7.30.2010

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.

7.28.2010

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.