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Stars Hope Front Office Changes Produce More Wins

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

The Stars’ front office has undergone a dramatic shakeup. Now owner Tom Hicks waits to see if those alterations can have an impact on the ice.

Press Conference: ( 700K )

“There's pressure,’’ center Mike Modano said. “It falls to the players to perform and meet expectations. Moves are made to jump-start your team, somehow, some way. It's tough to get rid of 22 guys.’’

Modano’s former Stars teammate and longtime friend Brett Hull was introduced on Wednesday as interim co-general manager along with Les Jackson.

Hull and Jackson take over for Doug Armstrong, relieved of his general manager’s duties by Hicks on Tuesday.

Hull had a Hall of Fame-worthy playing career, notching the most important goal in Stars history to clinch the 1999 Stanley Cup.

Now Hull and Jackson face a daunting challenge, turning a deliberate, defensive-oriented club into one better suited to the faster game that’s in vogue in the new NHL.

Jackson has been a member of Stars management for all but two of the last 22 seasons and has been assistant GM the past seven years.

“We’re in a new day and it’s time for us to move on,” Jackson said during an introductory press conference on Wednesday. “The bar is set pretty high, the standards are high, and we want to keep it there.”

Hull’s rise in the front office has been more meteoric, starting this season as special advisor to Hicks in the hockey operations department before moving into his current post.

“It’s an honor, a big thrill for me,” said Hull, who retired as a player in 2005 after an illustrious 19-year career with two Stanley Cup titles. “Working alongside Les, we have the same thoughts, the same goals. We’re taking the hard work Doug Armstrong has done for this organization and moving forward. We’re going to take this team to where we want to go.

“Since I retired, I’ve always said I want to be in a Stanley Cup picture wearing a suit. This is a great opportunity and we’re not going to take it lightly.”

Hicks said he offered Hull the special advisor’s role after they met on a golf course over the summer. Hull was an in-studio NHL analyst for NBC last season in addition to a front-office role with the Stars in broadcasting, marketing and community relations.

“I said, ‘Brett, how do you like your TV life?’” Hicks said. “Brett said, ‘I don’t like it at all.’ I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ He said, ‘I want to come work for you. I want to be a Dallas Star.’ That made an impression on me and we were able to work out an arrangement.

“Brett could align himself with any hockey club he wanted to and he’s become a Dallas Star. That’s where his heart is.”

The personalities of Hull and Jackson are certainly different, but they feel they will be able to mesh professionally.

“Les understands how the game works while I fly by the seat of my pants,” Hull said. “His ability to be calculated and a little more thought-provoking is an asset. Those two pieces we’re different in will also make us better.”

Jackson will be the Stars’ point man as far as potential player moves, but Hull will have considerable input.

Meanwhile, Dave Tippett and the coaching staff remain in place.

“He’s got our backing 100 percent,” Hull said. “He still has fresh ideas and we believe wholeheartedly he can lead this team to where we want to go.”

“I totally believe in them,’’ Jackson said. “We have good people, a good support staff. There are a lot of people who want us to do well and that’s encouraging. But ultimately, it comes back to our players. We have a good group of guys. What we need is for them to step up as players every night.”

Said Tippett: “Our situation hasn't changed. We're moving forward the way we are. We're trying to win every game and that focus hasn't changed. We have new leadership. We'll sit down with them. Tom has stated that he wants us to go into a new direction. I'll talk to them and see which direction they see us going and move forward from there.''

Both Jackson and Hull indicated that the Stars need to become more offensive-minded to make the playoffs and push  for another Stanley Cup title.

“It’s a young man’s game and we have to get up to speed with what’s going on,” Jackson said. “We have healthy competition. To be in the top eight is going to be a challenge, but I believe we have the group to do that. I hope at the end of the season we’re one of the teams pushing for a Cup.”

Said Hull: “It’s going to take some time. You can’t just snap your fingers and say you’re going to be the Russians. We’re going to get together and try to figure the best way to make that happen. But that’s what wins in the NHL.”

If the Stars continue to struggle on the ice, the players are well aware that more changes could be in the offing, this time in the locker room.

“It's inevitable to wonder about what could happen,’’ goalie Marty Turco said. “But those are thoughts that can only hinder our concentration. We have to concentrate on the task at hand.''

And that’s winning hockey games.

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