Analysis: New Stars GMs have tough task ahead

When other NHL teams were throwing away money like Britney Spears this past summer, the Dallas Stars kept their free-agent spending to a minimum, and their protests of a league that had yet again lost its financial bearings to a maximum.

Whether by design or by circumstance, they vowed to stick with the team that made the playoffs last year and won the Pacific Division title in 2005-06.

But today, even though the Stars occupy the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Doug Armstrong paid the biggest price of all – with his job.

Team owner Tom Hicks relieved Armstrong of his duties as GM Tuesday, after Dallas stumbled out of the gate to a 7-7-3 start. The straw that snapped the proverbial camel’s back may have been the Stars’ loss to Los Angeles Saturday, when they blew a 4-0 lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation and lost 6-5 to the Kings in overtime, but something tells me that three straight quarter-final playoff losses in the past three years had as much, if not more, to do with it.

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So now the Stars have turned over the reins – on an interim basis, at least – to assistant GM Les Jackson and former player and current special advisor for hockey operations, Brett Hull.

This much is certain, however: turning around the Dallas’s fortunes is no easy task.

Perhaps Hicks thinks he can pull the plug on the team early on with this move, in the same way Flyers owner Ed Snider did with Bob Clarke last year, and turn things around in a single season.

However, unlike the Flyers, the Stars don’t exactly have a wealth of young prospects ready to make the next step, and Dallas has nearly $30 million in cap room devoted to depreciating assets such as Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov next year.

Until Dallas’s player development system improves, it won’t matter how much money the team spends every summer, or who the GM(s) are.