Why Stars fans should be more optimistic about the future

jamesneal.jpgOne of the fan bases who have had their patience tested throughout this off-season is that of the Dallas Stars. From seeing their franchise icon Mike Modano shopping his wares around the NHL, to rumors of the team being sold, to the team not being overly active in the free agent market it’s tough to blame Dallas fans if they’re feeling edgy about the team’s prospects. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika wants Stars fans to know that not everything is coming up empty for the team and that there’s reason to have hope.

I’m trying to be realistic with this roster, and I have asked a few friends if you had to rank the teams based on roster and coaching staff, where would you rank the Stars. My guess is most of you would say around 20th. That’s the reality for a team on a tight budget. Now, people would have ranked the Coyotes and Predators much lower before last season, and they both made the playoffs on extremely tight budgets, so the Stars can do the same thing.

But the bottom line is Nieuwendyk and his crew are trying to improve this thing any way they can, and they believe they are taking steps forward, and that is reason for optimism. Plus, if you remember back to when Norman Green owned the team in 1995, things were falling apart everywhere. Tom Hicks bought the Stars, and they immediately started making changes and improving. Nieuwendyk has the team positioned to do that once more money is available, and that is reason for optimism.

So, will the Stars be one of the better teams in the NHL in 2010-11? I don’t think they will be. I’m amending this part. If they do get a new owner, and Nieuwendyk is freed to make a few moves, I do think they could be one of the better teams. I think they are positioned to be a good team fairly quickly now. There are still a lot of question marks, but I think they are closer to Nieuwendyk’s vision of a winning team now.

Having a general manager hamstrung by an ownership in flux is always a huge problem. You can’t spend much money because you don’t know what the new guys will say about the budget. The only thing you really can do to impress any potential buyer is to shed payroll and hope that it all works out in the end so when new ownership comes in they take the leash off to spend again.

The Stars do still have some loose ends to take care of still this off-season, the leading one being signing scoring winger James Neal to a new contract. The Stars have made their bed in goal opting to go with Kari Lehtonen as their starter and their forward lines and defense are mostly all set, whether fans agree with that or not. Perhaps Mike Ribeiro still gets traded but that talk has cooled of late. As for Stars fans eager to head for the bridges because of everything Dallas-related being in flux… Patience, friends.

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    Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

    Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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    It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

    As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

    Actually …

    If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

    Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

    Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

    The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

    On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

    Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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    Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

    The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

    You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

    At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

    Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

    (Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

    As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

    Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

    Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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    Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

    Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

    Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

    That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

    Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

    Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

    Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

    Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

    Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

    Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

    The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.