Now that Mike Modano is gone, who will be the face of the Dallas Stars?

Thumbnail image for Modano7.jpgWith Mike Modano and Marty Turco gone, the Dallas Stars decided to market the team (actually the TEAM) rather than an individual player.

Still, Defending Big D tried to guesstimate who might be the new “face” of the franchise. Ultimately, they couldn’t come up with an obvious choice. Let’s look at some of the highlights.

Brenden Morrow?

My man crush on Brenden aside, I don’t think he’s the answer. The captain was perfectly positioned to make a run at the top of the public consciousness after his stellar playoff performance of 2008, but a torn ACL and a mediocre return have limited his effectiveness on and off the ice the last two seasons…

I agree completely about Morrow. If his health was ideal, he would be a solid bet, but at this point can you really trust his knee to hold up for a full season? Even if he plays, it’s hard to imagine him matching that breakthrough season he experienced riding shotgun with the hard-to-love Mike Ribiero.

Moving on, Brad Gardner pointed out the first name that popped into my head: Brad Richards. Despite his solid point producing totals, Gardner hits the nail on the head about why Richards won’t be the face of the franchise.

We love Brad Richards. He makes this team immeasurably better when he’s on the ice. I hope the new owner signs him up for the rest of his career. I might consider giving any offspring he may have an entry-level deal. That being said, he has all the personality of a wet mop. His interviews are boring. He’s a nice guy, but his demeanor just doesn’t pop, and his on ice performance, while efficient and productive, lacks the pizazz and flamboyance of Mike Modano’s jersey flapping behind him, or Marty Turco rolling around on the ice making saves.

To a hockey fan, he’s a genius. To your buddy “Joe Bob” at work, he’s nobody.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jamesneal.jpgHere’s the wrap-up on the remaining choices. I’ll share my thoughts after the last excerpt.

The Other Guys.

James Neal. Jamie Benn. Loui Eriksson. Should they get consideration? Loui is as quiet and workman like as Jere and Brad are. The other two are burgeoning, but off the radar in the larger public consciousness. Again, to hockey fans they’re worth watching and you want them on your fantasy team, but to everyone else they’re guys who weren’t here in 1999. That’s unfair, but a lot of people see it that way.

What about Steve Ott? Face of the franchise? No. A larger player in the marketing game going forward? I wouldn’t be surprised, and I support it. Otter is everything people who don’t know hockey love about hockey, and he threw in 20+ goals to go with it last year. No one gets the AAC on their feet like Steve Ott. He definitely gets an honorable mention here with a nod toward the future.

After reading this article, it’s obvious that the team’s marketing-by-committee approach is the right way to go, but I’d keep an eye on James Neal. Here are three reasons why he could emerge as a solid, though by no means Modano-level, marketing chip.

  1. His nickname (“The Real Deal”) is awesome.
  2. He can score goals/points with aplomb.
  3. Neal also hurts people.

(Female fans could confirm or deny his attractiveness. I’m afraid that is outside of my area of expertise.)

So, overall, the Stars lack a matinee idol after having Modano for the entirety of their stay in the Lone Star State. Really, the team should count its blessings and understand that a box office lottery ticket cannot fall into your lap every time. As the DBD bunch point out, winning is the ultimate marketing tool, though.

Unfortunately, they might be closer to finding a face of the franchise than they are into reshaping into a winner in a tough Western Conference and Pacific Division.

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    Here are your officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final

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    The NHL has announced its officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

    They are as follows…

    Referees: Wes McCauley, Brad Meier, Dan O’Halloran, Kevin Pollock

    Linesmen: Scott Cherrey, Shane Heyer, Brad Kovalchik, Brian Murphy

    Overall it’s a pretty experienced group of officials as O’Halloran, Pollock and Meier are among the eight most experienced officials the NHL has in terms of games called in their careers.

    McCauley is near the top of the NHL in terms of penalties called per game, while Pollock is near the bottom of the league and seems to fit more into the “let them play” style of officiating. O’Halloran and Meier are not much higher, so you probably should not expect this to turn into a special teams series.

    Of course, no matter who the referees are, by the end of Game 2 most of the coaches, players and fans from each side will probably not be happy with any of them.

    All referee data via Scouting The Refs

     

    Blackhawks sign Michal Kempny to one-year contract

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    The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Saturday morning that they have signed defenseman Michael Kempny to a one-year contract that will cover the 2017-18 season.

    The 26-year-old Kempny was a restricted free agent this summer. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.

    During the 2016-17 season, Kempny’s first in the NHL, he appeared in 62 games for the Blackhawks and scored two goals to go with eight assists.

    With Kempny added back into the mix for next season the Blackhawks now have seven defensemen under contract as Kempny joins Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Gustav Forsling, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival.

    Veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

     

    Canucks GM wants Miller back, bringing rebuild into question again

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    For one fine trade deadline, it seemed like the Vancouver Canucks and GM Jim Benning saw the light.

    They actually moved veterans for assets, and interesting ones in that. They were, gasp, considered one of the winners of the trade deadline. There was the indication that a rebuild might finally be in action. Better late than never, right?

    Well … maybe that was just a brief reprieve.

    The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports that Benning threw the word “competitive” around when describing why he wants to re-sign 37-year-old Ryan Miller and why he isn’t looking to trade valued defenseman Chris Tanev and declining blueliner Alex Edler.

    Sensible if debatable

    His reluctance regarding moving the two defensemen is easier to understand. Tanev, 27, is in his prime at a nice cap hit ($4.45 million through 2019-20). A competitive team would want him, and if Benning is convinced the Canucks are close to being just that, then it makes sense.

    Edler staying is a little simpler. He has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to go.

    Now, one can argue that Tanev would be best served being moved for high-quality pieces. And perhaps Benning should at least try to convince Edler to accept a trade.

    A strange direction in net

    But Miller?

    “As we’re transitioning these young players into our lineup, I feel that if we have solid goaltending on a night-to-night basis, we can be competitive,” Benning said Thursday, according to Kuzma.

    Now, that story discusses why Miller may or may not accept a return, but one would guess that he won’t have a ton of offers. At least not offers that would involve a chance for more “platoon” or even starter-type work rather than explicitly labeling him a backup.

    Really, that’s beside the point, because it’s confounding that Vancouver wouldn’t want to go in a younger direction.

    You can read that sort of discussion as the Canucks once again wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They seemingly want to “reload” instead of “rebuild.”

    Perhaps there’s some smoke-screening going on here. Maybe Benning’s more interested in moving parts than he lets on; it could be that he wants to drive up Tanev’s price by playing coy about moving him.

    Still, on their face, the comments don’t exactly inspire confidence for a fan base that must be getting a little irritated by management that, to many, seems delusional about this team’s potential.

    Penguins’ Sullivan believes resiliency is ‘strength of this team’

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    PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

    On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

    A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

    This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

    So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

    “Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim,” Crosby said. “We’ve just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We’ve done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength.”

    And they’ll have to do it one more time in the final against swaggering Nashville if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years and the first in salary-cap era to win back-to-back championships.

    It’s a daunting task. When the puck drops in Game 1 on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be playing in their 108th game in the last calendar year, and that doesn’t count another half dozen for those who played in the World Cup of Hockey and a handful of exhibition games.

    Pittsburgh, however, has survived to do something even Chicago and Los Angeles – who have combined for five of the seven Cups awarded since 2010 – could not in putting itself in positon for a repeat.

    Credit coach Mike Sullivan’s ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the winner 5:09 into the second overtime .

    Credit goaltender Matt Murray, thrust back into the lineup when Marc-Andre Fleury‘s hot play that helped carry the Penguins through the opening two rounds finally cooled.

    Credit a maturity – or maybe it’s wisdom – from the team leaders who watched the first half of the decade come and go with plenty of gaudy regular-season numbers but no Cup banners to join the one they captured in 2009.

    Pinning down what changed is difficult. General manager Jim Rutherford’s ability to remake the team on the fly to build one of the fastest lineups in the league helped. So did Sullivan’s ability to cut through the noise when he replaced the professorial Mike Johnston in December 2015.

    Yet the Penguins understand there’s something else at work too, a resiliency and accountability they lacked while falling to lower-seeded teams every year from 2010-14.

    “I believe that the resolve and the resilience of this team is the strength of this team,” Sullivan said.

    Both were on full display in Game 7.

    Kunitz, who missed the first-round series against Columbus with a lower-body injury, returned to see himself bumped from the first line to the fourth, scored his first two goals of the playoffs. Conor Sheary, a blurring revelation last spring who suddenly found himself a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against the Senators, returned to set up Kunitz’s first goal .

    Justin Schultz, who has assumed the as the minute-hogging, puck-moving defenseman role held by the injured Kris Letang, returned from his own health scare and scored a go-ahead goal in the third period.

    If the Penguins were a force of nature last spring while earning the franchise’s fourth Cup, this one is more of a throwback. More blue collar. More anonymous.

    Some of the key cogs that helped Pittsburgh get to this point – rookie forward Jake Guentzel, 37-year-old playoff newcomer Ron Hainsey and career grinder Scott Wilson – weren’t even around last spring. Yet they and so many others not named Crosby or Malkin have become equal partners in pursuit of a title.

    “This year it’s been back and forth, it’s been tough,” Kunitz said. “We’ve had great individual performances. We had great goaltending. It’s something every night.”

    It hasn’t been pretty. So what? Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth is it has abandoned the pursuit of style points for something far more tangible. Like a 34-pound piece of hardware, one Pittsburgh has no intention of handing off anytime soon.

    More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey