Brad Richards, Dallas Stars’ success currently slipping under the radar

Brad Richards and the Dallas Stars have quietly put together an outstanding start to the 2010-11 season, as they currently sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings after beating that team in overtime on Sunday.

The problem is that a precious few people seem to notice Richards’ individual achievements and the Stars team success, judging from preliminary MVP voting (as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out) and poor attendance numbers for Dallas home games (which Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News discussed today).

First, let’s discuss Richards’ tremendous contract year efforts. While his 38 points “only” ties him for sixth best in the NHL with Daniel Sedin and Alex Ovechkin, the Stars are a team that leans heavily on the playmaking forward’s production. He helped create or score 38 of the Stars’ 95 goals this season, which means he accounts for a staggering 40 percent of the team’s offense.

Does that mean he deserves to be win the Hart Trophy? Not necessarily, but he definitely is worthy of being a part of the discussion. If the team didn’t have Richards and Kari Lehtonen, they might not be competitive right now.

But the Stars are competitive, earning a 20-10-3 record for 43 points in 33 games played. They sit atop the ultra-competitive Pacific Division to the surprise of many, but their normally loyal DFW market is barely batting an eye at the team’s success.

Heika writes that the team is falling victim to the “wheel of fame.”

Bottom line, the wheel of fame is a tough thing. When you are on it, people crave attention about you, they get information about you and that feeds the fame. When you’re not on it, they don’t, and it’s tough to get people excited about your product. The Stars are not on the wheel right now, so they have to fight extra hard to get back on. This home stand will be a good test to see how things are working. The Stars play five of the next six at home, and they are playing at a time when families have time and might want to enjoy an entertainment event like a hockey game.

If the Stars win and the crowds come, the media coverage will follow. While hockey does fight some special battles for coverage in the Sunbelt, the Stars aren’t that much different than the Mavericks or Rangers. The more they win, the more people care, the more coverage they get. The Cowboys are different, and every single marketing number will tell you that, but the Stars are right in there with the rest of the pack.

Just ask FC Dallas or TCU how they feel about the coverage on a lot of days. This is not about hockey alone.

Hopefully people will start showing up for Stars games once the playoffs draw closer, because the region certainly got excited about the Texas Rangers when they made a similar Cinderella run. Otherwise, many pundits might wonder if the inevitable loss of Mike Modano also meant the inevitable loss of fan interest.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

2 Comments

The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

2 Comments

Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
1 Comment

It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

15 Comments

Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.