Nieuwendyk says he's ready for new GM role; Cliff Fletcher hopes to stay on in Toronto
DETROIT -- These are heady days for veteran hockey executive Cliff Fletcher.
First, his son Chuck got his first NHL GM job, a plum assignment in one of hockey's premiere markets in Minnesota. Then, his adopted son, Joe Nieuwendyk, the young man he drafted into the Calgary Flames' organization 24 years ago, got a GM job Sunday when the Dallas Stars made the announcement he was their new man.
"I'm obviously proud of Chuck," the senior Fletcher told ESPN.com on Sunday. "He's worked 16 years in the NHL for three different teams. He's worked hard for this. I obviously hope he does a really good job and I'm confident he will.
"And for Nieuwy, I'm really happy for him, too. He's a bright, young guy. He's going to do a good job for Dallas."
Last summer, as interim/caretaker GM of the floundering Maple Leafs, Fletcher brought in Nieuwendyk from Florida to the Leafs' front office in a move that was warmly welcomed by the locals. Fletcher saw a future front-office star in Nieuwendyk. And who knows, if Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment failed in its long-rumored bid to lure a heavyweight like Brian Burke, perhaps, the thinking was, Fletcher could mould Nieuwendyk into the future GM in Toronto.
But Burke was brought in, and from that day on, Nieuwendyk's future was in flux, even though he worked well alongside Burke and assistant GM Dave Nonis, helping lure a pair of high-profile college free agents in Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.
"We are extremely pleased for Joe," Burke told ESPN.com on Sunday. "And we thank him for a job well done here in Toronto."
The Stars came calling in April. As had long been rumored, Dallas owner Tom Hicks wasn't pleased with the Sean Avery fiasco. While personally I only thought Brett Hull would be the fall guy since he pushed the Avery signing last summer, Hicks obviously believed a fresh face was needed in the full-time GM role. So a good guy in Les Jackson gets shifted aside (he returns to his previous role of director of scouting and player development), but at least he's replaced by another good guy in Nieuwendyk.
"I'm excited about it," Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com on Sunday. "My wife loves Texas. It's a little strange that we've not even been in our home in Oakville [suburb of Toronto] for a year. But this is a great opportunity."
Nieuwendyk said the Stars reached out to Burke before the IIHF world championship in Switzerland last month, and met with the Stars before and after the tournament. It's an obvious fit given his tenure there as a star player.
"I'm very familiar with a lot of people there," said Nieuwendyk, who will be formally introduced Monday in Dallas. "Les Jackson has been there more than 20 years and I'm excited about working with him. Obviously everyone knows that I know Brett, and Mr. Hicks was owner when we won the Cup [in 1999]. There's a lot of familiarity."
His goal was to be an NHL GM one day, and he admits he's surprised it came this fast.
"But I feel comfortable with this," he said. "I really look forward to it."
He'll hit the job running. The NHL's 30 GMs meet Tuesday in Pittsburgh at the Stanley Cup finals. "Yeah, I'll be there," he said.
Cliff Fletcher, meanwhile, hopes he still has a role with the Leafs. His contract is up in August and Burke has suggested in the past he wants to keep the longtime hockey man around.
"For sure, if we can work something out, I'd love to keep working here," Fletcher said from Toronto.