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Nieuwendyk's return to Dallas feels right

by John McGourty
If Joe Nieuwendyk brings only a fraction of the heart, soul, intelligence, skill and dedication to the front office that he brought to the rink in his 20-year NHL career, he'll be an overwhelming success.

Nieuwendyk, 42, was named the Dallas Stars' general manager Sunday, replacing co-general managers Brett Hull and Les Jackson, who have been reassigned to other positions in the club's management.

Nieuwendyk is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, with the 1989 Calgary Flames, 1999 Dallas Stars and 2003 New Jersey Devils. He was named the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy winner after scoring a league-leading 11 goals and adding 10 assists for 21 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Nieuwendyk played seven seasons for the Stars, from 1985-2002.

It's a triumphant homecoming for Nieuwendyk, the hero of the Stars' only Stanley Cup championship, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils at the 2002 trading deadline, March 19, with Jamie Langenbrunner for Jason Arnott and Randy McKay. Niewendyk and Langenbrunner were instrumental in the Devils' 2003 Stanley Cup victory.

"I have to tell you, getting off the plane today, it feels comfortable," Nieuwendyk said Monday at his introductory press conference with owner Tom Hicks. "It feels, in some ways, like I'm coming home again. I didn't really leave on my own terms in 2002."
Hicks was clear on why he hired Nieuwendyk.

"Joe Nieuwendyk is a winner. He's smart, he went to Cornell," Hicks said. "He's very deliberate, I've learned, and very careful, and very well-planned. I think Joe has the talent this organization needs to build an organization that reponds to him and responds to us and returns us to our Stanley Cup championships of 10 years ago. It's my really my great pleasure to welcome Joe back to the Dallas Stars."

In his playing days, teams steadily rose with Nieuwendyk to elite levels in a few short years. That's what the Stars are hoping he can do as an executive.

Nieuwendyk was in his third season with the Flames when they won the Stanley Cup, his fourth season with Dallas when they won and his second season with the Devils when they won.

In 1,257 regular-season games, Nieuwendyk scored 564 goals and 562 assists for 1,126 points. He was plus-155 in his career and had only 677 penalty minutes. Nieuwendyk had 215 power-play goals, 12 shorthanded goals and 93 game winners. He had 66 goals and 50 assists for 116 points, 23 power-play goals and 14 game-winners in 158 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Nieuwendyk is moving to the Dallas position after spending this season as the assistant to the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was named to the position last July by then-Interim General Manager Cliff Fletcher. Fletcher was the Flames' general manager who drafted Nieuwendyk in 1985 to play for Calgary.

On Nov. 28, the Maple Leafs hired former Anaheim Ducks General Manager Brian Burke as their general manager. Burke, in turn, brought in his former assistant in Vancouver, David Nonis, as senior vice-president of hockey operations. Fletcher remains as special advisor to Burke and Jeff Jackson remains as Toronto's assistant general manager and director of hockey operations.

So Nieuwendyk's departure resolves a crowded situation in Toronto. Nieuwendyk had spent the previous two seasons as a special consultant to then-Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin, who was named head coach of the Montreal Canadiens Monday. Nieuwendyk played the last two seasons of his NHL career with Florida, after one season with the Maple Leafs.

Nieuwendyk served earlier this year as assistant general manager of the silver-medal Team Canada at the 2009 World Championship in Switzerland. He assisted St. Louis Blues Director of Player Personnel Doug Armstrong, who will replace Blues' General Manager Larry Pleau, in 2010 when Pleau retires. Armstrong was the Stars' general manager from 2002-03.

Nieuwendyk said his hiring has been in the works for over a month.

"It started a couple of weeks prior to going over to Switzerland, sometime between our season and going over to the Worlds," Nieuwendyk told Hockey Night In Canada Radio. "They contacted Brian Burke to talk to me and we did. I had a couple of meetings in the Toronto area, went over to Switzerland and when I got back, we had a few more meetings and then followed up with a visit to Texas to talk to the owner. It happened fairly quickly after that."

In addition to the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy, Nieuwendyk also won the 1988 Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and the 1995 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for humanitarian contributions.

Prior to joining the NHL, Nieuwendyk played Tier II hockey for Pickering in the Ontario Hockey Association and then starred for three seasons at Cornell, where he was the 1987 ECAC Player of the Year, 1985 ECAC rookie of the year, a two-time ECAC All-Star and two-time All-American. Calgary made him the 27th overall pick of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft.

Hull has been named executive vice president and alternate governor. Jackson returns to his former position of director of scouting and player development.

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