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Dallas Stars Downsize, Upgrade?

Since two girlfriends = one problem, the Dallas Stars have abruptly ended their dual general managers experiement.

Out: Brett Hull/Les Jackson.

In: Joe Nieuwendyk.

Strange as it is to be talking hockey in June - unless, of course, you live in Detroit - the fact that owner Tom Hicks tried a two-headed GM in the first place was bizarre. Then, after the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2008, he confirmed the craziness by giving Hull/Jackson concurrent three-year contracts through the 2011 season.

A year later, so long cutting edge. Hello conventional wisdom.

And welcome back, Joe.

While Jackson gets demoted back to his old role as director of scouting and Hull is promoted to executive vice president, Nieuwendyk gets a 5-year contract and a return to the team he led to the Stanley Cup in 1999. During that run - the last major pro sports championship in Dallas - Nieuwendyk was the team's most consistent player and the Conn Smythe winner as the MVP of the playoffs.

Not only does Nieuwendyk, 42, have a last name fit for a Spelling Bee, he's got a damn spiffy hockey pedigree. He went to Cornell - Jon Daniels' alma mater, by the way - before 20 years in the NHL, the last two in the front offices of Toronto and Florida. As a player he negotiated his own contracts.

He takes over a team that was last season besieged by injuries to top players and missed the playoffs, but isn't far removed from being a contender. Mike Modano is returning for his 21st season. Marty Turco will be back in goal. Brenden Morrow will recover from a major knee injury. Nieuwendyk must hit the ground running, deciding whether to re-sign free agents Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen and preparing for the June 26th NHL Draft in which his team has the 8th overall pick.

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Hicks, who contends his hockey team - unlike his baseball team - isn't for sale, is obvioiusly downsizing. He's hoping Joe Nieuwendyk can do for his Stars what Nolan Ryan has done for his Texas Rangers.

But he's also admitting his two-headed GM attempt was boneheaded.

The Stars were 74-58-15 under Hull/Jackson, but really the regime's legacy will be remembered for one move:

Sean Avery.

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