There is a saying in sports. Coaches coach and players play. We are at a time when the phrase needs updating to the tune of Owners own and players play and everyone in between answers to the owner. Admittingly it’s a bit clumsy but the point is simple, there are two towers in NHL organizations, ownership, and the dressing room and if you’re not wearing skates and a uniform then loyalty lies with the people writing cheques not cashing them.
"When there is a situation within the organization, I try to keep it within the organization and deal with it face to face."
“I mean, my phone is out there, my number is out there."
Benn and Seguin respond to comments from Stars CEO https://t.co/Os50uwEPh7
— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 29, 2018
Jim Lites is the CEO of the Dallas Stars, he reports directly to the owner Tom Gaglardi. Jim has serious power, but he must still answer the phone and listen dutifully when the boss calls.
The Athletic published the quotes below after an on the record gathering of the media called by Jim Lites. In the arena of professional sports, the words are vicious. That they come from an executive that isn’t the General Manager or the Coach is significantly unusual.
That’s the text that Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites says he gets five times per game from team owner Tom Gaglardi.
“He’s pissed,” Lites said on Friday afternoon. “And you know what it’s about.”
“They are fucking horse-shit, I don’t know how else to put it,” Lites said. “The team was ok. But (Tyler) Seguin and (Jamie) Benn were
“I don’t get it,” Lites said. “The good news is the coach got everyone else to go, and we found a way and we were able to make up for their lack of playing.”
“We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done,” Lites said. “It’s embarrassing, and no one writes it. Write it!
“These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner, and they’re certainly not good enough for the general manager, who I can’t speak for, but it’s not good enough for the job he’s done,” Lites added. “But we’ve had meeting after meeting after meeting. The accountability on the ice is not there. These guys were signed to big contracts because they were the third- and sixth-leading scorers in the National Hockey League over the past five years. They get their money, we expect them to not be outplayed every game we play in. And if they were as good as they’ve been in the past we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“It’s not about how much money. I don’t resent the money,” Lites said. “It’s about what we expect the money to be. You just can’t win if your best players aren’t your best players. And they aren’t best players.
“I am sick and tired and listening to bloggers and others talking about Brett Ritchie, Julius Honka, or Gavin Bayreuther, or Taylor Fedun, pick a guy,” Lites said. “We’re just too good. The fans deserve more and the owner deserves more. And I share that opinion with the owner, the fans deserve better and Benn and Seguin aren’t getting it done. Until they do we aren’t going to be good enough.”
Benn and Seguin both admitted after practice on Friday that they need to be better.
“(Benn) the leader of the team, he stirs the drink, but he’s not doing it,” Lites said. “He’s got to get it done.”
Seguin has hit more posts and crossbars combined than any other player in the NHL, but that’s not an acceptable excuse, according to Lites.
“He’s hitting posts, ‘wah-wah.” That’s what I say about hitting posts,” Lites said. “Get a little bit closer to the action, actually go to the spot where you score goals. He doesn’t do that, he never does that anymore. He used to be a pest to play against, people hated playing against Tyler Seguin, they don’t anymore.
“These guys have been great players, but we are 40 games into this season and they aren’t getting it done. We are going to sleepwalk to another 14th place from the bottom and miss the playoffs.”
“I take a lesson from Bob Gainey here. He said you’d be really successful in this league if you never gave a shit about being invited to players’ daughters’ weddings, and that’s what I think,” Lites said. “I don’t give a fuck. I’m a year-to-year guy and I’ll be damned if a guy who has been as good to me as Tom Gaglardi — as good to this franchise — isn’t getting results, and those players aren’t getting it done. I’m telling you, we are gonna run through a GM who does everything he can to make the team better because we aren’t getting results.”
Assumptions are foolish so it is against my better judgment that I believe without first-hand knowledge that Jim Lites had the owners permission to launch his blitz. The dangerous part of this belief is I also strongly leaned toward the idea that Lites had shared his fiery opinions with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin before going public. Not true, as stated by the Stars two prominent players media availability. Here is their reaction per Mark Stepneski @StarsinsideEdge
Neither Seguin or Benn disagreed with the idea they must produce at a much higher rate; however, the pair were caught off guard by both the extent of the criticism and from where it came. Tyler Seguin’s simple re-use of the phrase “wah-wah” that Lites authored is a blunt acknowledgment he informed of what was said and how he felt about it. These guys are furious. They spent last night dealing with friends, family, other players, and media inquiries about comments and accusations that called them out. I won’t say they are embarrassed, but if this about me, I would be. That’s not a criticism but rather an opinion about human nature.
It is easy to understand the end game. Jim Lites wants to get the club moving in the right direction. He has the leverage to say such things and took to the pulpit sensationally. Doing it without first speaking to the players confirms the distance between the corners office and the corner stall. In support of Lites, if he would have said this directly, I’m not sure it’s received with any more urgency than if coach Jim Montgomery or General Manager Jim Nill delivered the message. By going nuclear, Jim Lites made sure Seguin and Benn received the news from every direction, guaranteeing the smoke will follow the duo for days or weeks.
Jamie Benn is right by saying he plays for himself and the people in the dressing room. The captain bit his tongue as much as he could without drawing blood. Any form of “screw you” will come in the boosted production on the ice, maybe a subtle nod or gesture to the CEO’s suite after a goal is scored. I don’t expect any backtracking by Lites. You see, as untraditional as the tirade was, the fact supports Lites that both players are well below statistical expectations. If things continue as they have, the comments by Jim Lites become more robust, should Benn and Seguin turn it around, Lites enjoys the accompanying victories right along with the rest of the organization.
“You didn’t play” is something we’ve all heard from players. Jim Lites didn’t either, but the CEO may end up making the play of the year for the Dallas Stars.
Of course, there is a risk of creating conflict that erupts into a season disrupting distraction like witnessed after the comments made by Ottawa owner Eugene Melynk last December. Should things follow suit in Dallas, heat will find more than just Jim Lites. In fact Lites position in the organization and even more importantly the ear of the owner means he would be one of few likely to remain in place. That is something those inside the dressing room won’t be able to say.