I talked with Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi Tuesday afternoon about the team’s play so far this season, the recent trade for Erik Cole, next month’s trade deadline and more. Here is a transcript.
On the team’s play so far this season
“I’d say average. I think we are where I thought we might be. We let some games slip away that we shouldn’t. We had that amazing statistic of winning with leads after two, and we’ve let some of those get away from us. I certainly see improvement, our shots on goal count. The penalty thing is really disturbing, although I think you can argue we’ve done a better job of that of late. I like our team 5-on-5. I feel like we can play with any team in the league 5-on-5. It’s a little bit like our team last year, but we start getting into penalties. But I think we have a chance at the playoffs. We’re in the mix. But I would say it’s been an average result so far.”
On the young players the Stars have mixed into the lineup this season
“I think it is ten first or second year pros, which is more than any team in the league. It’s kind of funny because guys talk about all the youth movement in Edmonton, but we’ve got more first and second year pros playing than they do. I think that’s great. We’ve tempered it with some age and some veteran presence, and I think we’ve had some success with that. There have been a lot of games this year where the young guys have been our best players. I think that is promising. I am bullish about our future. I think our record could be better than it is, but nonetheless we are in games. And I hope some of the bad habits we’ve seen are starting to creep out of our game.”
On the Erik Cole-Michael Ryder trade
“It’s bittersweet. I’m a Michael Ryder fan, always have been. I would have liked to have seen him stay with our team, but I think at the same time Michael will have an opportunity at a great next contract. Given his age, it will probably be his last big contract, but maybe not. We just had to look at what that contract might look like, and it really didn’t connect with where we saw our team in the next 2-4 years. We weren’t sure he was a fit for us going forward. It sucks to have to trade him. He’s a popular player. He scores big goals. He’s always a risk to score with that shot of his, and he’s a good guy.
“My kids are really mad at me. My seven-year-old said to his mother, ‘You know, I can’t believe Dad traded Michael Ryder. I wish he would have spoken to me before he did that.’ He said that to my wife with a straight face, and he was serious.
“I am sad on the one hand to see a player like Michael Ryder go, but I think Erik Cole is a great player. I think he does a few things better than Michael Ryder does, so I think he is going to be good for our team. I think the trade makes sense, the way Cole fits into our team and his contract structure and the certainty of that contract. I think that was the right move for Joe (Nieuwendyk) to have made and I am excited to have Erik on the team but, as I said, we’ll miss Michael Ryder.”
On the NHL trade deadline, which is April 3
“I think it is going to be the same thing for us as last year. We’re going to be focused on trying to make our team better between now and April 3. That’s going to be a real focus for us, but I don’t think we are prepared to jeopardize our future. To the extent there is something available now without impacting the future in any material way, I think we’ll be pursuing those types of things. Whether or not we can find those opportunities, we’ll wait and see.
“Last year we didn’t get much done in that regard and our moves were made in the summer, not at the deadline. We have a nice crop of young players that are going to have roles with our team going forward, and we have some decisions to make between now and April 3 on unrestricted free agents out there and possible trades, so we might do nothing or we might do a lot. I really don’t know.”
On the playoff race and if he is checking the standings every morning
“I don’t look at the standings, no, because you’d drive yourself crazy. I rarely look at the standings, but my boys are telling me constantly where we are, which I wish they didn’t. You’re two points from being in or two points from being out in any given day. I watch the games and I watch the scores. You cheer for some teams against other teams in the West and mostly we cheer for regulation wins. There are a lot of three-point games, which can really make it difficult.
“We’re in the hunt. I like our team and I think we are getting better and some of the teams we are competing with are maybe going in the opposite direction. We’ve got a shot at the playoffs, much like last year, but I like our team this year better than last year. I think we have a better chance to make it over last year. At the same time, it’s going to come down to something between two and four points. Hopefully the hockey gods are with us this time because they weren’t really with us last year.”
On what he likes better about this year’s team
“Our forward group is deeper. We’ve got four deep lines. I was quite vocal about our top six last year wasn’t good enough, and clearly we’ve added guys to our top six. Erik Cole is a top six player, (Jaromir) Jagr is a top six player and Ray Whitney is a top six player. These are guys we didn’t have last year. I think we’re better up front. On the back end, we’ve got a bit more experience. A guy like Brenden Dillon, who played one NHL game coming into the season, has been game-in and game-out as good as any defenseman we’ve got. The young guys are making an impact for us.
“We are mostly improved at forward, our D as a whole is going to continue to get better and with Kari (Lehtonen) in goal we are a threat to win any game. If he can stay healthy, I think we have a better than even chance of making the playoffs this year. I like our team. We’ve got some guys who know what it takes to win in the last ten games, have been there before, those veterans we have. I think that’s the key difference between this team and the team we had a year ago.”
On if he thinks realignment will happen for 2013-14
“I do. It is something we expect to happen in Dallas. That’s the target the league is working on, and I haven’t seen or heard anything thus far that would suggest we won’t have realignment for next season. We’re cautiously optimistic that happens because the Dallas Stars are one of the big beneficiaries of realignment. We really welcome and hope it comes soon for us.”
On the biggest benefit of realignment for the Stars
“I look at it that the players win and the fans especially win. It’s going to be easier travel on our players. Our division will now be a north-south focus and our division, with the exception of maybe Colorado as it is right now, everyone is in the Central Time Zone.
“For our fans, the puck is dropping (on the road) at 7:00 or 7:30, which are the times it drops at American Airlines Center. To follow our team, most of the games are going to be in the same time zone, which is really advantageous. Now, we have three divisional teams in the Pacific Time Zone and the puck drops at 9:00 or 9:30 Texas time, which is difficult for our fans to stay up and watch when games end at midnight or later.
“Our team is going to be able to get home that night after games versus the West Coast, where we get stuck in those cities and can’t get home until the next day. That costs us a practice day. It’s going to be less travel, better for our fans in terms of when games start and better for our players in terms of getting home and getting into their own beds after games versus too many times being stuck on the West Coast.
“And the biggest thing might be the fact that every team will play in every city every year. Rather than waiting every second or third year to see a Sidney Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, you are going to see them every season. That’s a real win for our fans. A season ticket holder has an opportunity to see every team in the league versus local teams too many times per season. I think that is as exciting as anything.”
On attendance and fan response following the lockout
“It certainly surprised me. I was worried about the lockout and the effects of it, and I think anyone in the NHL would tell you the same thing. The response has been great. We’ve got great fans. The lockout was an unfortunate event that hopefully we will be able to avoid for the next ten years. We’ll put this one behind us. Its’ been a remarkable bounce out of the lockout around the league and in Dallas, too. Our attendance and revenues are up, and that is a great sign for us.
“We’re grateful for the progress that we’ve made in Dallas with the business. It seems the league is quite healthy, especially given the fact that we were so late starting. I think we are fortunate to be in that situation, so we have to continue to work hard to earn the trust of our fans. In Dallas, we’ve got to continue to be competitive and improve our team.”