Stars Season Still on the Right Track

So the Stars had a fantastic first half of October.

Now that the season's in full swing, they've slowed down a bit and have resumed the usual patterns of wins and losses. They've slipped down to 10th in the Conference, but it is once again an extremely competitive West. If the Stars can bounce back from some recent tough losses, like the game last night against Los Angeles, they can definitely fight for a lower-4 playoff spot.

The differences in the negatives between this season and last will, to be redundant, make the difference in the Stars season.

Last year, the worries were centered around just about everything. Our top veterans were either getting injured or playing inconsistently, our defense was infinitely weak, and Marty Turco was having one of the worst seasons of his life. On top of that, players, staff, and management were all distracted by the risky ownership situation. Divisional rivals Los Angeles and Phoenix were having surprisingly outstanding seasons, San Jose was a typical powerhouse, and Anaheim has never been an easy team for Dallas to beat. Along with the rest of the Western Conference being neck and neck, a struggling Stars team once again missed the playoffs.

Over the summer, it was difficult to tell the direction things would go in the season. General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk decided on some interesting moves, releasing veterans Mike Modano, Marty Turco, and Jere Lehtinen, while bringing in Adam Burish and Andrew Raycroft.

However, the Stars leapt out of the gate with a 5-1 start, and even with a less exciting 8-6 record through 14 games now, the team looks solid. The offense is being led by the youthful trio of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, and James Neal, as well as the talents of Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow, and Mike Ribeiro. The defense is stronger behind the solid Stephane Robidas, Karlis Skrastins, and Nicklas Grossman, as well as the improvements of Matt Niskanen, Trevor Daley, and Mark Fistric. Kari Lehtonen has been the reason behind at least half of Dallas' success this year, and has played outstandingly well thanks to his improved training over the summer.

The primary player to watch is Lehtonen. If he stays healthy, he'll give Dallas a chance every night. If he gets hurt, the Stars will either have to rely on Andrew Raycroft, or more likely give up a key player for a starting goaltender.
(Did I seriously just type that? Suuuch cliche writing.)

Surprising notes: Brad Richards has been in the top 10 NHL scoring leaders for most of the season so far, and Loui Eriksson's been in the top 20 in goals for most of the season as well. Mike Ribeiro still hasn't scored a goal. Tom Wandell hasn't scored a point beyond the game against the Panthers, where he scored two goals.


Stars 5-1, Jamie Benn's Back

The Stars defeated the Florida Panthers 4-1 yesterday, and oh what a sweet win it was.

Jamie Benn (3 assists) returned from injury to spark life into the Stars' third line. Playing with Steve Ott (1 goal) and Tom Wandell (2 goals), the line controlled the entire game and played like a top scoring line, rather than a checking 3rd line. James Neal also had a goal, while Loui Eriksson, Niklas Grossman, Stephane Robidas, and Karlis Skrastins had assists. Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves on 29 shots and would have had a shutout if not for a screened deflection goal by Stephen Weiss. Adam Burish won his first fight of the season, but also got ejected for instigating the fight after Mike Ribeiro was elbowed by Dennis Wideman.

A major improvement in the Stars game was on defense, especially on the penalty kill. The Stars cut off a lot of shot opportunities and didn't give up a power-play goal. Their defensive play was solid, and while Lehtonen still played spectacularly, it was much better to see him only face 29 shots rather than the customary 35-40. If the Stars can cut that number down to stay in the range of 25-30, they'll stay at this level of play for the rest of the year.

The Stars now have a much more dangerous forward line-up with Benn back:

Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Ribeiro - Burish
Benn - Ott - Wandell
Barch/Sutherby - Petersen - Segal

All top three lines can bring a consistent offensive threat, while the fourth line features prize-fighter Barch, defensive specialist Toby Petersen, who can often pop in a goal here and there, and Brandon Segal's physical play and nose for the puck (though not always the net). Brian Sutherby can step in at any time and play well, though he's the lowest on the team in +/- with a -3.

The defense, which has struggled this year, looked a lot stronger last night. And despite a rather high shots-against total, only Mark Fistric (-1), Barch (-1), and Sutherby are minus players for the Stars.

Grossman - Robidas
Daley - Fistric
Skrastins - Niskanen/Woywitka

And through 6 games, the defense has combined for 11 points (though only one goal, from Robidas).

Kari Lehtonen, of course, has played so well for the Stars that their defensive shortcomings have only resulted in one loss so far. He faced myriad numbers of shots on goal when playing in Atlanta, so he's used to a heavy workload. He makes 35-40 saves a night, and hasn't shown that he needs a rest yet. Still, it wouldn't be bad to give Andrew Raycroft or Brent Krahn a start before the season hits 10 games.

The Stars are about to start a long home game stretch, which has the potential to boost the Stars record even further, seeing as their only home games so far were a 4-1 thumping of Detroit and an intense shootout win over St. Louis.


And So It Ends

The Stars finally lost a game.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, also on a roll before losing 6-0 in their game before last night, came out with a vengeance. The Stars came out cocky and sleepy.

Honestly, the final score of 5-4 Tampa has almost no indication of what a terrible game Dallas played. The Stars didn't really come out ready to play until the final 5 minutes. They only managed 4 goals because Mike Smith, who only faced 19 shots altogether, and saved 15, was so off rhythm that his normal level of play faltered. The game could have easily been closer to 8-2 if not for Kari Lehtonen's 39 saves for Dallas.

However, Marc Crawford best summed up the reason for Dallas' loss in a post game interview:
"We couldn't kill a penalty to save our lives."

Darn right, Marc. The Stars' PK has been off since the start of the season, but it really became a factor tonight as the Bolts scored 4 of their 5 goals on the PP, including one just seconds after Toby Petersen opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal. The Stars took a lot of penalties in that game and also failed to score on any of their own power-plays.

Overall, the Stars' defensive game sucks. A weak top 6 lacks a true number one d-man, while the forward corps lacks a solid penalty killing center that doesn't get much of a load offensively.

Offensively, the Stars were mostly invisible. For much of the game, only Brandon Segal and Stephane Robidas had more than one shot. Adam Burish's first goal as a Star came off a flubbed play by the Bolts and a smart pass by Ribeiro. Toby Petersen's shorthanded goal was mostly a one-man effort, Brenden Morrow's goal was a fluke, and the one truly good goal, James Neal from Brad Richards, came with only a minute left in the game.

Weird stat of the game: Only Brian Sutherby was a minus for Dallas, while only Teddy Purcell was a plus player for Tampa (several on each team were even).

Fortunately, despite this poor game (and a poor start for the PK), the Stars have still managed to come out with a 4-1-0 record so far, and Thursday's game against Florida offers the opportunity for another win with the Panthers off to a bad start. Follow the @FreshFromTheIce Twitter feed for live game updates and constant thoughts on the NHL!


Roster issues? Don't panic

So the Stars won in a shootout against the Blues last night, keeping their record a perfect 4-0-0 to start the season. A key note from that game is the fact that the Stars were able to not only beat the Blues (who destroyed us last year), but also came back from a poor start to push the game to a shootout, where we showed a superiority similar to the 05-06 season.
While the dynamic duo of Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow looked lost, and failed to score, the line of James Neal, Brad Richards, and Loui Eriksson was on fire. After the early collapse where everyone looked awful, the trio amped up their game and combined for the two actual goals that Dallas scored. Then in the shootout, Loui and Rich scored while Lehtonen had a few awesome saves.

And of course, Ribsy won the shootout.

However, this post is to point out the crowd that the Stars have up front. As of last night, the lines were:

Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Ribeiro - Burish
Wandell - Ott - Petersen
Barch - Sutherby - Segal

Which all in all, isn't that bad. Wandell's been invisible lately, and Segal hasn't continued last year's rampage (hardly expected anyways), but aside from that, everything looks good.

But wait, Jamie Benn's about to come back from a concussion. What do we do now?
Benn's a top line scoring threat with some good physical play. Sounds like a Morrow-Ribeiro-Benn unit would fare pretty well. But where does small-things man Adam Burish, who's had solid chemistry with the Morrow line, end up? He could play the third line, but where would Toby Petersen/Tom Wandell go? Either one could go to the fourth line, but where would sparkplug Brian Sutherby, who plays his role perfectly, have to go? Surely not to the AHL. That's where we send players like Fabian Brunnstrom.

To make matters a little more confusing, we just called up Aaron Gagnon from the Texas Stars. He'll likely get to spend time as the 13th forward, but if he proves he can play in the big league, we'll have a real issue on our hands.

The solution? Well, there's two that I can think of.

Option A: Put Benn on the third line, try and create a third offensively dangerous trio. Lines would be:
Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Ribeiro - Burish
Ott - Wandell/Petersen - Benn
Barch - Sutherby/Gagnon - Segal

It could either end up working perfectly, or end in disaster. I'd give it one game, depending on the outcome from that, keep it or go for...

Option B: Package a forward and a draft pick for a solid defenseman.
Most everyone in the hockey world agrees that the Stars are thin on defense. A top six of:

Grossman - Robidas
Niskanen - Daley
Fistric - Skrastins

Isn't exactly intimidating. And with Jeff Woywitka as the 7th D, and prospect Philip Larsen still about a year away, Dallas could do with a solid veteran.

An offer of a 2nd round pick plus Wandell or Sutherby wouldn't exactly get a superstar, but it could swing a good deal if Nieuwendyk plays his cards right.
Let's say a 2nd rounder plus Wandell gets us (example only) Cody Franson. Yeah yeah yeah it would never happen, whatever. That leaves Dallas with these lines:

Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Ribeiro - Burish
Benn - Ott - Petersen
Barch - Sutherby - Segal

Franson - Robidas
Grossman - Skrastins
Fistric - Niskanen/Daley

That'd be quite the improvement.

Obviously, Dallas won't be able to wrangle away such a rising star as Franson, but if a deal can be made to get a top defender, I'd say do it. There's plenty of youth on the way to take the place of a forward anyways (Sceviour, Gagnon, Glennie, Backman).

By the way, I have respect for Kari Lehtonen now. The man can play goal.


Stars 4, Red Wings 1, My Ego = Through the Roof

Ok, so last night's win against Detroit was just about the best win ever.
1) We finally won 3 games in a row. Hasn't happened since early 08-09.
2) We beat the Detroit Red Wings, a team I really really despise.
3) Do I need a three? We beat Detroit.

Yeah, in case you can't tell, I'm highly biased against the Detroit Red Wings. There are many players on their roster that I respect as individuals (Modano, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Howard) but as a team, I hate them no matter what. Kinda like how people view the New York Yankees. They do so well, with some good players, but that's exactly why you hate them.

Anyways, to the game itself.

Brad Richards had his third straight multi-point game, further leading me to suspect that he has a severe inability to score only one point during a game. But hey, as long as he does score, no problems with multiple points instead of just one.
Just like I predicted on Twitter, Ribeiro and Morrow combined on a play (with a little help from Adam Burish) to keep up their goal-a-game pace. Morrow has 4 goals, Ribeiro has 5 assists.
Speaking of Adam Burish, the ex-Hawk played a really solid game last night. He was key in setting up the Morrow goal, and played a really good game along the boards. As Ralph Strangis put it, he'll be the "little things" guy on that line.
James Neal finally stepped up his play. In the first period, he took a couple unnecessary penalties, but after an intermission where I assume Marc Crawford called him out, Neal looked much better the rest of the game. He made a smooth play to set up Brad Richards, who set up Loui Eriksson for a goal, and then scored his own late in the game by battling with Brad Stuart before getting off a backhander that fooled Osgood.

Overall, the difference maker was special teams and goaltending. The Stars killed off four Detroit power-plays and Brad Richards potted an early power-play goal, while Kari Lehtonen made some incredible saves on chances. The one goal that slipped past him was un-stoppable, and he still got an arm on it before it fell in the net. Osgood looked tired, and the Morrow goal definitely shouldn't have gotten past him.

Mike Modano got a 45-second salute from the fans during the "official" welcome back moment, but received applause constantly throughout the game. He made some pretty good plays, but with third line duties, it was apparent that he was frustrated with the rest of the team's play.

One of the bigger stories from the game will be the hit on Johan Franzen by Mark Fistric that likely resulted in a concussion for Franzen. The Wings claim the hit was dirty. I say the hit was clean, just in a bad area (Franzen hit the boards at a bad angle), but you guys decide for yourselves:

Yeah, an elbow was there, but it wasn't blatantly thrown towards Franzen with intent to injure. I think the landing did worse than the hit. Either it's clean, or Fistface is REALLY sneaky.


Public Intoxication, Public "Kojak"'s, Public Salary Cap Mismanagement

Ok, so I missed my posting on the last Stars game. Essentially, it was a higher-scoring repeat of the game against the Devils. Morrow had two goals, and Jamie Benn and Stephane Robidas each potted their first of the year. Ribeiro of course had the shootout winner, but he gets the spotlight later in this article.
The main concern coming out of Dallas' first two games is that the Stars' offense won't be able to keep pulling through for a mediocre blueline. Sure, Robidas, Nick Grossman, and Karlis Skrastins have solid reputations, but all three are best suited to being second-pairing defenders and they're struggling to keep up with the inefficiencies/growing pains of Matt Niskanen, Fistface Fistric, and Trevor Daley. And the fact remains that in the first two games, we've given up seven goals.

But now down to the news that's relevant:

-First off, Mike Ribeiro made the mid-day buzz after word of last night's arrest for public intoxication got out. Ribeiro, Joe Nieuwendyk, and other Stars officials made statements about it not long after, but it's still an embarrassing moment. It led to a ton of Twitter buzz, but maybe Ribeiro will turn it into inspiration to prove that he's not a drunk, or whatever's being said.

-What made an even bigger buzz (still going) in the social hockey world was James Wisniewski's obscene (and often scene in high schools) gesture to Sean Avery during a scrap. Bob McKenzie has coined it as a 'Kojak,' and you either already get it from there, or you will when you youtube the incident. A lot of debate went on about the type of punishment Wis should recieve, but it comes down to another McKenzie quote: "If it can't be shown on network TV, it deserves punishment." The TSN analyst was responding to many who were comparing Avery's suspension in 08-09 and Nick Boynton's two separate 1-game suspensions, and saying that players make gestures and comments equally as volatile and Wisniewski's pretty much all the time. However, Wisniewski was caught on TV and in order to keep up a good public image (or whatever's left of it) the NHL must take action. Expect a 1 or 2 game suspension.

-The most recent buzz item going around the league is how the Devils will likely play a game today with only 15 players dressed, about 5 or 6 less than usual. This is primarily due to a slew of injuries combined with the fact that the team was already right up against the cap. There's still a possibility that the Devils could find a way to call up some minor league players, but already the incident has been added to a long list of poor cap decisions by Lou Lamoriello, including the Kovalchuk contract fiasco and the Mogilny and Malakhov signings and subsequent KHL demotions. It remains to be seen what will come of the situation.


Stars 4, Devils 3

Well, the Stars finally won a season-opener, the first time in 3 years. Beating a team that we haven't won on the road against in a decade felt pretty good too.

Overall, here's hoping that last night's game was a strong indicator of the rest of the season.

Unlike many games in the last two years, where Dallas would start strong and then falter in the final two periods, the opposite was true. Kari Lehtonen let in two quick goals in the first 8 minutes, but came back with a strong 27-save effort and only let in one other goal. Meanwhile, the Stars surged back on the strength of Loui Eriksson, who showed that he intends to be the number one Dallas sniper for years to come.

Offensively, everything went as it should. Captain Brenden Morrow scored a goal from Mike Ribeiro and Fistface Fistric, Brad Richards assisted on Loui's first goal and scored what ended up as the game-tying goal, and James Neal assisted on Loui's first and Richards' first. Surprisingly absent from the scoresheet were Jamie Benn and Steve Ott, but Benn led the team in shots with 5, while Ott played the pest with Krys Barch as a healthy scratch. Adam Burish also had 4 shots. If one game is anything to go by, Brandon Segal's tear last year was a fluke, which is very believeable.

Defensively, after the opening two goals, the Stars were tight, but under the radar. They made a few mistakes in the beginning but resumed normal expectations later on. Sadly, Matt Niskanen made the game summary as the man who messed up and forced Lehtonen to up his game in overtime.

Some interesting notes: Jason Arnott proved that he's still a powerhouse, reminding Dallas fans of how we lost the 2000 Cup Final by scoring during the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk didn't score, but he had two assists. Has New Jersey turned him into a better playmaker? We'll see.

Last, but definitely not least, Mike Modano showed Joe Nieuwendyk that it was a mistake to let him leave, as he scored in the Detroit season-opener last night.


Revamps for Cup Champs

Everybody talks about how much the Hawks had to change over the summer, and while it certainly is significant for one summer, check out these other team revamps:

Anaheim Ducks:

Pre-08/09 (Depth Chart by The Hockey News) vs. pre-10/11 (Depth chart by me, including assumptions about Kariya and Selanne)

Kunitz - - Getzlaf - - Perry---------------------------------Ryan - - Getzlaf - - Perry
Sutherby - Morrison - Marchant-------------------------Kariya - Koivu - - Selanne
Moen - - Pahlsson - R. Niedermayer--------------------Blake - Marchant - Lupul
May - - - Carter - - Ryan--------------------------Beleskey - Chipchura - Voros/Parros

S. Niedermayer - Pronger----------------------------------Visnovsky - - Sbisa
Schneider - - Beauchemin----------------------------------Sutton - - - Lydman
O'Donnell - - Huskins------------------------------------Mikkelson - Festerling
Montador - - - Evans--------------------------------------Brookbank - Syrvet

Giguere - Hiller--------------------------------------------Hiller - McElhinney

Tell me that's not a major revamp (though obviously over a larger span of time).

More to come on this later.


Brunnstrom deserves zero hype

Not a lot of time to write today, working on many a recording for several different bands.

However, I've got a piece of criticism to throw out into the world wide web.

Why the heck did Dallas re-sign Fabian Brunnstrom, and why did Mike Heika place him in the same category as Jamie Benn in a Dallas Morning News article a few days ago?
As far as I can tell, all the hype for Brunnstrom faded pretty quickly last season, and was completely gone at the end of his 49-game, 2-goal, 9-assist year that included an 8-game demotion to the AHL, where he didn't manage more than a goal in 8 games (not a sign of someone beyond the talent of the AHL). So why is he even slated for fourth-line time this year?
The big issue for Fabian at the beginning of his rookie season was the fact that he probably needed second-line time, but the Stars also had Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Jere Lehtinen, Sean Avery, Mark Parrish, Chris Conner, Krys Barch, Landon Wilson, Joel Lundqvist, B.J. Crombeen, and Ray Sawada all vying for a roster spot on the wing. Fortunately for Brunnstrom's chances, Crombeen got traded early, Sawada didn't make it out of camp and Morrow got injured early. Wilson was mainly an AHL filler/call-up guy, and Parrish, Lundqvist, Lehtinen, and Conner all played rather inconsistently that year. So he capitalized on the opportunity and potted 17 goals.
At the beginning of last season, the Stars were way thinner on wing. Eriksson, Neal, Morrow, Ott, and Barch were the only wingers with solid roster spots along with Brunnstrom. He definitely could have topped Ott for a role on the second line. But instead, Jamie Benn steals his thunder with an awe-inspiring rookie year, Ott pumps out 22 goals, Lehtinen maintains a roster spot, and Brunnstrom sputters out of the gate and ends up with 2 goals. Even Brandon Segal, a former fringe player, impressed more people with his 5 goals and 10 points in 19 games after a deadline move from Anaheim.
So all in all, if Brunnstrom even grabs a roster spot this season, don't expect much out of him.


Modano To Red Wings Official On Friday

Friday will be a sad day for anybody who's a Stars fan.

Mike Modano's signing with the Detroit Red Wings will be made official during a press conference on Friday at 2:30 PM. According to Helene St. James of Free Press Sports, the deal is worth $1.25M for a year, which is about the numbers most people expected Mo to sign for after Nieuwendyk announced that they'd let him become a UFA. He'll likely have a third-line role between Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary.

Modano had a solid season last year, with 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games. More importantly, he continued his role as a strong leader on the team, even with the captaincy on Brenden Morrow's jersey. Despite his age, Modano's always been revered for his excellent conditioning, and there's no reason to expect that he won't be as youthful as ever.

I'd expect Modano to score around 40-50 points this season, but with Hudler (23 goals in 08-09 with Detroit, point-per-game player in KHL last year) and Cleary (two 20-goal seasons in Detroit) around him, you can probably safely raise that barrier to 50-60 points. If either Hudler or Cleary (or whatever defensemen get assigned to that line) are particularly productive in assists, Modano could probably hit 20 goals again, and if Hudler and Cleary hit 20 goals, then you can definitely expect 30-40 assists for Mikey.

So, even though I hate the Red Wings, I'll hate them less this year, in honor of Modano. Good luck in Detroit Mike, I'm hoping you'll get to the playoffs and maybe even the Cup Finals!!


Turco To Hawks? Dallas Should Take Niemi

Ok, so according to WGNTV and a crapload of tweets, Marty Turco has signed with Chicago for $1.75M for a year. This comes not long after Niemi gets his arbitration award, which was a perfectly reasonable $2.75M.

What the **** is Chicago thinking right now?

There is an INSANELY obvious money-saving solution waiting for them—dump Cristobal Huet and his over-paid back-up role in the AHL, take a tandem of Niemi and Corey Crawford all the way to another Stanley Cup title and somewhere along the way dump the Brian Campbell contract. They'd keep a future star goaltender (or a future Cam Ward, says the cynic in me), avoid most of their cap issues, and keep a solid core of the roster.

Instead, they make an offer to Marty Turco, who I highly respect, but I have to say he's got a lot less going for him. Niemi is younger, probably more talented, and has a Cup ring before he's anywhere close to hitting his prime as a netminder. Sure, Turco signed for less money, but with less payment comes a poorer product. Turco can definitely give them a solid regular season and get them into the playoffs–however, what happens once the playoffs role around? Turco will inevitably falter, and the Hawks will have to desperately hope that one of Crawford or Huet can replicate Niemi's playoff run. Which is HIGHLY unlikely.

Mr. Nieuwendyk. I know I criticized you earlier for letting go of Turk, but this is your big chance. Throw a TON of money at Niemi with, say, anywhere from 2 to 5 years on the contract, and take advantage of the Hawks mistake while letting them have, for a lack of a funnier term, our sloppy seconds worth of Turco. Seriously, even if it means dropping Raycroft or Lehtonen to the minors (which needs to happen anyways, really), this deal would SO be worth it. Niemi is going to be a star (or at least as good as Cam Ward, who seems to have relapses of stardom every now and then) and the Hawks are making the worst possible decision if they let him go in favor of Turco. Take advantage of it and I will take back any criticism I've ever given to you.

On another note, I have to point out that there is absolutely no way that the Hawks could keep any combination of Turco, Niemi, and Huet. Not only would none of those guys be happy in a back-up role, but you've also got a very impatient Corey Crawford in the AHL who needs a full-time role. If I were Chicago, I'd drop all Turco rumors (at this moment being dismissed by Hawks sources and TheFourthPeriod as inaccurate), shove Huet into the AHL and maybe even trade him, and then go with Niemi/Crawford as a beastly goalie tandem.

At this very moment though, lots of new reports saying Dan Roan of WGNTV was the only guy apparently aware of any deal going on between Turco and Chicago. Several tweets from legit sources were out there right after, but all cited WGNTV as where they heard it. So it's actually pretty likely that there's no Turco deal, and he's still a UFA. For the sake of theory, though, I'm publishing this post.


Steve Yzerman is a Genius

And if the other 10 billion hockey blogs out there haven't shown you why, let me try to explain real quick.

First of all, Tampa Bay has been a disaster area since the pre-lockout days (excluding 03-04) and it's no easy task to turn a team from fender-bender to Cup-contender in a single summer.

The wheels were set in motion by Brian Lawton, who smartly grabbed Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in the draft. Key pieces were already in place in the form of Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Paul Ranger, Mattias Ohlund, and Mike Smith.

But Mr. Yzerman has played a part in bringing Simon Gagne, Dan Ellis, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark, Dominic Moore, Chris Durno, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot to the team. All of those guys with the possible exceptions of Durno and Pouliot will be key players on Tampa this year, and Durno and Pouliot could fill valuable roles as well.

If you look at the potential line-up for the Lightning at this moment, it's actually composed of some pretty solid players:

Gagne - - - - Lecavalier - - - - St. Louis
Malone - - - - Stamkos - - - - Downie
Purcell - - - - Moore - - - - Hall (Minors)
Szczechura(Minors) - Pouliot - Persson(?)

But that's just judging from who's on the actual roster. Tampa also has Blair Jones, Martins Karsums, and James Wright ready to be called up at any time, and prospects Juraj Simek, Mitch Fritz, and Dana Tyrell are all but ready for a bigger role with the team.

As for defense, things are a little thinner, but not awful:

Ohlund - - Kubina
Clark - - Ranger
Hedman - - Lundin
Smaby - - Roy/Vernace

And in the wings, defenders Matt Lashoff, Vladimir Mihalik, and Ty Wishart are all NHL-capable and probably even ready for a full role.

In goal, I envie the tandem of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. Especially because both of those guys were Stars prospects at one point. Despite the inconsistencies of each of these netminders, they each have the talent to fill in for each other if one starts faltering. Ellis has the better record as a starter, but Mike Smith was an excellent 20+ games back-up in his years in Dallas, and he can do it again.

Steve Yzerman, I applaud how well you've put together this team. I hope you make the playoffs this year.

Let the Rantings Continue

Ok, so the other day I pretty much tore up the Stars roster, remarked on every aspect that I hated, but also pointed out the bright spots.

Now, I'll do the same with The Stars coaching staff and management.

Keep in mind: I mean no personal offense to human beings referred to this article, and I get it: They're a heck of a lot more successful than I am, so I should shut up. But I've got some bones to pick with them.

The Coaching Staff:

Alright, first off, I was extremely displeased with the hiring of Marc Crawford. He was a good old part of the dandy Colorado days when they won the Cup in '96, and he has a decent W-L-T record as a bench-runner for the Avs in general.
But first of all, anybody who's a true Dallas Stars fan HATES the Avalanche as a team, and probably has somewhat of a tough finding any of their players (aside from Joe Sakic) who can truly be revered regardless of who you are.
Second of all, after Crawford's fairly good track record in the Mile High City, he joined the Canucks. True, he holds the team wins record, that makes me hopeful. But he was also the guy who never took them anywhere playoffs-wise, and we've had enough playoff trouble already. Then, he had a disastrous two-year tenure with the Kings, where he didn't make the playoffs but didn't get them terribly high draft picks, and got bad reviews of behind-the-scenes attitude.
However, the guy's got an okay record overall, and I am a big critic. Personally, it felt like a huge downgrade to go from Tippett to Crawford.

Willie Desjardins is the new guy. I know very little about him (as in, I listened to his radio interview but that's all), but as far as I can tell, he's cool. Had a strong run with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL, lots of kudos thrown his way, and he shares last names with a defenseman who I was a fan of. Nothing against this man unless he somehow magically screws up the whole team, which I don't see on the horizon.

Charlie Huddy was a pretty dang solid defender back in his NHL days with the Oilers, Kings, Sabres, and Blues. I have never heard any negative feedback about this man. As far as I'm concerned, he's cool too.

Stu Barnes is a man I have respected since the day I knew he was on the Stars, back in the summer of 2003 when I really started picking up on hockey. Recently I've delved into his past as a player and discovered just how solid and reliable of a player he was. Yet another guy who I wish I had seen in his prime. Now? He's an awesome coach, and I wish he had a bench role rather than viewing from above (not heaven). Regardless, good to have him on the staff.

As little as I know about Desjardins and Huddy, I know even less about Mr. Mike Valley, seeing as he doesn't have a profile on the Stars website like the others. I do, however, have the greatest sympathy for him as he'll get stuck dealing with Leht-down-nen and Raycroft. God sooth your soul, Mr. Valley.

Now, on to The Management:

To get down to business, Joe Nieuwendyk is awesome. Anyone (including myself) who says otherwise should get their head checked. He was great as a player, he led us to the Stanley Cup, and he's been a consistently good general manager.
However, I have just one question:

Why the _____ did he let Mike Modano go?!?

Sure, there's a matter of whether he'll retire or not. But we've all been keeping track of how much Mikey's been training and we all know he's still got at least one more solid season in him.
Sure, there's the fact that the Stars have less than zero dollars to spend on anything, but whatever we gave Adam Burish and Andrew Raycroft surely wasn't a necessary purchase, and that money could have gone towards a one-year contract for Modano.
Sure, there's the fact that.. well, no, there's really no other reason to let Modano go. Anaheim still hasn't dropped Selanne and they didn't drop Niedermayer until Scotty said so. Other teams have had similar waiting games played with key players because they were, in fact, key players.
But Joe just drops Modano like a sack of potatoes and says, "Thanks for your service, come get a desk job if you want, but we're going to go pay for a fourth-liner and a crappy goalie with your potential money. Have a nice summer!" I just don't get it.

Les Jackson is a confusing man to me. He was one of our most influential and important scouts, and a great assistant GM before the 08-09 season, and yet, when he was given a Co-GM role for a year, he was almost silent. Now, he didn't do anything stupid, but there was nothing to prove that he should keep the job. I'm glad we didn't him go (though one could argue we need him less than Modano), but seriously Les, pick up your game a little bit.

Brett Hull's season of being a co-General Manager admittedly didn't go all that well. However, that's understandable, seeing as he had almost no executive experience beforehand. Fortunately, the Stars held on to him as a Exec. VP and Alternate Governor, so once he gets his feet wet, we could possibly try again.

Joe Nieuwendyk made a really smart move in keeping Frank Provenzano as an assistant GM. Not only has the man been quietly reliable, but Provenzano's name even sounds like he's fit for any job you assign to him.

Lastly, you may have noticed that I'm incredibly pissed off at Tom Hicks Sr. for not selling the team to someone with a bit of money available.

That's because I am.

This is ridiculous Mr. Hicks. We haven't spent money on a high-end free agent since the beginning of time, and around now when we could really use one, you and your broke self are rejecting offers from people who would pay you more money than you currently have for a team you can't afford, and from what I've heard, you're doing the same thing to the Texas Rangers too. Hey Mr. Bettman, quit messing with contracts that don't break written CBA laws and come get a broke man to give an NHL team back their respectability!

P.S. Hey Mr. Balsillie, if you're done trying to move a team to Hamilton, then go ahead and buy the Stars as long as you keep them here.


Stars' Summer So Far..

So, it's been forever since I've posted. You can thank my school for that.

The Stars' summer has sucked, to be plainly honest.

First off, the ridiculous (if somewhat forced) decisions by Nieuwendyk to release Mike Modano, Marty Turco, and Jere Lehtinen from the team. Basically, no more memories of the good years.

Second, we've hardly got enough money to make new offers to RFA's James Neal, Nicklas Grossman, and Matt Niskanen, and then we go and throw some cash at Andrew Raycroft and Adam Burish? Don't get me wrong, Burish is a tough guy who can put in some solid minutes and defend the rest of the team. But isn't that why we have Steve Ott and Krys Barch in the line-up? Not to mention Brenden Morrow and James Neal, both of whom can defend themselves pretty well if necessary. We've even got Luke Gazdic as a prospect. Burish is a good guy, but we don't need him.

As for Raycroft, the dude went on a worse downward spiral than Alex Auld, who bothered me last year. Oh, and we have the man who attracts injuries like a flower gets bees—Kari Lehtonen—as the starting goalie? I think I know which NHL team has the worst 1-2 punch in the league.

The only bright spot is that a top six forward group of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Jamie Benn, James Neal, Brad Richards, and Loui Eriksson isn't half bad. Throw in Steve Ott's developing scoring touch, Brandon Segal's 10-points-in-19-games post-deadline run, and Tom Wandell's 15 points as a rookie before injury, and there's some potential goal-scoring depth in the mix that the Stars haven't felt in a while. Toby Petersen and Brian Sutherby are reliable third or fourth liners, and apparently we've decided to give Fabian Brunnstrom one last chance.

Potential forward lines:
Morrow - Ribeiro - Benn
Neal/Ott - Richards -Eriksson
Ott/Neal - Wandell - Segal/Burish
Sutherby - Petersen - Brunnstrom/Burish

On defense, the Stars have been getting thin over the years, and last year we sent our top defensive prospect in Ivan Vishnevskiy to Atlanta for Kari Injury Lehtonen. However, Stephane Robidas is still a solid leader. Nicklas Grossman hasn't lost a step, and he can hold his own in the defensive zone. Karlis Skrastins is a bona-fide shot blocking star if he stays healthy, and Trevor Daley can easily regain his high-scoring form. Niskanen's still a little shaky, but he has a lot of potential and Mark Fistric has had more than enough AHL seasoning. Jeff Woywitka can step in when needed and Philip Larsen is looking more and more like he's ready for the big time, especially after getting an assist and a plus 1 rating in 2 games last year. Beyond that, the future is clouded.

In goal, I really really dislike the tandem of Lehtonen/Raycroft, in case you didn't pick up on that. However, we've got a brighter future. Matt Climie was a solid performer in the AHL last season as he led the Texas Stars to the Calder Cup Finals in their first year. Richard Bachman was a solid goalie in college, and hopefully this coming season, he'll get some quality AHL time as a backup. Brent Krahn isn't my favorite goalie prospect ever, but he was solid in the AHL as well and will likely be the first call-up when Lehtonen gets injured.

Overall, it'll be a rough season in Dallas, but we'll get plenty of glimpses at what our future could hold. And who knows; if Lehtonen manages to stay healthy, he was a highly touted prospect and he's had good numbers before. The playoffs could possibly be in the picture.