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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    Francis, Kurri, McKenzie named to Hockey Hall of Fame committee

    Ron Francis
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    The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee added some big names on Tuesday — most notably, a pair of Hockey Hall of Famers.

    Ron Francis (inducted in 2007) and Jarri Kurri (2001) have been appointed to the committee, the Hall announced. Longtime hockey scribe and hockey insider Bob McKenzie was also named; together, he and Francis and Kurri will replace an outgoing trio of Lanny McDonald, Mike Emrick and Peter Stastny.

    Francis currently serves as the GM in Carolina while Kurri holds the same title with Jokerit of the KHL.

    More, from NHL.com:

    McDonald resigned his spot on the committee to become chairman, while the terms of Stastny and Emrick expired.

    The Hall also announced Eric Duhatschek, Michael Farber and Bill Torrey were reappointed to the selection committee for a further three-year term.

    The next big meeting for the new members of the selection committee comes in late June, when everyone gathers to consider candidates for the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame.

    The announcement for new inductees will be made on June 27. As we’ve written about in the past, the list of first-time eligible entrants isn’t exactly overwhelming, so this could be the year some “passed over” candidates get in.

    Among those in that category? Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi and Jeremy Roenick, to name a few.

    Related: Poll: Who should be in the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame?

    Suter admits to ‘saying stuff I probably shouldn’t have said’

    Ryan Suter
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    For the Minnesota Wild, today was a day for damage control.

    Try to act surprised, OK?

    “We’re obviously on the same page,” defenseman Ryan Suter told the Star Tribune. “It’s a story that shouldn’t even be a story. I think the heat of the practice yesterday, I was just saying stuff I probably shouldn’t have said.”

    In case you missed it, what Suter said was that he shouldn’t be playing with a left-shot defenseman like Jonas Brodin.

    “I don’t know what [the coaches are] thinking,” said Suter.

    But in addition to that — and this was the really eye-opening stuff — Suter effectively questioned how head head coach Mike Yeo was reacting…

    …to the latest bit of adversity the Wild were facing.

    “Now’s when you need leadership more than ever,” said Suter. “It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

    The Star Tribune has more on what everyone was saying today, so be sure to click on the story.

    Yeo, predictably, downplayed Suter’s remarks, chalking them up to a “guy that when you ask him to do something, he might tell you his opinions, but nobody will go out there and do it better than him.”

    The Wild take on the Blackhawks tonight at United Center (on NBCSN).

    Oh, and Suter will, indeed, skate with Brodin against the defending champs. Those two have only been together a bit this season, but they were a frequent pairing last season.

    Expected pairings (shoots)
    Ryan Suter (L) – Jonas Brodin (L)
    Marco Scandella (L) – Jared Spurgeon (R)
    Nate Prosser (R) – Matt Dumba (R)

    P.S. — This is why the Wild were hoping for better things from young Dumba.

    Goalie nods: Dubnyk looks to turn tide for slumping Wild

    WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 25: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild blocks a shot on goal in second period action in an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 25, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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    Devan Dubnyk will look to snap Minnesota’s three-game losing streak tonight and, at the same time, look to bump a slump of his own.

    On a personal two-game losing streak — and having lost five of his last six — Dubnyk gets the call in Chicago when the Wild take on the ‘Hawks at the United Center.

    After a banner ’14-15 campaign that culminated with a Vezina nomination, Dubnyk has failed to match those (admittedly high) standards this season. Though his record is OK — 11-7-2 — his GAA (2.55) and save percentage (.909) leave plenty to be desired. He’s also given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts, including four goals against both the Penguins and Bruins in mid-November.

    For Chicago, Corey Crawford will get the start in goal.


    Cory Schneider‘s in net for New Jersey as the Devils host the Avalanche. Colorado played last night — a 5-3 loss to the Isles, in which Semyon Varlamov allowed four goals on 27 shots — so it has yet to name a starter. Safe money’s on Reto Berra in the second of a back-to-back, though.

    Mike Condon, back in the No. 1 role with the injured Carey Price out six weeks, goes for Montreal against Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky starts for the Blue Jackets.

    — It’s Steve Mason versus Craig Anderson as Ottawa invades Philly. Anderson, now the full-fledged No. 1 with Andrew Hammond (concussion) out, went 6-2-2 in November with a .925 save percentage.

    Linus Ullmark goes for Buffalo in Detroit, while the Wings counter with Petr Mrazek.

    Mike Smith‘s back in goal for the Coyotes after Anders Lindback started on Saturday. The Preds are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.

    — Good matchup in St. Louis tonight, as veteran Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo goes up against one of the best young ‘tenders in the game in Jake Allen.

    — The Flames are going back to the Karri Ramo well tonight when they host Dallas. With Kari Lehtonen still hurt, Antti Niemi looks likely for the Stars.

    — No confirmations out of Los Angeles yet, but Jacob Markstrom is likely for the Canucks while Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

    — No confirmations out of San Jose-Pittsburgh, either. But since neither team played last night, it’s likely both No. 1s, Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones, will be in net.

    More injury trouble for the Rangers — Klein out 2-3 weeks

    Kevin Klein, Gustav Nyquist

    As if losing Derek Stepan wasn’t going to be hard enough, the New York Rangers will also be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the next little while.

    Klein has a “strained oblique,” the club announced today. The 30-year-old suffered the injury early in yesterday’s 4-3 win over Carolina. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks.

    Klein, a right shot, has spent time paired with Marc Staal, Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh this season. The way Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle have struggled (see: here and here) on the right side, you could make the argument that Klein was the last defenseman they could afford to lose. (You may not win the argument, but you could sure make it.)

    With Klein out, Dylan McIlrath will get back into the lineup tomorrow in Brooklyn.

    Currently, the Rangers have just six healthy defenseman on their roster.