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Posted in personal
December 31, 2018

The Dallas Stars: An Exercise in Bad Management.

Two days ago, the internet blew up. The Dallas Stars, one of my favorite teams, have been in a slump the last couple seasons. They either ran out of steam as playoffs approached or caught on just too late. They are on their third coach in as many seasons – Lindy Ruff giving way to Ken Hitchcock, Hitchcock retiring (as brief as that was) to make way for Jim Montgomery.

This season has been frustrating. Most of the major players in the Stars roster have been injured – leaving an ever revolving door of talent coming up from the Texas Stars. It’s meant there hasn’t been much chance for a team to find cohesion.

So what happened two days ago? Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites called the media in and said that team owner Tom Gagliardi texted him constantly during games to berate the gameplay of the two most prominent players on the Stars, team captain Jamie Benn and their first line center Tyler Seguin.

I believe he said their play was “horseshit.”

Tyler Seguin in a face-off during the Dallas Stars / LA Kings game April 7, 2018. Drew Doughty looks on in the background.

I don’t think so. I think that solely criticizing these two players is ignoring a lot of things affecting the team (like the previously mentioned injuries, on top of their scouting and development pipelines). But that’s neither here, nor there.

The one thing that struck me, as well as most of the internet, was just how unprofessional it was. Humiliating two players publicly in an effort to “motivate” them.

Think back to all your bosses and managers that you’ve had. Who motivates you more – the person who pulls you in for a private, maybe difficult chat? Or the person who yells at you in front of all your coworkers?

The more facts come out, the more embarrassing it is. Neither player had spoken to Lites since the end of last season. So this was the first inkling they had of disapproval from that part of the Organization.

Flat out, this isn’t how a functional team operates. And on a takeaway for everyone else – this isn’t how a functional company operates. If you are in a position as a manager or supervisor, it’s important to remember that you’re talking to people. That they do have pride, feelings – and demoralizing someone isn’t the best way to turn them around. (Odds are, it will only put them more in their own heads)

So even if you agree with what Lites said, don’t justify up for his actions. It was a sign of a poor businessman to do that, because in the end – he’s the CEO of a company, and they’re employees. If it wouldn’t pass in another sector, it shouldn’t pass in the sports world either.

Numbers wise, it doesn’t make sense to single these men out – not unless they expect Benn & Seguin to carry the team without any support. For a chunk of the season, the Stars were playing without John Klingberg (the linchpin of their defense) as well as Marc Methot (defense), Martin Hanzal (forward), Stephen Johns (defense), and even Alexander Radulov (forward). They’ve been relying heavily on their goalies and their top line. While there has been some spark of talent from the players coming up – there hasn’t been any real cohesion or consistency on the ice. Bottom line, there’s only so much two men can be expected to do without the support.

The problem goes deeper. The Stars have drafted poorly the last few years. Well, not Miro. But beyond Miro, they’ve picked young players and traded them away for picks. Or players who just didn’t develop to NHL level.

Some suggest that this was an attempt to grab attention in a deeply difficult media market – since Texas (and Dallas especially) is a market dominated by football, especially the Cowboys. Might be, but I think you can find a way to accomplish that without humiliating a couple of your players along the way.

Contrary to popular belief, not all PR is good PR – and what Lites has done is send a message to other players in the NHL (and indeed, young players who want to be drafted) that this is who the Stars are. Good luck getting trades to this already difficult market, folks.

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