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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    Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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    The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

    Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

    “When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

    And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

    While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

    “It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

    Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.

     

    Bust a move: Capitals win includes unlikely OT hero and dad’s dancing in Dallas

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    The usual suspects contributed for the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Down a pair of goals entering the third period, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie helped ignite the comeback on the power play.

    But then an unlikely hero emerged.

    Jay Beagle scored his 10th goal of the season and the overtime winner to give Washington a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. That aforementioned goal total matches his previous career high from two seasons ago.

    He initially accomplished the feat over the course of 62 games. This time, he hits 10 goals in 46 games played.

    Officials needed to review the play, although replays quickly showed the puck over the line from the Beagle shot in the slot.

    The comeback win led to a memorable post-game celebration.

    Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

    The Capitals maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    This game versus the Stars included some feisty moments, particularly in the first period when tempers boiled over. Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight. Three seconds later, Daniel Winnik fought Antoine Roussel.

    Ducks goalie Gibson leaves game versus Wild with upper-body injury

    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender John Gibson #36 of the Anaheim Ducks in action during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Anaheim goaltender John Gibson has left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with an upper-body injury.

    A short-angle shot from Mikko Koivu appeared to hit Gibson in the upper chest with 5:39 to play in the first period. The goaltender immediately went down on one knee and was quickly attended to by a trainer. Gibson gingerly skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

    Anaheim announced that Gibson is doubtful to return.

    Gibson is 7-1-1 with two shutouts in his past nine starts. He was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.

    Gibson stopped four of five shots he faced while making his fourth straight start.

    Playoff hopes take a jolt: Coyotes crush Bishop and the Bolts

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Islanders during the second period at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Of the surprises in the NHL so far this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning has to be right up there on the list.

    In 2015, they went to the Stanley Cup Final. The future had looked bright, but this signified the Bolts’ arrival into the top tier of teams in the league. Last season, they made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and lost to the eventual champions from Pittsburgh. That was a playoff run that did not include Steven Stamkos until the deciding game of the East final.

    This year? The Bolts are currently not in a playoff position. They’ve had issues defensively. They’ve had issues on offense. They’ve had issues with goaltending. They’ve dealt with injuries or illness to key players like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and other important members of their lineup.

    Looking to gain ground in the playoff chase, the Bolts had what looked to be the perfect opponent to mend their troubles — at least for one game. On Saturday, Tampa Bay faced the Arizona Coyotes, losers of four in a row and sitting above only Colorado in the Western Conference standings.

    The perfect remedy, right?

    Wrong. So wrong.

    The Bolts lost 5-3, mostly because of a disastrous opening two periods. Ben Bishop started and was pulled after 40 minutes, allowing five goals on 17 shots.

    Down a goal after the first period, things went south for the Bolts in the middle period. The Coyotes — one of only two teams in the entire league still stuck under 100 goals-for entering this game — beat Bishop for three goals on just nine shots in the second.

    The Bolts are dead last in the Atlantic Division, five points back of third-place Boston. They are four points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot, but there are seven teams ahead of Tampa Bay in that race.

    There is still lots of time left in the season. But the Bolts had stressed the importance and urgency needed on this current six-game road trip, and they haven’t delivered.

    A loss to the Coyotes would certainly seem like rock bottom.