DALLAS – Eight years after Brett Hull won the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars, his job is to find the players who can bring them another one.
As the Stars’ new interim co-general manager, count on the always-opinionated Hull being blunt about what the team needs.
“You just can’t snap your fingers and go, ‘Let’s be the Russians,”‘ Hull said Wednesday. “We’re going to get together and figure out the best way to make that happen.”
Stars owner Tom Hicks fired Doug Armstrong on Tuesday and replaced him with Hull, added to the Dallas front office last year, and Les Jackson. The change came after the Stars’ 7-7-3 start that followed three straight first-round playoff exits.
The shake-up continued Wednesday with Stars president Jim Lites being replaced by Jeff Cogen, who was plucked from the front office of Hicks’ baseball franchise, the Texas Rangers. Cogen had the same role with the Rangers.
Jackson was the Stars’ assistant GM.
With Dallas embarking on such an internal overhaul, one of Hull’s first gestures as GM was to throw his support behind sixth-year Stars coach Dave Tippett, whose contract expires after the season.
“We believe wholeheartedly that he can lead this team to where we want to go,” said Hull, who left the Stars for Detroit and won another Stanley Cup in 2001-02 before Tippett took over the next season.
The retired NHL great, whose 741 goals rank third on the career list, is a sentimental choice for Stars fans who remember Hull knocking in the Stanley Cup-winning goal in triple overtime against Buffalo in Game 6 of the 1999 finals.
But the Stars’ recent playoff fortunes have been less rosy. Dallas hasn’t won multiple series in the same post-season since 2000, when it lost to New Jersey in the finals. The Stars have reached the second round just twice since then, the last time in 2003.
Hicks, when asked how far he thought Dallas was from returning to its glory days, said “about three more rounds of the playoffs.”
Hicks said although he couldn’t hire a “world-class general manager in the middle of the season,” he believes Hull can make the moves necessary to help the Stars get younger and faster.
“Hockey in the old days was easy,” said Hicks, who signed Hull as a free agent the summer before the Stars won the Stanley Cup. “You just went out and spent money. Go get Brett. You can’t do that anymore.”
Goalie Marty Turco, a teammate during Hull’s last two seasons in Dallas, is among the Stars players satisfied with the new boss.
“He was a guy you looked up to, a potential Hall of Famer,” Turco said. “His knowledge and intelligence speak for themselves in my mind. He led by example. He played on a lot of good teams. He’s used to the pressure.”
Of course, Hull was known as much for shooting his mouth off as he was for scoring during his playing career. In St. Louis, his 11 years with the Blues were marked by a long public rift with the front office. His outspoken nature helped land him a studio analyst job with NBC last season.
If Hull doesn’t agree with Tippett’s philosophy on the ice, there’s no doubt he won’t keep it private.
“He’ll hear what I think,” Hull said. “But it’s up to him whether he goes with it or not.”
The 43-year-old Hull also was candid about his rise to the top of the Stars organization, saying he didn’t expect to be in this position so soon.
“My credentials are good, but that doesn’t mean you’re just going to step in,” he said. “I never thought it was going to be like this.”