DALLAS -- Joe Nieuwendyk said the impression that he's the new sheriff in town ready to crack the whip is a little simplistic. But the new Stars general manager said he does a have a standard that everyone will adhere to.
"Am I looking for as much accountability as I can get from the players and everyone involved? I think that's fair," Nieuwendyk said of training camp. "I feel just as competitive now as I did when I was a player, so I don't think that I've changed much."
Nieuwendyk as a player was a member of three Stanley Cup champions and was playoff MVP during the Stars' 1999 title run.
He has a history of demanding a lot from himself and his teammates.
Stars owner Tom Hicks said he felt that vibe from Nieuwendyk the moment he sat down to discuss the GM job with him in May. While some felt the Stars would move forward with Les Jackson as GM and Dave Tippett as head coach after last season, Hicks had a different feeling.
"We have been very good for a very long time here, and it just felt like maybe we needed a different push, a little more hunger," Hicks said of hiring Nieuwendyk, who had been retired as a player less than three years.
"I think in watching Joe and what he has done already, it's very evident that he's helped restore that hunger."
The Stars are an interesting team. They went to the Western Conference finals in 2008, then missed the playoffs last season during an injury-plagued campaign. So they return with the core of the team that's similar to the one that had playoff success but with a different administration and a new coaching staff, led by Marc Crawford.
"It's exciting," said forward Steve Ott. "You look around the room and see the talent, and you definitely feel we're a playoff team. And then you listen to the coaches and you see the hunger, and you feel like the sky's the limit."
Of course, the potential for failure also is there. Before last season, Tippett's teams went five straight years with a goals-against average no worse than sixth in the league while longtime associate coach Rick Wilson pushed principles of sound defensive hockey. Crawford's history is more about offense.
New assistant coach Charlie Huddy brings in eight years of coaching experience in an Edmonton system that also pushed the offensive envelope.
"I think everyone is curious to see how we'll play," said goalie Marty Turco. "This is a completely different coaching staff with a different view of the game."
Crawford said he believes the view might not be as different as everyone thinks. Yes, he coached big offenses in Colorado and Vancouver that formed the backbone of his 470-361-100 career record, but he said he learned a lesson in his last coaching stop in Los Angeles when he tried to change everything within the Kings organization. Crawford lasted only two years of a three-year contract (going 59-84-21) and left feeling like he failed.
"I think as I get older, and especially after the Kings, I'm seeing that less is more," Crawford said. "There is going to be change, but I think if it's less dramatic, you might have better results. This is a good group, and they're already on their toes, so I think we just have to push them in the right direction."
In fact, the players say they started preparing for last season as soon as they missed the playoffs.
"It makes for a really long summer, and you just don't ever want that feeling again," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who is among a large group of players already working out in Frisco to prepare for training camp. "Obviously, you want to be ready for the new coaches, but we were going to be ready no matter what happened. Last year was a real wakeup call for us. Injuries or not, this team should not miss the playoffs."
The experience was rare. The Stars have missed the playoffs only three times since moving to Dallas in 1993, and all resulted in coaching changes.
Interestingly, the Stars in their first full season under Ken Hitchcock went 48-26-8 and won the division title and in their first full season under Tippett went 46-17-19 and won the division.
"It sends a message, definitely," Turco said. "It tells you you are not meeting expectations and you need to be better. I definitely think that's the feeling on this team for a number of reasons. We all have to be better, every one of us."