3/19/18 – The Job Security of Jim Nill and Ken Hitchcock

Every relationship, family or personal, ends.  On a long enough timeline everything ends. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to remind his followers on Twitter that even the sun will eventually explode, mercilessly killing everything living thing that it currently supports.

At this point of the story we have two paths we can choose to follow. Either we work ourselves into a collective existential crisis trying to figure out what the point of doing anything is if we’re ultimately all doomed anyway, or we consider how much time is left in the relationship between the Dallas Stars and general manager Jim Nill.

You know what, Spring Break is ending. I see no need to open an existential whirl pool. Instead let us focus on the immediate futures of Nill and by default Ken Hitchcock.

Nill has made waves with his moves in the summer. Twitter loves to dump on him for being the Off-season Champion over the course of several seasons. Five years into his tenure the jokes get harder and harder to counterattack.

The jokes work because the implication is that the Stars have nothing else to point to except off-season success. Eventually the point of all of this is a Stanley Cup championship right? At some point success has to happen during the regular season. Under Nill, five years in, the Stars have overall been mediocre.

I compiled the points percentage of all 31 franchises over the last five years.

PTSper

Dallas is solidly mediocre. That mediocre ranking includes one really good season. Remove that, and, yeah, it isn’t pretty. Adding to the problem is that four of their division rivals are ahead of them with the now superior Winnipeg Jets behind them. Colorado is coming on strong too. Being mediocre in the Central means you’re fighting for the 8th seed as a wild card.

The most frustrating aspect of all of it is that the Stars have as much top end talent as any team in front of them. They either haven’t been able to develop middle nine forwards or acquire them. Trying to acquire them consistently saps a franchise of trade capital and potential cheap talent, but the Stars have been reluctant to make those trades too.

What they’ve created is a top heavy team with not much secondary scoring. Jason Spezza is 34 and whether through his own fault, divine providence, or Hitch crushing him, he hasn’t done much. Mattias Janmark is closing in on 20 goals. We all love Radek Faksa, but a scoring option he is not. Martin Hanzal has his uses, but when he’s shouldering a heavy defensive load he isn’t scoring.

Maybe Jason Dickinson can do it. Gemel Smith shows signs. Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov could provide something. At this point expecting any of them to develop into big contributors is iffy, and honestly if any of them are good we’ll never know because they’ll never get minutes to prove they belong.

If you refuse to let the kids play and refuse to trade the kids you won’t play for players you will play you’re shooting yourself in the foot repeatedly. If you only try to get those guys through free agency you’re going to overpay in cash and given the age of the usual free agent you’re more likely to sign someone reaching a cliff of their production quickly. Someone has to play those minutes though and, God love him, 23 Tyler Pitlicks aren’t winning a Stanley Cup.

What the Stars under Nill have shown repeatedly is that they will pay in prospect capital for a star-level talent, but anything perceived to be less than that isn’t happening. Patience is a virtue, but patience is also crippling. At some point bold moves have to be taken if you expect bold results.

If you see that your team can’t score, and you know that you don’t have scorers hurt waiting to come back, how on earth do you justify not paying the price to acquire a scorer? If you see that your team has no secondary scoring how do you not try to find ANYONE to bring in for depth? How do you not work in kids who are producing even a little in the AHL? The Stars are afraid to make a mistake and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Lindy Ruff is a perfect example. He should have been fired last November when the Stars were a laughing stock around the league. Instead he and the Stars toiled around for all of 2016/2017 aimlessly when the season could’ve possibly been saved. Patience killed the Stars.

The response came this past offseason when the Stars brought Ken Hitchcock back into the fold. He brought structure back to the roster and made them respectable in all facets of the game. They’re still bad, but at least no one is laughing at them now I guess.

At what point does the Nill-led management group reach the end of their rope? New management would be reasonably expected to be allowed to find their own coaching staff so Hitch seems like he would be out the door with Nill. At what point do the scouting department decision-makers take more blame? You can’t really blame scouts since they just evaluate players, but at some point the decision-makers above the scouts have to take some heat for the utter lack of top end talent coming into the organization.

It is simply inexcusable to waste this much prime of the careers of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and now John Klingberg. The Stars need more serious retooling after this season. They need to give Tyler Seguin a reason to commit his future to the franchise.

If I were him I wouldn’t even consider re-signing until I saw more being done to upgrade the bottom of the roster. Why would he? He wants to win. This franchise can spiral out of control so quickly if the Stars don’t get it together. Nill has shown such a reluctance to pay the price to get in on prime talent since stealing Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns from the cap-strapped Blackhawks that I’m not sure you can reasonably trust him or his administration to take the next steps forward.

This team was pretty solid for a long time this year and has completely cratered. I’m not sure what the players on the ice have to do at this point to save the jobs of their superiors. At this point I don’t know how the administration can come back in tact. This is now ten years of mediocrity with one (maybe two) shining light of a good season snuck in there that ended with an ass-whipping at the hands of the Blues in the second round of the playoffs.

Enough is enough. It’s time for sustained results.

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