In today's new NHL the structure of the organization and the quality of the personnel manning the front offices are as important as the players that don the jerseys for the drop of the puck.
A team with meddling owners can wreak havoc to a team's chemistry and the coach's ability to lead the team in a common direction. In the classic example of a conflict of interest, some owner's tireless efforts to increase revenue force them to undercut their chain of command and leave a feeling of instability throughout the organization.
Case in point The Tampa Bay Lightning's owners dictating the ice time received by the highly touted rookie player Steven Stamkos, in attempt to drum up revenue.
A team with a soft general manager can continually move valuable young prospects and hemorrhage draft picks in a futile attempt to speed up the progress of the team through the acquisition of big name free agents. A GM without the respect of his peers will habitually come out with the short end of the stick on trades.
Case in point any Islander's general manager, over the past decade and a half.
A team with a wish washy coach can quickly turn disastrous, as the players begin to revolt and refuse to put forth the effort demanded by the coach. Whether the coach is over bearing and obnoxious or the coach thinks it is still the early 90's, a bad coach will effectively neutralize any amount of talent and make a good team, play bad.
Case in point, John Tortorella and Barry Melrose. (*Sorry Tampa fans, I'm not intentionally bashing on you guys.)
I'm sure you are all as sick of the name Sean Avery as I am, so instead of the industry standard arguments of freedom of speech versus inappropriate behavior, I am not going examine Avery's ridiculous comments, or the NHLs equally as inappropriate response to the situation, but rather the way in which the Dallas Stars organization handled the matter.
As I stated above, the decision making hierarchy of an NHL organization can make or break a team. The Dallas Stars organization was recently thrown a curve ball by a notoriously bad apple, one Sean Avery, and they made a royal mess of things. From the moment Avery made his now infamous "sloppy seconds" comment, the Stars organization, as a whole has stumbled every step of the way.
As a long time Devil's fan, I have grown accustomed to the Lamoriello way of running things. Lou Lamoriello is the personification of class, self discipline and integrity. Things are done one way, his way. Internal conflicts are not permitted to fester. Employees working for Lamoriello, be it a pretzel vendor or future hall of famer Martin Brodeur, are not permitted to air the teams dirty laundry or speak out against any decision made by upper management. Lou rules with an iron fist and any player that can't deal with that is shown the door. Whether it's a fourth liner looking for more minutes, Mike Danton; or a premier center that didn't like to practice, Jason Arnott; Lamoriello will not accept any challenges to his authority and that attitude permeates down through the ranks of the New Jersey Devils. The New Jersey Devils are often described as hard working, dedicated to excellence, patient, and above all else, disciplined. Do you think it is a coincidence that those very words could be used to describe the man behind the curtain? No, the attitude of upper level management is reflected in every facet of the organization, which brings me back to the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars owner, Tom Hicks and co-general manager Brett Hull in a failed attempt to save face, knifed Sean Avery in the back and simultaneously shattered any measure of trust and cohesion that existed in the Dallas Stars locker room. They immediately began questioning Avery's value to the team, his contributions on the ice, and even went so far as to ponder about his continued roll as a Dallas Star. These two men took very private criticisms and ponderings and made them public news, just as fast as the words were able to escape their self serving mouths. To compound the issue, the coach, Dave Tippett, jumps on the gravy train and throws more kerosene on the fire by more or less saying, Avery isn't welcome back. Absolute bush league move by all three of those men. To further prove my theory that good, or in this case crap attitude flows down hill, look at the response of the players. The comments made by several of the Dallas stars are common knowledge at this point so I won't bother reiterating them, but to cut a team mate down, to the media, when you were too cowardly to confront him face to face, speaks volumes about the real atmosphere in Dallas's locker room, and likely shows why they are quickly dropping in the western conference standings.
Sean Avery got what was coming to him, and I for one couldn't care less. I am less than ecstatic by the NHL's reaction, but that is a whole different blog. You can't blame Avery for being Avery. He is the same player he was when the Detroit Red Wings shipped him off, but the Stars knew what they were buying, and really showed their true colors during this whole saga.