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.

2/26/18 – Kick The Window Open

Christmas is here for those of you who like receiving dirty Denny’s plates wrapped in slightly yellowing Dallas Morning News pages from 1996. The NHL Trade Deadline is here on this dreary Monday. It’s the last chance for most people to crank out their 500 word hit pieces detailing any potential trade involving the Toronto Maple Leafs whether real or a figment of the imagination an adult living in their mother’s basement.

I officially feel like a member of the mainstream media now.

The Dallas Stars seem unlikely to do anything with the moratorium rapidly approaching. Should they? Shouldn’t they? Will Jim Nill be fired if they don’t do anything and fail? Will he be fired if they do something and fail? Will be he fired if they get through two rounds and fail? Is the meaning of life written in barely legible sharpie on the back of a bathroom door of a dirty Texaco on 45 in the-middle-of-nowhere-Texas?

Who knows the answers to any of these questions? Twitter and comment sections of various websites will tell you they do in many colorful ways. It seems like these scenarios always evoke the same predictable responses from people. I’m no different. I just used to have a platform to yell from and marginally still do.

I was a spoiled hardish-luck 14 year old when the Stars won the Stanley Cup. In the 18 years since…let me stop this sentence right there. 18 years. I have a student in my class who was born in 2003. Two-thousand-and-three. I have former students graduating from high school who, had they cared, wouldn’t have witnessed a Texas Stanley Cup.

When you’re younger I think you focus on prospects and the hope of the future and wanting the franchise to bide their time until the Right Move presents itself. The attachment can be so strong that you live and die with what they have going on to the point that you feel like you’re part of it.

32 year old me doesn’t receive a paycheck from the Stars. I have two months to get my students ready for the Algebra STAAR exam so they can graduate high school in three years. 32 year old me has hockey as an escape from the realities of real life because real life, often, sucks.

I want to see good fun hockey played by good players that leads to winning games and ultimately another Stanley Cup. When a window is there I want to see the team I follow gun it and go for it as long as it doesn’t hurt the current roster.

When Sean proposed this question I didn’t even have to think about it. Miro Heiskanen is a non-starter, but nothing else on that list makes me bat an eye. I’m as big of a Julius Honka fan as you will find. Roope Hintz will make Martin Hanzal more likely to be out the door I presume. Jason Dickinson could provide value now and in the future. I want to see the Stars pick up a big piece that is ready right now to help lead thing team to success.

You have to give pieces up to get something good. Remind me what the Stars gave up to acquire Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Most people will have to look it up outside of Loui Eriksson. These deals have a higher likelihood of looking ugly when you aim low.  Trading for half a season of Kris Russell is more likely to look bad than picking up a star like Seguin or Spezza.

A player like Max Pacioretty fits the bill. Modern Bobby Orr Erik Karlsson does it too, obviously to a larger extent for a higher price. Most deadline acquisitions fit needs, but they don’t really move the needle. Move the needle today and go for a championship. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out, but personally I would rather know I gave Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin a hell of a chance to win the next two seasons than to look back in three years as they’re in or nearing their decline wondering “what if”.

Hey, click these:

The Dallas Stars Need to Trade for Max Pacioretty, and Here’s Why
2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s
2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines