As the Dallas Stars ended the regular season with a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night, there were reports of big changes coming to the organization. TSN in Canada reported that GM Joe Nieuwendyk was on his way out and that Jim Nill, an assistant GM with the Detroit Red Wings, would be the replacement.
Stars management was silent on the issue Saturday. Nieuwendyk was unavailable for comment. Players were caught off guard by the reports, but had high praise for Nieuwendyk.
“That’s not really for me to comment on” defenseman Brenden Dillon said after the game. “Joe’s done a good job for us, for me especially, bringing me along and signing me as a free agent. He’s done wonders for me and has been awesome.”
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan also had praise for Nieuwendyk.
“Well, all I can say is that Joe’s been tremendous for me. I think he’s done a hell of a job,” said Gulutzan. “You can see our farm team and the young guys that we have here. Whatever happens with that, he’s the guy that hired me and a guy that I’m close to. He’s taught me a lot.”
Nieuwendyk, a Hall of Fame player and a member of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup Championship team, was hired as GM in 2009. He guided the Stars through some rough years as the team struggled financially and was limited in what they could spend on player payroll. He has been credited with restocking the team’s prospect pool, but the Stars missed the playoffs all four years he was at the helm.
Nill has been with the Red Wings for 19 years, 15 of it as assistant GM under Ken Holland, considered one of the best GM’s in the league.
Holland and Nill’s Red Wings secured their 22nd straight trip to the playoffs with Saturday’s victory over the Stars. Detroit ended the season on a 4-0-1 run to grab the seventh seed and a first round matchup with Anaheim.
“We’re happy the way we’re playing right now but still, we haven’t really done anything,” said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, who scored two goals and added an assist. “We just made the playoffs. This is not the end. We want to put a good run here. We’ve got to keep playing well. Face a good team and we have to play good hockey if we want to continue playing.”
The Stars went 0-4-1 over the last five games, assuring themselves a fifth straight season of no playoff hockey.
“It wasn’t from lack of effort. I look back at that San Jose game with five minutes left. That was the one that hurt us a little bit,” said Gulutzan. “We went on a good run, but we were playing good teams in their buildings, but you can’t fault the effort. Maybe a bounce in that San Jose game when we had chances to make it 3-1 made a difference but we’re standing here today. We love the effort but we still have to move forward and get wins.”
The Stars ended the season 22-22-4. The .500 points percentage this season was the third lowest since the team moved to Dallas.