Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill agrees with the criticism team CEO Jim Lites gave on Friday, but not necessarily the way in which it was delivered.
“First of all, the hockey message by Jim was dead on. I think that message had to get out there,” Nill said on Sunday, according to NHL.com. “We’ve all got to be better, from management to the coaches to players, all the way down, we’ve got to be better. So, the message was right.
“I’ve talked to Jim; I don’t condone the language or the tone. He’s emotional; he wears the star on his heart. He got emotional, and understandably so I don’t condone that. But the message that was sent from him and management was dead on and correct. I agree with all that.”
Lites made headlines on Friday when he gave an interview with The Athletic criticizing star players Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for their poor offensive numbers so far this season.
“They are [expletive] [expletive], I don’t know how else to put it,” Lites said. “These guys were signed to big contracts because they were the third- and sixth-leading scorers in the National Hockey League over the past five years. They get their money, we expect them to not be outplayed every game we play in. And if they were as good as they’ve been in the past we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Nill tried to stay positive when speaking Sunday, pointing out the team has been good defensively despite missing many regulars on the blue line, including John Klingberg, due to injuries. But he also added that the Stars have high expectations for the season, and their 20-16-3 record, which has them currently in the second wild card position in the western conference, simply isn’t good enough.
“Why did this come about? We are 40 games in. Last year we were in this spot, our goaltending got hurt, and it cost us the playoffs. We’re not going to let it slip this year,” Nill said.
“Part of that is Tyler Seguin, as we sit today, is 60th in the league in scoring and Jamie Benn is 78th. And I’ve talked to them. They know it. We’ve talked about it. They know they’ve got to be better,” Nill added. “Where would we be if they were in the top 30 in scoring? Would we have two, three, four more wins? We wouldn’t be standing here right now. That’s part of them getting better. They are the leaders of the team. We are looking for them to lead us. With the rest of the team, they’ve got to get better.”
After the comments were published, the Stars put together a solid 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Nill sees that win as a sign of good things to come, and isn’t worried about any negative consequences from Lites’ public criticism.
“This isn’t the end of the world. We’re in a good spot. Let’s grab more,” Nill said. “No complacency. We’ve got high expectations, which everybody does in this league. Don’t let it slip.”