Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks may have named Les Jackson and Brett Hull co-GMs of his team, but make no mistake, Jackson will be doing virtually all the heavy lifting when it comes to making hockey decisions.
In fact, the Stars have already let the rest of the NHL know that if they have any trades or player moves to discuss with the Stars, Jackson is the man they should have on their speed dials.
That’s not to say that Hull won’t one day be a GM in the NHL, but unlike Hull, Jackson has spent Friday nights in a cold arena in Rimouski. He has negotiated contracts. He has made tough decisions at the draft table and he has been part of the hockey industry for the better part of 20 years.
For the moment, Hull is the public face of the franchise and Jackson is the mover and shaker and that’s as it should be.
Jackson, in fact, might be one of the most underrated hockey executives in the business. He’s highly competent, very intelligent and despite exuding an ultra easy-going exterior, he’s intensely competitive.
But the best thing about the 54-year-old Jackson is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He won’t be threatened by the presence of Hull in the Stars’ front office and he’ll work with Hull to make The Golden Brett a better off-ice hockey man and the Stars a better organization.
Jackson is a consensus builder who doesn’t seek confrontation, but doesn’t back down from his principles, either.
“He’s a 150-grain sandpaper,” said an NHL observer who knows Jackson well. “He’s not a 50.”
It will be interesting, though, to see what the Stars do long-term.
Jackson is an able hockey man and at different times in his career has been a finalist for GM jobs in Atlanta, Vancouver and Buffalo.
It would be difficult to see him sticking around and going back to being the assistant GM of the team if the Stars decide to give Hull the job on a permanent basis.
Jackson left the organization in the late 1990s to take a job with Atlanta because he felt his talents weren’t being used to their fullest in Dallas, demonstrating he’s a man who will stand on his principles. If Jackson ever left the Stars, he certainly wouldn’t be out of work for long.
Sources close to the Stars, meanwhile, say that the firing of former GM Doug Armstrong wasn’t prompted by any one incident, but came about because Hicks wasn’t satisfied with where the organization was going and wasn’t willing to keep a GM installed who might be inclined to make short-term moves to save his job at the expense of the bigger picture. (Note to Toronto Maple Leafs: You might want to consider this course of action yourselves. Either that, or show some faith in your GM by giving him an extension.)
There appeared to be some difference of opinion between Armstrong and Hicks over coach Dave Tippett, with Armstrong wanting to keep Tippett as coach long-term, but there was nothing to indicate a change was being made until Tuesday morning when Hicks met with Armstrong, who reportedly was shocked by the turn of events.
Armstrong, who still has 4-1/2 years left on his deal with the Stars, has already emerged as a possible candidate for the GM job in Toronto should the Leafs dismiss John Ferguson.