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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stars' hopes for improving are Nill

Deadwood Dallas puts faith in new GM

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DALLAS -- New Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill talked a lot about culture change Monday. He wasn't ready to discuss a coaching change.

Nill was formally introduced by the team after spending the past 15 years as an assistant GM with the Detroit Red Wings, who just extended the longest playoff streak in North American pro sports to 22 seasons.

Glen Gulutzan has coached the last two of five straight years without a trip to the post-season in Dallas. The Stars hold the option on the only remaining year in his contract.

Nill, who signed a five-year deal, says he wants to meet with everyone in the organization, Gulutzan included, before addressing a possible change.

"Right now, we've got a head coach," said Nill, who was in Detroit's front office for nearly 20 years. "I need to sit down with him."

When Stars owner Tom Gaglardi announced the firing of Joe Nieuwendyk on Sunday, he had already hired the 55-year-old Nill. A journeyman player for nine seasons in the NHL -- including nearly four playing for the Winnipeg Jets -- Nill built his reputation in scouting and managing the minor league teams.

The top four scorers for the Red Wings, led by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, were drafted and developed under Detroit general manager Ken Holland and Nill. The fifth -- Damien Brunner -- was signed as a free agent out of Switzerland.

Once Gaglardi decided to make a move, the search got real short when he found out Nill was interested after turning down numerous opportunities in previous years.

"I just think there's no substitution for experience," Gaglardi said. "If there's one word to describe Jim Nill, that's something he's got boatloads of. He's known around the league for being a hard-working guy and this is a big job."

Just like Nieuwendyk before him, Nill is a general manager for the first time. The difference is that Nieuwendyk, who was playoff MVP when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 but couldn't lead Dallas to the post-season in four years as GM, was just two years removed from his playing days. He essentially worked as a GM in training in Toronto and Florida.

Nill played his last game for the Red Wings in 1990 and spent three years in the scouting department with Ottawa before joining the Red Wings, who have won four Stanley Cup titles with him in the front office.

As for why Nill didn't pass on this chance like he did the others, it was simple -- the owner, and his own gut feeling.

"I don't know if it's so much the timing as it is the right people in place," said Nill, a native of Hanna, Alta. "The ownership is strong. The management team is strong. I'm from Canada. I'm a hockey guy. I didn't want to go to a market where you're on the back page."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 D6

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