Nieuwendyk not afraid of change

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

DALLAS -- During his one-year tenure with the Maple Leafs as special assistant to the general manager, Joe Nieuwendyk learned the inner workings of how to run a hockey team.

Like having to make the tough decisions.

Having been hired away from the Leafs to fill the general manager's vacancy with the Dallas Stars this past offseason, the ink barely was dry on Nieuwendyk's contract when he made a bold decision.

He fired coach Dave Tippett, the man who had been behind the Stars bench for the previous six seasons.

Having worked with Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke in Toronto, Nieuwendyk knew personal feelings could not be involved when making moves in the best interests of the franchise. It was Fletcher, after all, who, back in 1994, had been bold enough to trade away Wendel Clark, arguably the most popular Leaf in franchise history.

"Working with Cliff and Burke, what a great opportunity to learn for someone like me," said Nieuwendyk, whose Dallas Stars faced off against the Leafs last night at American Airlines Center.

"After coming back to the (Dallas) organization, I spoke to owner (Tom Hicks) about my plans (for the coaching situation). I didn't make the change because I wanted to put my stamp on the team. I just felt it was something we needed to do.

"People that know me, know I don't do things to blow my own horn."

Nieuwendyk isn't joking about that. Just ask any of his former teammates and employers, who consider him the consummate team player.

"Joe Nieuwendyk is one of the classiest people we have in the sport," Burke said. "I wish him nothing but the best."

While Nieuwendyk's focus is now on the Stars, his fingerprints remain all over the Leafs organization. It was Nieuwendyk who last season successfully recruited highly-touted college free agents Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson to sign with the Maple Leafs.

"I've been lucky," Nieuwendyk said. "I think for me, the learning process for this job goes back to when I was a player, watching people like Bob Gainey here in Dallas and Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey. It has helped a lot."

Back in 1999, Nieuwendyk led the Stars to their only Stanley Cup in franchise history. Now, from the executive's box, he's attempting to do it all over again.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos