Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill was the guest on The Ticket's postgame show Thursday night with Bruce LeVine and Owen Newkirk, and he talked about a wide variety of topics. Here are some of the highlights of the interview.
On the young players who have seen action late this season
"It's important for them to come up here and it's a big step, so it's going to take them two or three games to get comfortable and get a feel for things. There's a respect out there that they have to get over. You go from playing in the minors against players your own age and the next thing you know you are playing against Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, and Filip Forsberg. It can be intimidating. It's important for these guys to get through that. Our young guys have been good. You have to give them credit. They have been competing hard, and they have been probably the bright light in what isn't a very bright situation right now."
On how disappointing the season has been and if major reconstruction is needed
"It's definitely disappointing and not what we projected. There's different reasons for it. There was some poor play of players. Injuries have been a major concern. We've been decimated. We've been one of the top three teams of the most injured in the league, and the other teams that are with us are out of the playoffs too. In a cap world you can't sustain the injuries we got, and it's tough to survive. You still have to find a way, and we didn't, and that's the disappointing part. Is it a major rebuild? No. I guess that is the bright light in all this. We've got a lot of major pieces here, and we're going to get this back together. It's going to be a quick turnaround. I am excited about what is coming. What we are going through right now with these young kids was probably going to happen next season anyway and we are probably a year ahead of that now because of these injuries and the play and what's happened. I think it is going to be a big boost to us next year."
If changes moving forward start with goaltending
"You have to have good goaltending in this league. If you don't have good goaltending, you are not winning. Have they done their part of this? They are a part of this too. Sometimes they get the full blame and they shouldn't, but they have had their moments too. They are no different than anybody else on this team. Nobody on this team can say I had a great year and I am happy. Nobody is happy. The goaltending has to take their share of the blame. But it is the play of the team that hasn't helped them out. It's a family affair."
On the opportunity to get young goaltenders due to the expansion draft
"There's going to be a lot of shuffling. With the expansion draft, it is going to be a different offseason because of that. We don't know who is going to be available. Las Vegas holds the cards in this. They're holding a full hand. We're all going to know who is available, but they are going to know who is calling to say I will do a side deal with you. There's going to be a lot of shuffling. There's some good UFAs out there too. It's going to be a busy offseason for all teams."
On if he knows who he is protecting in the expansion draft or do decisions still need to be made
"I know 90 percent what's going on. It's amazing that I am with the team every day and I don't have it figured out totally. In the end, it's about players. They're given an opportunity, and they have to grab it. Some guys have grabbed it, and some haven't. We're going to have to figure it out and go from there."
On if some players have had down years and may be worth protecting because you know they can get to a different level
"That's the tough part. Whether it's the expansion draft or trading or signing guys, there are players that have resumes. We forget that sometimes. We are all passionate here. The wins and losses kill us. I know it kills the fans. Don't worry. We're dying too in that dressing room. The players are also. But there are players that have resumes, and you've got to be careful. They are human beings, and they have things going on in their lives that people might not know about. A lot of them have injuries that people might not know about, and they are having bad seasons. That's where you've got to be careful. We're going to have to analyze a few guys. Are they going to bounce back and figure out what they're value is. If they don't bounce back, what their value is in the expansion draft. There are a lot of moving parts that are going to go on here."
On if the projected protected list changed from the beginning of the season
"Yes. It is surprising how much it has changed. It's kind of changed in ten game segments. You watch us play, and there are some guys that have grabbed it and some guys grab it and then let it go. I know the fans get attached to players. The thing with the NHL is that it is not a developmental league. The NHL is about wins. That's what we are here for. The American League is about the development time. There's a window for development up here, but eventually you do have to grab it. We've got some tough decisions to make."
On if he anticipates moves by teams prior to the expansion lists being submitted to the league
"Yes, I believe there will be. And they get their lists in the middle of June, and they get two days to examine those lists and make their game plan. While they are doing that there are going to be teams calling them and saying I see Player X is available, we would like to have him, what can we do to get him from you. There's going to be a lot of movement going that way."
On evaluating the coaching staff and on Lindy Ruff saying that his future with the team will be discussed after the season is over
"My job is to evaluate the whole organization. I've been evaluating all year. There are different things that happen, and things change, and there are reasons for things that happen. Lindy's answer was the correct answer. We're going to sit down at the end of the season and talk about different things that happened. We've got to make a decision moving forward."
On what his message to fans would be
"We're all disappointed. Don't worry. If they think those players in the dressing room are sitting around the campfire, they are not having any fun right now. It's been a disappointing season for them, for the ownership, for the management, and for the coaches. It's been a tough, tough year. I've been in this business a long time, and this has been one of the biggest grinds I've seen. You name it, whatever could happen has happened this year. That's just the way it is. This is going to get over with, and it's going to be a quick turnaround. This isn't going to be a rebuild, and we're not going to have to start drafting high. We have the pieces, and this is going to turn around quick. Just trust these players, they are going to bounce back, and we are going to be back on top pretty quick."
This story was not subject to 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.