Necessary change: Why Joe Nieuwendyk was replaced

Joe Nieuwendyk

Credit: WFAA

Necessary change: Why Joe Nieuwendyk was replaced

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by JOSH LILE

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on April 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 28 at 7:37 PM

The termination of Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk makes plenty of sense.

The Stars have missed the playoffs every season under Nieuwendyk, and, while enduring some difficult extenuating circumstances, the Stars have been stuck in neutral during his entire tenure.

Numerous possible reasons for his termination will be cited over the coming weeks.

The James Neal for Alex Goligoski trade will be one, but the reality is that Goligoski is an incredibly talented player. Neal, while also valuable, should be giving a percentage of his paycheck to teammate Evgeni Malkin.

Matt Niskanen is still just a guy. The trade isn't a firable offense.

The main reason, in my eyes, for the removal of Nieuwendyk is a combination of a lack of results and Nieuwendyk appearing to be in over his head at times. Several different situations illustrate this point.

There were some curious moves made by the front office in his tenure. They paint a picture of someone who, at times, didn't think things out clearly enough.

The hiring of Glen Gulutzan is piece number one of the puzzle. Nieuwendyk made this statement when he picked his coach:

“I don’t want it to be a misconception that we have a young coach who happens to be with our young players. We have a young coach that we feel is going to be our leader. That’s where his strength lies. He young, but has a relationship with our guys. They’re certainly going to know who is in charge and they’ll play hard for him."

Source: Dallas Stars Report

Over the past two years, the Stars have looked like a team playing at max effort for about three weeks. And we just got through seeing those three weeks.

The players with which Gulutzan had a relationship rarely got the call to the NHL level — and those who did get an opportunity for rarely played significant minutes.

There has always been a heavy reliance on veterans, particularly this last off season with the signings of Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr.

The main issue that sticks out to me with Gulutzan is how quickly the Stars would deviate from stated game plans in-game over the past season.

There were numerous occasions when Gulutzan stated that the Stars would come out full of piss and vinegar, running through walls to compete, and generally making life miserable for the opposition — only to see the Stars play a passive perimeter game from top to bottom outside of (depending on the night) Eric Nystrom and Vern Fiddler.

What happened to this strong leader? Did Nieuwendyk misjudge Gulutzan, or did circumstances derail, at least temporarily, a promising coaching career?

Ultimately it doesn't matter what happened. The hiring of Gulutzan as head coach of the Stars has been a failure, and plays a big role the end of Nieuwendyk's tenure.

The Reilly Smith situation from last season sticks out as another questionable decision.

The Stars signed Smith to an entry-level contract for the last four games of the season, with the idea being that he would come into the lineup to provide an offensive spark.

After a woeful defensive effort on a Vancouver Canucks goal in his debut, he never saw the ice again. There was a failure somewhere to identify that he was NHL-ready, and it cost the Stars a year of his entry-level deal.

Nieuwendyk's insistence on building up goaltending depth has been puzzling as well. The Stars spent first and second round picks on goaltenders Jack Campbell and Tyler Beskorowany. They have recently drafted or acquired several others to go with Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman.

In the process they signed Lehtonen to a massive extension. The logic behind pursuing such goaltending depth is something I have never been able to understand.

Goalies are unpredictable. It's virtually impossible to say what they will do from year to year. In that respect, acquiring other options makes sense.

However, the logic is undercut the minute you commit huge resources to one of them, as they did with Lehtonen. What, now, are the Stars to do with the collection of players they have put together in net? They aren't going to recoup much value in trade.

Goalies generally aren't worth a ton in deals. It comes across as a poorly thought-out strategy which — particularly in the case of Campbell — cost the Stars the chance to acquire franchise-altering talent.

The goalie question extends into the Stars' draft strategy under Nieuwendyk.

The Stars have been ultra conservative with their first round picks, and it has led to them missing out on considerable talent.

Scott Glennie was doomed from the start. When selecting Jack Campbell the Stars passed on any number of players who could have a more immediate impact on the roster given the length of time goalies take to develop.

Jamie Oleksiak and Radek Faksa are too early to call, but both fit the same moderate ceiling/high floor profile.

The Stars are in a tough situation, but moving on from Nieuwendyk is the right play.

As recently as a few weeks ago this move seemed unlikely. The tide has certainly turned quickly.

Nieuwendyk is on his way to some other role in hockey for sure, and maybe with this experience under his belt his next stop will be more successful.

His tenure in Dallas wasn't all bad, but the bad does outweigh the good over four years. When that happens, a change is anything but shocking.

Josh Lile tweets about the Stars and the Houston school system at @JoshL1220.

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