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Ralph Strangis: Right GM, Right Time

by Ralph Strangis / Dallas Stars

Full disclosure: No one is a bigger Joe Nieuwendyk fan than I am. To you he needs no reintroduction here. As the 1999 Conn Smythe trophy winner he was a huge reason why we won. As the victim of Bryan Marchment’s 1998 opening round dirty hit he was the biggest reason we lost. And as the guy who stood up for a Stars cub PR kid who was being mauled by impatient reporters in a 2000 playoff post-game media scrum he was always the good teammate for all of us. I count Joe among my best friends in hockey and life.

As Dallas Stars GM over the last four seasons few would argue he had special and unique challenges. He never gave that crutch a glance. He made difficult and unpopular decisions and yes, he learned on the job. There are victories to claim and mistakes to regret but he won’t give either the time of day. He is a thoughtful man who operated with no other agenda than how to make his team better, how to get them back on top. He was appreciative of the opportunity especially after a new owner came in and kept him on.

But the business demands results and the results weren’t there.

Tom Gaglardi thanked Joe for his service this morning and said “he left this franchise in a better place than where he found it.” The organization is deeper than it’s been in years and possesses enviable prospects and a big bag of picks for the coming draft for his successor.

And the Dallas Stars have just fired an ear-splitting cannon shot to open the NHL’s off-season. The new Dallas Stars GM, Jim Nill, is a coup for Tom Gaglardi and Jim Lites. Nill has been courted and romanced over the years and is on every teams very short wish list. He’s waited for the right opportunity and it came and he grabbed it, citing the good gut feeling he got when meeting with the Stars owner and president. It says a lot about Tom Gaglardi and Jim Lites that they were able to coax him here.

The Detroit Red Wings are the NHL’s gold standard for the last two decades. Nobody scouts better, develops better, and picks the right guys to pay better. In fact, every player on the ice in the finale against Dallas were guys they either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents (note: they had a couple guys on the roster and one on the ice they reacquired but whom they had originally drafted and a couple of injured players who were acquired or signed but you get the point).

Jim Nill is the guy: make no mistake about it. This hire affirmsTom Gaglardi’s commitment to this team. Jim Nill is exactly the right GM at precisely the right time. His work with Wings amateur scouts and young players over the years has produced one-of-a-kind results. He learned from the very best, was surrounded by the very best, and will bring his very best to Dallas.

I’ve been around for all of our biggest days. Be excited – spread the word – this is a very big day for the Dallas Stars.

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