Unrest in Dallas

It should be a quiet day. The “bigger names” have left the development camp and it’s now primarily the recent draft picks and free-agent guys working out. I’ll get out there tomorrow to get some final thoughts from Crawford and make a guy such as Oscar Moller, who seems interesting.

As always, if anyone has any questions that I might be able to answer, feel free to post them here and I’ll do my best to answer.

Other than that, I’ll leave you with some reading material. TSN did a feature/preview of the Kings that you can read here. Nothing groundbreaking, but I think it can be interesting to see how the Kings are viewed in Canada.

Finally, thanks to reader Don for passing this along. Seems that the folks in Dallas aren’t very happy with the Stars’ inactivity on the free-agent market. Below, I’ll attach a letter that team president James R. Lites sent out to fans today. It’s actually quite a letter…

An Unfiltered Letter from Dallas Stars President Jim Lites

July 12, 2007

Dear Stars fan,

There have been a lot of things written and said over the last two weeks, many of which have painted a negative perception of the Dallas Stars as a hockey club and where we are headed in the future. We’ve been called everything from ‘stupid’ to ‘asleep at the wheel’ to ‘out of touch,’ simply because we did not make a big splash in the free agent market.

I’m here to tell you that these beliefs, columns, opinions and statements couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s downright unfair. Contrary to what some have written or said, we haven’t gone stupid overnight and we do have a plan in place.

The Dallas Stars have been the second-most successful team in the entire NHL over the last 11 years. We’re proud of that mark, and you should be too, for your support has been a big factor in our success. Do we wish we had more hardware? Absolutely, but the consistent success we’ve achieved over the years cannot be ignored.

We were one of the best teams in the league again last season. The Stars won 50 games and earned 107 points, finishing just three points behind Pacific Division and Stanley Cup champ Anaheim (who we beat four times). And we did this while having the fifth-most man-games lost due to injury, most of which were our best players (Modano and Morrow). And we played our best hockey against the best teams (going 23-15-4 vs. all other playoff teams).

That’s the good news. But obviously a first round loss in the playoffs was disappointing for all of us, and that is what people remember and center their attention on. That’s understandable. We all want to win in the playoffs.

But in the new NHL, there are no longer upsets in the first round. All eight playoff teams in the West could have easily won the conference. The new NHL includes first round match-ups that are much closer than in the old system. The playing field is more level than ever before.

Some believe that we should make wholesale changes to this club because we have struggled in the playoffs of late. We disagree. It would be irresponsible of us to trade some of our core players because we believe that won’t make us better. At the end of the day we would punish the fans and ourselves.

Would we like to add scoring? Yes. But we have to operate under the salary cap and do the best we can with the chips we have to play with at the table. We want to give ourselves the best chance for success, both short and long term. What we can’t do is take unreasonable risks on contracts, which was something we could do under the old system. We can’t take an extra center on a long-term deal and see if we can make him change positions and make him fit into our system. We tried that with Pierre Turgeon and it didn’t work. That was OK when it was just money. We can’t take that risk now with the salary cap.

These might sound like excuses to some but it is the reality of the business model we are in.

Doug Armstrong has done an excellent job in firming up our roster. He was able to sign Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen to extensions one year ago at money and term that are fair and make sense. Then Doug traded for Mattias Norstrom at the trade deadline. These moves basically spent a lot of the possible money that would have been available for this year’s crop of free agents. Any team that would have added these three players to their roster on July 1 would have been very happy.

That said, we were very much interested in adding a player to bolster our scoring (and still are). In essence, we have about a $4 million slot available to try and sign someone and we held discussions with several key free agents on July 1. In the end, all of our targets ended up getting more money and/or more term than we were comfortable with.

Many of the contracts that were signed by free agents in the first 24 hours of free agency were for what we like to call stupid money. In our opinion, several teams drastically overpaid to sign these free agents and they are now tied to contracts for many years that they may regret in the future because of the way it will hinder their roster movement.

We refuse to mortgage our future simply to sign a free agent in July and appease the media. We’re not going to sign a player to win a PR battle; we’ll sign free agents to contracts that will help us win hockey games. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get better but you have to make good smart decisions, because mistakes in this system can kill you.

There are still options available to add players to our roster. One possibility is making a trade to add that scorer. But the bottom line is that we will not make a move unless we feel it is the right one. And we don’t need to make that move in July.

Some have asked me what kind of a team we’re going to have this season. I think it’s going to be a good one. Take last year’s 50-win team and put it up against our roster right now. The main differences are Mattias Norstrom replacing Darryl Sydor, Joel Lundqvist replacing Eric Lindros, and Todd Fedoruk replacing Matthew Barnaby. Then look around our division and our conference and ask yourself has anyone gotten better? None of the playoff teams have. And our roster that you see today is probably not the final roster you will see on opening night. We will continue to look for a way to add scoring punch to this lineup.

There are three main things that a team needs to have to be successful in the NHL — a quality goaltender, a productive offensive defenseman, and talented center-ice men. We feel we are in very good shape in all three of these areas for 2007-08.

Marty Turco is one of the best goaltenders in the league and is under contract for the next three years. We also feel very good about Mike Smith in his role as Marty’s back-up. We just extended Sergei Zubov’s contract through 2009. We expect him to again anchor our blue-liners and be an important player for us. And we think we’re in good shape at the center position with Mike Modano, Mike Ribeiro and Jeff Halpern. We’re talented and can compete.

Every decision we make is done to win hockey games. We’ve always spent to the cap and always will, thanks to a great owner in Tom Hicks. Money is not an issue. The Dallas Stars are about winning. We’ve won in the past, we’re going to win this season, and we’re going to win in the future.

As always, I want to hear from you. Please send me any feedback to StarsPresident@DallasStars.com or call me at 214-387-5502.

Thank you for your support of the Dallas Stars. Have a great summer!

Sincerely,
jrl
James R. Lites
President, Dallas Stars

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  • Chris H

    Lites is right. Some teams spent stupid money and gave out stupid terms. I mean Briere will cost the Flyers 8mil against the cap 5/6/7/8 years from now and they can’t buy him out – ouch!

    DL did a good job of balancing them both IMO. Lubo’s deal seems reasonable too though I wonder how productive he’ll be when he’s 35/36. Still a good risk to take.

    Now sign Kipper next summer and we’re winning the Cup.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/kings/2007/07/unrest_in_dallas.html#comments Jayson

    Way to go Dean. Thanks to you, we’ve earned some respects from Canada, hockeywise.

    Reading about the unrest in Dallas makes me believe more on our GM?

  • GMatsuda

    That is indeed quite a letter to fans. Not only is it lengthy, but Lites didn’t pull any punches and he laid pretty much everything on the table regarding his team’s philosophy and about how they intend to move ahead. Refreshing. Will Kings fans ever get that from AEG, if they were put in that position? I doubt it.

  • CT

    i hope this is a sign of things to come. i got tired of watching the stars slapping the kings around all last season.

  • Daniel

    Rich,

    Regarding GMatsudas comment – correct me if I am wrong – but arent the Kings more separate from AEG now than the past? Looking on the Kings website, I see that Lombardi is President of Hockey Operations and Robitaille is President of Business Operations. Yes, Anshultz/Roski/Leiweke are present in either Owner or Governor roles.

    I know for a fact that many of the pessimists recall the mistakes of previous management regimes. But things have changed over the past 12 months, right? The way I understand it, the Kings are a more autonomous business unit now than they were previously under AEG. In other words, I definitely can see Luc or Dean penning a letter to the fans.

  • TBrown33

    “Then look around our division and our conference and ask yourself has anyone gotten better? None of the playoff teams have.”

    I like that quote.

  • Dave

    Here’s hoping the Stars fan unrest infects the team. C’mon high draft pick! Yeah, not gonna happen but a guy can dream.

  • mike

    Rich, i was wondering the status on rob blake and his surgery. Does the management think he will be ready by the start? hopefully he comes back better than last year

  • Ed

    Rich,

    If you get a chance to talk to Brian Boyle before Development Camp is over, ask him about his father, Mike Boyle and his influence on his conditioning. Link to his father’s website:

    http://www.bodybyboyle.com/

    Also, when talk to DL next time, can you ask him about Warren Strelow and how he was able to hire WS and how he influenced DL during tenure in SJ.

    Keep up the good work !

  • Hasekbowstome

    Good, its refreshing to see someone that high up in an organization speak openly and honestly with his team’s fanbase like that. I really wish we saw that sort of thing more often.

    I am curious about his criteria though for being the “second most successful team” over the last 11 years. I’m sure the Devils, Wings, and Avs would all argue that the Stars can’t possibly be higher than #4.

  • Mike

    I called him and thanked him for his in-activity. I also thanked him for the 1st rounder which could be a lottery pick.

  • JB

    I posted this before but didn’t see an answer. No big deal but since you opened it up . . .

    Are the Kings making the call that Boyle can’t develop the skills needed to be an NHL forward and it’s easier to teach him the body position and other skills needed of a D-man? Sure he’s got size and reach but reading the blogs sounds like he needs work on positioning and I’m not a believer that you can teach that any easier than you can teach the skills needed to be a forward.

  • MattGeorge

    who’s “Kipper”?

  • Ex-Sportswriter

    Kiprusoff?

  • Rich Hammond

    Daniel…I would say that Lombardi definitely has more autonomy than Dave Taylor ever had. It’s been a while since you’ve heard Tim Leiweke say something goofy, so it seems that the hockey team is being left to the hockey people. Particularly with Luc stepping in as well.

    Mike…I think I might have answered you in other thread, but it probably got lost in the shuffle. Blake is fine. His surgery was fairly routine, as I understand, and I know he’s been spending some time up in Ontario this summer.

    Ed…that’s very interesting about Boyle’s father. He’s gone from the camp now but I’ll remember that when training camp comes around. The Strelow question seems interesting as well…thanks.

    JB…with Boyle, I believe it’s two things. They think he has more potential on the blue line than at center and, looking at the organizational depth, it probably will allow him to be an impact player at the NHL level sooner. He’s still a project, but for a guy who is just learning the position, he looked much better than I expected.

  • Anonymous

    Rich:

    As for the players who did not appear at camp, if you get a chance, could you get updates on the status on the following players:

    Marc-Andre Cliche
    Jonathan Quick
    Erik Ersberg
    Gabe Gauthier
    Dany Roussin
    Ned Lukacevik
    Brendan Buckley
    Peter Kanko
    Matt Ryan
    Valtteri Tenkanen
    Johan Fransson
    Mike Curry
    Josh Meyers
    Martin Nolet

    Thanks.

  • C. Marshall

    Hey, just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blogs. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait ’till September!

  • Rob2716

    I’m curious if Marc Crawford will continue to play Lubo on his off-side. It took him a bit of time to adjust last season, but wondering if the additions of Preissing and Stuart allows Lubo to move back to where he’s most comfortable.

  • hipcheck

    Since no one else has said it nor expressed any inkling of gratitude I will go ahead and say it now and thank you for all your work Rich. This is certainly the best blog to get much needed Kings info and really a godsend for off season kings related info. Mega Kudos.

  • Anonymous

    Marc-Andre Cliche- Has an injury, I believe a knee problem.
    Jonathan Quick- back in Massachussetts.
    Erik Ersberg- was at the mini-mini camp a couple weeks ago and went back to Sweden.
    Gabe Gauthier- I saw gabe a couple days ago so idk about that one, he skates where i do.
    Dany Roussin- No idea.
    Ned Lukacevik- I don’t believe ned is with us anymore.
    Brendan Buckley- well past a rookie camp.
    Peter Kanko- see above.
    Matt Ryan- see above.
    Valtteri Tenkanen- staying home.
    Johan Fransson- is in Sweden.
    Mike Curry- no clue.
    Josh Meyers- isnt he injured also?
    Martin Nolet- has fallen out of favor, maybe no spots?

  • triplcrown

    Fransson is in Sweden?

    Does that mean he’s not coming over this year?

    Might he be coming over later in the summer?

    Any word on Fransson?

  • R5ANDY

    hEY RICH,
    all i can say is what a bunch of dumb bleepin A**holes if your bosses pull you from this gig> you are the bomb my brother!!! HOT DIGGGITY DOG!! HEY FEATUREs you can offer we’d like to know more about what these guys do in training for the season (as a hockey player myself be specific would you). Also what arre some of there gags they play on each other same thing specifics. I would like to hear some info that we never here anywhere else. the dumb kings (ask a king site) doesn’t tell us anything of value…as a hockey fan i don’t care who kopi has on his IPOD or what shows he likes. I am a hockey fan and i want hockey stuff. Relevant hockey info.hockey hockey hockey. If you want to know what color underwear cammi likes watch entertainment tonite!!!!!