Heading in a new direction

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

So, the general manager is fired, the team president apparently isn't told about it first, interim co-general managers (one an experienced assistant, one an inexperienced former player) are put in place for at least the rest of the season, the coaches are all on the last year of their contracts and thin ice, the president then mutually decides to move on to other work within the owner's empire and is replaced by the president of the baseball team ...

Hmmn. Sounds suspiciously like Toronto, circa the late 1980s, and other assorted years along the way.

But it's not. Welcome to Dallas, the hockey team not the old prime-time soap.

Indeed, the past few days have been curious times in Dallas, where the Stars have struggled and suffered a collapse of epic proportions on Saturday night, blowing a 4-0 lead in the final eight minutes of regulation to the Los Angeles Kings, who ultimately won 6-5 in overtime.

Three days later, GM Doug Armstrong was caught off- guard and fired with almost four seasons remaining on his contract. That move was made by owner Tom Hicks, who apparently didn't consult with team president Jim Lites.

A few hours later, Hicks announced that long-time Stars executive Les Jackson and former star Brett Hull would take over as co-general managers, an unusual arrangement to say the least.

"It's early in the season and I am convinced they are the right people to provide direction, vision, management and guidance that get this team positioned to win another division crown," Hicks said.

And if the co-GMs can't agree on the direction and vision and how to win another division crown?

"If they don't agree, then I'm the tiebreaker," Hicks told reporters. Perfect.

After all that, Lites yesterday stepped down and moved into another wing of Hicks' empire, replaced by Jeff Cogen, president of the baseball Texas Rangers. That sounds more odd than it actually is because Cogen is a former vice-president of marketing with the Stars, moved with the team from Minnesota once upon a time and also worked for the Florida Panthers.

While the overall structure and some of the individual moves are quite different, the fact there was a shakeup in Dallas was not completely unexpected. It was driven by a number of factors, not the least of which is the fact the football Cowboys and the basketball Mavericks continue to surge in popularity.

The same cannot be said for the Stars, who have not been filling the seats, have become an uninspiring and mediocre product on the ice and, clearly, are looking to stay in the fight for overall popularity.

That might explain some of the off-ice shuffles. As it applies to the pure hockey operations, under Armstrong the Stars had lost in the first round in their past three playoffs. And while they had obvious shortcomings, especially on offence, he either decided not to make changes in the summer, or simply couldn't because of salary cap issues.

For that, Armstrong took the fall, Hicks believing (or he was being told from within) the GM couldn't fix the team, thus two heads are suddenly better than one, or so the owner hopes.

Jackson is a well-regarded hockey man to be sure. He has worked for 20 years through two stints with the Stars, involved with scouting and player personnel.

Hull has spent two years dabbling in front-office duties as a special assistant to the president and most recently as a special adviser to hockey operations. His credentials as a player are obvious, his skills as a hockey executive are unknown. This much is certain, if the arrangement is going to work, Hull can't hit the mute button on Jackson.

If nothing else, Hull in a more prominent role gives the distinct public impression the Stars are going in a different, perhaps bolder, direction.

Add to that a marketer taking over as team president and Hicks has certainly changed the dynamic of his organization.

Whether it works, only time will tell.


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