Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has been named the NHL’s General Manager of the Year after a season in which the team reached the Western Conference Finals.
While the Stars did not have a first-round selection during this week’s NHL Draft in Nashville, Nill was announced as the winner of the 14th Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award as the event unfolded at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night, beating out Boston’s Don Sweeney and Florida’s Bill Zito.
“I think the main thing is the organization,” Nill said as he met with the media after receiving the award. “It’s the sum of the parts. It’s about the people you surround yourself with, and we got great people — right from the top to the bottom.”
The Stars hired Nill in 2013 after nearly 20 years with the Detroit Red Wings, where he worked alongside front office and coaching greats Jim Devellano, Scotty Bowman, Ken Holland, and Mike Babcock, among others.
Under Nill’s leadership, the Stars have made six playoff appearances in 10 years and reached the Western Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once.
“There’s so many things that come into play when you try to win,” Nill explained. “Everybody’s got to pull the rope at the same time, and we’ve got a group that does that.”
Last season, Nill helped take the Stars from a borderline playoff team to a contender in the Western Conference as young players emerged and veterans like Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi were acquired at the trade deadline.
“I think the trade [dead]line was big for us,” he said. “Adding those players … really put us over the hump. Up to then, we had a good season, but I think that really injected some life into there, and to see how those guys meshed in with the lineup, that was the key part.”
Nill has approached his role as general manager with the big picture in mind. He wants to build a team for sustained success.
“That’s probably the toughest part of the business because the fans want to win now, and we understand that,” Nill divulged. “But I always talk about, ‘We want to win now, we want to win tomorrow, and we want to win five to 10 years down the road.’ That’s the tough part of the business. That’s where I get back to, that’s where your staff’s so important.”
By many accounts, the Stars overachieved last season and could be on their way to the sustained success Nill seeks.
“We’ve got a very solid core now — an older core and a younger core coming up — and they’re coming up at the right time together,” he claimed. “The younger core’s getting inspired and mentored by the older core, and the older core is getting inspired by the younger core … I’ve been around a lot of teams, some good teams, and these guys, they got a special vibe about themselves.”
Finding the right pieces that add to that vibe and help Dallas continue moving in the right direction will be the mission for the NHL’s top general manager, as free agency begins on Saturday.
“I’m looking at all options. I’ve talked to some teams about some trades. It’s contracts, cap, making money work, trying to figure those things out, and we also know there’s going to be some players available. Because we’re a good team, I think we’re a destination.”