A Good Support System
Hull, Jackson remain valuable members of Stars management team
Thursday, 06.04.2009 / 10:19 PM / Feature
By John Tranchina
Let’s be clear about one thing: the hiring of Joe Nieuwendyk as the Dallas Stars’ new General Manager was much more about landing a bright, up-and-coming star executive than any indictment of the job done by former co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson.
While the experimental two-headed GM scenario had its pros and cons, both men made it work and performed admirably for the club over the year and a half since they took over from Doug Armstrong in Nov. 2007.
And the fact that both will remain within the organization - Hull moving to the role of Executive Vice President and Alternate Governor while Jackson resumes his previous position as Director of Scouting and Player Development - means that Nieuwendyk will have a wealth of resources at his disposal for valuable consultation and guidance.
“First of all, let me thank Brett and Les for the great job they did,” Stars owner Tom Hicks said at the press conference Monday introducing Nieuwendyk. “They jumped into the fire in the middle of battle and we didn’t have any other alternatives. I asked both of them to do something they never had done, the team responded wonderfully to them and obviously, we had a great run that year (advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2008). I think as we look at it, Brett’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s such a valuable member of our organization. I’ve got things I want Brett to do with us to help build our revenues, which is a big part of the new NHL. And Les is the best scouting/player development guy we’ve ever had and he’s going to eagerly return to those responsibilities.”
“I was more Les' intern or assistant than anything else,” said Hull. “I believe Les made some great decisions and has put team in a great position moving forward. He's pushed hard to develop the young kids, and I still say that if we hadn't had all of the injuries we had, we would have had a great year."
“There was a two-man system that got put right into the fire without a chance to do things in the off-season or summertime,” goaltender Marty Turco noted. “And an unprecedented two-man team that you didn’t know after the season if it would last, you’d think other teams would start doing it, but it’s less about them two and more about what Joe can do, the presence that he brings.”
Hicks also pointed out that he was only interested in making a change if he could get someone he considered a top-notch replacement and Nieuwendyk certainly fits that description.
“We did a lot of internal introspection as an organization since last December and it’s been on my mind since then,” Hicks revealed. “As I started looking at the landscape of people that we could really build with, Joe was on a very short list. It wasn’t anything I felt was a crisis at all. I’d have been perfectly content if I had to wait another year for people to free up under contracts, because most good GMs are under contract. But if I found the right guy, I wanted to get started on what we think we can build over the next five years.”
Nieuwendyk acknowledged that both Hull and Jackson have already helped him with the transition and he wouldn’t hesitate to lean on them for further assistance.
“Certainly I’m not going to be a lone wolf, I’m going to use people around me,” Nieuwendyk said. “This organization has a lot of good people in it. Brett and Les are a good support system for me, so I look forward to digging in with those guys. Les and Brett are going to be a tremendous help for me. I have some work to do to get caught up to speed, but it really shouldn’t take that long. They both have a good handle on what’s going on.”
Nieuwendyk, of course, was Hull’s teammate for three years in Dallas from 1998-2001 and the two won the 1999 Stanley Cup together, so they clearly have a past relationship. And he is also quite familiar with Jackson, who has been in the Stars’ front office for 22 years in various capacities.
"I’ve always been about one thing, and that’s do whatever is in the best interest of our organization,” Jackson said. “I just want us to win. Joe will do a great job and I will support him 100 percent.”
Hull added, "I think Joe is going to be a tremendous general manager and I will do anything to help him.”
With the NHL’s general managers meetings going on in Pittsburgh, and with the annual Entry Draft coming up on June 26, Nieuwendyk acknowledged that he would be calling on each of his predecessors for help navigating those uncharted waters.
Hicks also made sure to point out that both Hull, who joined the Stars’ front office in 2005, and Jackson, were aware that he was pursuing Nieuwendyk and were excited to hear he would be joining the organization.
“We’ve been having open conversation for some time. I met with both of them about a week ago and they both were very enthusiastic,” Hicks said. “They both love the Dallas Stars and certainly in Les’ case, he’s happier with a different role. He likes the money he was getting paid - he’ll still get that, we’ll honor the contract - but he really would rather have the other role and he’s more valuable to the organization. And Brett, what do you say about Brett? He’s had such success on the ice, financially, everything, scratch golfer, future Hall of Famer - he’s one of the biggest assets the Dallas Stars have, so I want to use him in a way that I can build our revenues.”
Hicks added that he never worried that Hull or Jackson would consider leaving the Stars with the restructuring.
“I have no doubt that neither one of them would,” Hicks said. “They’re both very loyal to the organization, to the Dallas Stars.”
Ultimately, everyone is on board because they believe this change can help the Stars move closer to competing for another Stanley Cup.
“Since 2002, we’ve won three playoffs series and you look back at what we did the previous six years,” Hicks noted, referring to the franchise’s outstanding stretch where they won the ’99 Cup, made a return trip to the Finals the next year, won two President’s Trophies and prevailed in 10 post-season series. “I want to get back to where we’re playing deep into the playoffs every year and we’re winning playoff rounds. I want to win another Stanley Cup.”