Well, the first month of the 2011-12 NHL season is in the books and through their first 11 games, the Dallas Stars have an 8-3-0 record and sport an impressive point total of 16. So, it's safe to say the Glen Gulutzan era is off to a roaring start here in Big D. But the hiring of Gulutzan wasn't the only change for the local club this season.
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later this fall, was also quite busy, signing guys he felt would help make the club much tougher to play against, one of Gulutzan's more oft-repeated mantas.
So, how have those newcomers fared thus far? Well, here's a look.
Jake Dowell---The former Blackhawk has settled in nicely as the sometimes center of the fourth line. A close friend and ex-college teammate of Adam Burish, who he also played with in Chicago, Dowell has brought grit and toughness to the ice whenever Gully has put him out there. In fact, that grit and determination is what his new head coach particularly loves about him.
Radek Dvorak---Veteran winger has brought a solid and experienced presence to Stars' checking line, where he has skated alongside center Vernon Fiddler and first Burish on the other wing but more recently Eric Nystrom. "Devo" has been as good as advertised thus far and has helped make the Dallas third line a highly effective group that opponents hate playing against.
"Devo gives us speed and veteran savvy on the wing. He's in here first in the mornings," Gulutzan said. "He's working hard on the ice and comes in on his days off and does little things. He's a pro, so he gives us that edge plus he's a good penalty killer and he can put the puck in the net. He can play up and depth chart and down, the versatility's there as well."
Vernon Fiddler---Brought into be a face-off specialist and also to be a fly in the ointment for the opposition, a role that was previously held exclusively by Steve Ott in the past, Fiddler has been a big hit on the checking line alongside fellow vet Dvorak. He's also made the Stars much better on draws, also a big reason for the club's solid start.
"Fidds just gives you that character," Gulutzan said. "He's just a guy that works and works in practice. He's a guy who's a leader."
Eric Nystrom---The son of former New York Islanders standout Bob Nystrom a guy who was part of four straight Stanley Cup-winning teams in the 1980s, Nystrom was toiling away in Minnesota, where despite being signed to a two-year deal, it was clear he didn't fit into the Wild's plans for this season or the future.
So, when the Stars traded for him in early October, it was a deal made to bring them in compliance with the NHL salary floor. Nystrom didn't play much at first but he has recently settled in nicely on the third line alongside Dvorak and Fiddler. His first goal as a Star came in last week's 5-3 loss to the Kings. "Nys is the kind of player that we want here, a hard-working guy, willing to do the little things to win," Gulutzan said. "He gives us some speed, some strength on the wing and another penalty killer. He's a guy that can play center, some versatility. He plays with pace, finishes his checks, a hard to play against guy."
Adam Pardy---Pardy was one of two defensemen brought in not only to give the Stars a bit more size at the blue line, but to also give the Stars a bit more bite there. After overcoming an injury earlier in the year, he has performed pretty well thus far but when Gulutzan wants to get Mark Fistric on the ice, Pardy is usually the odd man out at the blue line.
And while the ex-Flame has performed relatively well thus far his new head coach still wants to see more. "Can he make that jump? That's what we want to see out of Adam. Can he be a top four guy in the NHL? He's got the size, skating ability and smarts," Gulutzan said. "He just has to prove that. His contributions have been immediate but they can be further down the line too. "
Michael Ryder---Ryder was signed from Boston to help bolster the Stars on the offensive end. So far, he's been playing on a line alongside captain Brenden Morrow and leading assist man Mike Ribeiro. The ex-Bruin has just four points through his first 11 games but his new head coach knows the sky is truly the limit for this Newfoundland native.
"Ryds is one of my favorite guys because I think Ryds hasn't reached his complete potential with us yet," Gulutzan said. "I think we're going to see him really blossom here. I think Michael Ryder's best games are in front of him. He's a good player. You can see it in practice. Once he gets back to the top of his level, he's going to be a big contributor for us. I think he's played well but he's got more too."
Sheldon Souray---Nicknamed "Hammer," a moniker he got from former Devils teammate Lyle Odelein, Souray has a pleasant surprise on the offensive end as he's currently tied for third in points with eight. His booming slap shot has been as good as advertised and the 6-foot-4 blue liner has also brought some nastiness and size to the Dallas defense, two qualities that group was definitely in need of.
All in all, his new head coach couldn't be more pleased with how well the ex-Oiler has performed so far with his new club. "He's playing against top players now and he's doing a really good job with his plusminus," Gulutzan said. "You get a guy that's big and mean and plays against top guys, I think everybody wants that."