Gaglardi said. “He did what I asked him to do.”
And then he added: “What can I say? It’s marvelous what he has done.”
Those moves by Nill included trading for center Jason Spezza and signing right wing Ales Hemsky, two highly skilled offensive players who will join Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the Stars’ top six forwards.
“I look at our club and who we have added to our top six in terms of Hemsky and Spezza and you can get pretty excited pretty quickly,” said Gaglardi. “You hear [Spezza’s] name – he’s an amazing player – and then you realize he is going to be playing for the Dallas Stars. … Ales Hemsky is a heck of a player.”
With the trade for Spezza and last summer’s deal for Seguin, Nill turned what had been a weakness at the center position into a strength. What Gaglardi had seen as a major concern when he bought the team in November 2011, Nill fixed in a little more than a year on the job.
“I was very concerned about that position. I never thought we were strong up the middle,” said Gaglardi. “It’s a tough thing to fix. There are clubs in the NHL that have had that problem and haven’t found a way to fix it. Now, you have to blink hard a couple times to say that your top two centermen are Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin.
“Obviously goaltending and defense are important, but you can’t win without being strong at center. You look at our center position now and we’ve got five accomplished centermen in Tyler, Jason, Cody Eakin, Vern Fiddler and Shawn Horcoff. We’re deep at center. It’s an important position and I don’t think you can win without being strong in that position.”
As excited as Gaglardi is about the Spezza deal and the Stars’ look at center, he is equally excited about the signing of Hemsky, who put up 17 points in 20 games playing with Spezza after being traded to Ottawa from Edmonton last season.
“I hear nothing but great things about his commitment, desire to win and work ethic,” Gaglardi said of Hemsky. “Being a Canadian, I’ve watched him play plenty of times with the Oilers. He’s kind of a forgotten guy to me, people don’t seem to want to talk about him, and they focus on everyone else. I am as excited about Hemsky as I am anything.”
Hemsky and Spezza give a new look to the Stars’ top six forwards, but the Dallas owner likes the depth throughout the forward group.
“At forward, we are as deep as any team in the league with the addition of those two guys and our bottom six is strong,” Gaglardi said. “With all respect to Tyler and Jamie – without those guys we don’t win – but our bottom six are phenomenal and won us a lot of hockey games last year. I don’t think you can be a playoff team without a good bottom six.”
The Stars made no additions on defense and Gaglardi realizes that concerns some people, but he said –as noted in a previous story – he has confidence in the Dallas blue line based on the steps forward it took last season and the young defensemen pushing for NHL playing time.
“I think if you look at our team you’d say our defense - everybody seems to say it and you read about it – is that our defense needs to get stronger, but it’s not a position you can easily strengthen,” he said. “And if you look at what we have in terms of prospects it is going to get better just by itself. We’ve got four guys in Texas that are knocking on the door and are going to push guys to be better and are going to want to play at the NHL level. So, we are in great shape.
“I read things that Dallas needs a No. 1 defenseman, but there are only eight of those guys in the entire NHL and they are never traded. We’ve done a good job, we’ve set ourselves up for the future with our prospects. I think you saw that the way [Trevor] Daley and [Alex] Goligoski played in the second half of the season, I think for people to criticize our defense is flat wrong.”
While last season’s first round playoff loss to Anaheim was a tough pill to swallow, Gaglardi saw it as part of the process of the team learning how to win, and that it will be an important lesson that should help the team move forward.
“We didn’t know how to win. It was pretty obvious. Had we been a team that knew how to win, I liked our team in that series and I thought we could have won it,” he said. “The guys are going to have to learn. They’ve been there now and I don’t think they’ll let that happen again. I’ve talked to a bunch of the guys in the offseason and it doesn’t sit well with anyone and that’s the way it needs to be.”
Take the experience the Stars gained last season and the moves made by Nill this summer, and Gaglardi is eager about the 2014-15 campaign.
“I like our team a lot,” Gaglardi said. “I think we improved more than most teams did in the offseason. It was important to do that. We are in a tough division, but I am excited about the season.”
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