Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill was out in McKinney Tuesday watching his team practice. I had a chance to talk to Nill briefly about the Stars’ first 20 games of the season. Here are a few quotes.
On if the 20-game mark is a good time to make an assessment of the team
“I think it is. I think the first ten games were a real feeling out for everybody. It was new management, new coaches. Lindy (Ruff) and I talked about two guys on every line were kind of new on the team. Now, I think we’ve settled in. Kari (Lehtonen) has settled in the net. I think we have a pretty good feel for what we have.”
On his assessment of the Stars after 20 games
“I think we are happy. We were disappointed with the start, but there are a lot of factors there. Guys really didn’t know each other and we played a lot of road games, which maybe in the end has been a blessing. When I first looked at the schedule, I was worried about the road games, but maybe with us being such a new team getting on the road helped everyone get to know each other. You’re on the planes together, you’re in the hotels together, you’re in enemy rinks and you’ve got to learn to come together. In the end, it might have been a blessing that we had all these road games.
“I like the game we play. We’re a fast team. I think we’ve identified our identity, and I think speed is our game. The guys play hard, and what I like is the scoring is starting to get spread out a little bit. Every night there is somebody else chipping in, which is important if you are going to win.”
On the play of his best players
“To win in this league your best players have to be the best, and they have done that. And we talked about the depth, and you can never have enough depth in this league. If your depth players are good players and play the same type of game that is what is going to help you win, especially on the road.”
On the recent road success
“If you can play .500 on the road in today’s NHL you are doing pretty good. We went (on the Ottawa, Boston and Detroit trip) thinking if we can get two out of three it’s been a great trip. You win the first two and now you are going for three out of three. We did it. We come back home and we end up doing the same trip again. It’s funny. I don’t think you are ever comfortable in this business, but we’re going on another trip and we’re thinking, ‘Boy, I hope we don’t relax now.’ We buckled down in Edmonton, and in every one of those games we showed a different way to win. The Edmonton game was a tough game. It’s a struggling team, you are supposed to win and you are playing a team that is very, very desperate. We found a way to win. We go to Calgary and it’s a back-to-back situation, which we haven’t had a lot of success in and we had a great game in a back-to-back situation. We won our two out of three, and we wonder how the game is going to be in Vancouver, and once again the guys found a way to win against a very good team. We’re finding different ways to win, which is the sign of a good team.”
On if he’s seen growth in the team’s defense
“We’ve seen a lot of growth. They are coming around the way we thought they would. We know we are not big on the back end, but we like our puck movers. We are moving the puck well, they skate well. We are not spending a lot of time in our zone any more. Once we get the puck up to our forwards, we are a dangerous team. That’s the way we have to play.”
Areas for improvement
“You come to work every day and you are trying to get better. I think there are a lot of things we can still do better. We can still manage the puck better. Our power play, if it can get going. You are always going to have something that is going to falter in this business. Either your power play is going to struggle or your PK is going to struggle and the power play is good. Now, if we can get those working hand-in-hand, you are a pretty dangerous team.”
On how hard it is to gain ground in the Western Conference
“The Western Conference is tough. The good thing is we are back in the mix now. We had a tough start. Lindy and I have been talking, everybody is going to go through a tough spot. It doesn’t matter who you are. The Chicago Blackhawks are going to hit a tough area. The Boston Bruins are. That’s just part of a long season. The important thing is don’t make your tough spots too long. If you lose two or three in a row, don’t make it four, five or six because then you are in trouble. Just stay consistent. If you can win seven out of ten, then six out of ten and then seven out of ten again, then you are going to hang in there. That’s what we have to do.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.