Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Q&A with Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk

With Nieuwendyk just starting his 2nd season as GM, he's looking to help his team comeback along with head coach Marc Crawford. But with limited resources due to the ownership situation, and to comeback after releasing Modano and Turco this off-season. He's got a lot to prove if he wants to take this team back to the playoffs with a lot of young talent like Benn, Eriksson and Neal.

Plus a few unknowns like Jeff Woywitka and Kari Lehtonen looking to overcome an injury stigma that's plagued him through most of his career and having to help get support from Andrew Raycroft when he is playing as the backup goaltender.

During this Q&A, Nieuwendyk and Steve Hunt of FSN Southwest talk about the status of Jere Lethinen, the new contracts of players like Nicklas Grossman, heading to PEI for the opening of training camp. The success of players like James Neal and Jamie Benn last year, the teams top prospects like Scott Glennie and who will be the new face of the franchise since Mike Modano left the team over the summer.

Here's the Q&A by Steve Hunt of FSN Southwest

FSN: What is the latest with Jere Lehtinen?

JN: His status is still up in the air. I met with him the other day. He's been back for a couple of weeks now, His kids are in school. He's not exactly sure what he wants to do?

FSN: How do you view the pieces you've added this offseason?

JN: I'm excited about it to be honest. It goes back during the year with the acquisition of Kari Lehtonen and then with drafting Jack Campbell and having Tyler Beskorowany turn pro. Now, we've got a real solid stable of goaltenders and we realized how important that position is. That kind of transpired over the course of last season into the summer, I'm pleased. I think you have got to know Adam Burish and talk to people who knew him in Chicago, he's going to prove a valuable player for us. He's going to bring a lot to our locker room and he plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. One of the things I've got to try and become is a little bit more difficult team to play against, especially in the bottom group of forwards. He'll certainly provide that for us. We added Andrew Raycroft, another goaltender that gives us experience. He's had a lot of success over his NHL Career and really gives up a lot of protection in many ways.

FSN: Do you think Scott Glennie could make the team or he is more likely headed for another year of Junior?

JN: Well, we'd like for him to come in and we've expressed that message to come in with the expectation of making the team. I think that's the mentally we're looking for him to come in with. We're not a team with a lot of right shots and it's an opportunity for him. Realistically, I think the likelihood will that he'll probably end up back in Juniors because they are a lot of experiences to go through Juniors as well like the World Junior Championship and things like that. Either way, its going to be a terrific season.

FSN: Talk about opening Training Camp in Prince Edward Island (PEI) this season.

JN: I know as a player and talking to our players, they really enjoy the experience of getting right away with training camp. We used to go to Colorado for years. It's a way for guys to kind of bond and really focus on what needs to get done. To go to a place like Prince Edward Island (PEI), there are some passionate hockey fans there. So they're really excited about us coming up there. Even though we're only going to be three days, they'll be three extremely productive days. Things happen for us right away because we go there for three days and then were right into preseason play.

FSN: How excited are you and the rest of the organization with the success of Jamie Benn and James Neal had last year?

JN: That's one thing that I have stated here, that we have a number of good young players that were excited to go forward with. Because of their early success, it doesn't mean it's going to be here every year. I think those players realize the hard work involved. Nobody expected Jamie Benn to make our hockey club and have the type of season that he had. He's not going to fool anybody around the league this year. I think the experience of him going down to play for our farm team in Austin was a real beneficial experience for him to go down there, play that kind of playoff hockey environment where he was kind of a targeted guy. So he got a taste of what is liked to be keyed on.

FSN: Discuss how important it was to get an extension for Nicklas Grossman.

JN: His progression has been on the rise. Even though he doesn't give you a lot of offense, he's going to give you an honest effort every night. He's lugging more minutes year-by-year and turning into a solid top four defensemen paired with Stephane Robidas. They have good chemistry together. He is a high character guy that's a team first guy. He's going to do everything that's best for the team. He's a solid player.

FSN: Can fans expect to see more of a Marc Crawford style of hockey this year compared to last year?

JN: I think so, I think now that Marc has a year under his belt, he's extremely excited to get going in year two. He has a better feel for the players. There is an adjustment period, not only for the players adjusting to the coach, but the coach adjusting to the players. I think were putting the players in the roles that we feel comfortable with. It was a challenge in some ways to make sure that everybody was feeling the love and getting their ice-time last year. I think now with Mike Modano moving to Detroit and that situation in itself, we'll be able to allocate the minutes a little more effectively in Marcs Mind.

FSN: How important is it for this year's team to start much better then last year's squad?

JN: I think that's definitely a key. You look at Phoenix last year. They put a lot of points into the bank early and when they did have a slump here and there [they were fine]. That's always true for any team . If you can put those points in the bank early, it's key. Offensively we know were going to be able to do some things with the players and personnel they have. The two areas we need to improve on are Goals against. The biggest component of that Kari Lehtonen. It looks like he's poised to have a good season. The other area is the penalty kill. We've got to do a much better job on the penalty kill. We're pretty disciplined team where we don't take a heck of a lot we've certainly but we've certainly go to do the job when it comes to penalty kill.

FSN: Is Brad Richards the new face of the franchise?

JN: I haven't really looked it at that way. I don't know if we have on individual that's really going to be the face of the face. You can point to a number of people that are important people, Brad Richards being one of them along with Brendan Morrow. Stephane Robidas portrays what we like our Dallas Stars to be, that hardworking mentality. I think it's a little unfair to put it one guy. In the case of Mike Modano, he was that one guy no doubt about it. He was here for two decades and I think everybody and I think everybody identified not only hockey in the state of Texas but here with Mike Modano. I don't think it would be fair to put that tag on somebody else.

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