DALLAS — About 10 days after Texan Tom Hicks bought the Dallas Stars, he showed some hockey smarts by giving up prospects and a big contract to land Joe Nieuwendyk.
It was a great investment. The Stars won the Presidents Trophy in Nieuwendyk’s first full season, won the Stanley Cup the next year, then went right back to the finals. Nieuwendyk even won the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP the year of Dallas’ title, the first in franchise history.
Then the Stars traded Nieuwendyk in 2002, and things haven’t been the same since. Coincidence or not, Dallas has won just three playoff series, missing the post-season altogether this year.
So when Hicks decided to shake up his front office — sending co-general managers Brett Hull and Les Jackson back to roles they’re more suited for — it was Nieuwendyk to the rescue again.
His hiring was announced Sunday and the first-time GM was introduced at a news conference Monday.
“He’s a winner,” Hicks said. “What he brought on the ice for this organization (in the last ’90s) was different than the other stars we had.
“He was really the glue. I think that leadership and that ability to build a consensus around him, those skills sets will be very transferable to being in management.”
Nieuwendyk has spent the last two years being groomed for this opportunity, working in an apprentice role under GMs in Toronto and Florida.
He also was assistant GM for Team Canada, which won a silver medal at the world championships; in that job, he coincidentally worked with the guy who traded him from the Stars (Doug Armstrong) and his new head coach, Dave Tippett.
“Spending the last month or so with him, I believe he’s ready for this,” Tippett said.
“He is very methodical, very thoughtful in his approach. He thinks things through before he reacts to them. He was a hard player to play against because he would outthink you.
“I would imagine it’s going to be the same as GM.”