Times have been pretty lean for the Dallas Stars franchise ever since Tom Hicks spread his (former) sports empire a little too thin. The impact of those times can be seen in the often-barren stands during games that aren’t against marquee teams like tonight’s match with the Pittsburgh Penguins (currently on NBC Sports Network).
This statement will probably raise some eyebrows considering box office woes and a playoff drought, then: the Stars have done a lot of right amid all their marketplace struggles.
With Brad Richards’ robust contract off the books, the Stars’ roster is a model of efficiency:
- All-Star-caliber forward Loui Eriksson is making a bargain $4.25 million per year through 2015-16, easily on my short list of the best deals in the league.
- Kari Lehtonen is one of the most leaned-upon and valuable goalies in the NHL, yet he’s making a relative pittance at $3.55 million cap hit-wise.
- In a league full of expensive blueline collections, the Stars’ highest paid guys are Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley at a reasonable $3.33 million per season.
- Mike Ribeiro might float here and there and Brenden Morrow hasn’t been healthy this year, but they’re still two quality forwards who are making exactly what they should be.
- Joe Nieuwendyk’s off-season moves have been deft strokes of bargain basement genius.
Michael Ryder has been a fantastic fit in a straightforward sniping role. Eric Nystrom will be a villain in Pittsburgh after his hit on Kris Letang (more on that very soon), but he’s been a huge waiver wire steal. Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler and even Radek Dvorak have all been useful-to-fantastic here and there.
Room to improve
Naturally, things aren’t perfect in Dallas or the team wouldn’t be in another tooth-and-nail struggle for the playoffs.
That cheap defense will get more expensive when Alex Goligoski’s $4.6 million cap hit kicks in and they need a little of everything in that area. Jamie Benn will cost a ton of cash to re-sign after a gutty, impressive All-Star season. One way or another, the Stars need to find a way to re-gain the hearts of fickle Dallas sports fans.
(My suggestion: make everyone wear Mike Modano masks!)
Keep the trigger finger from getting too itchy
Still, hopefully having a more stable ownership situation won’t equal the kind of spending sprees that GM Joe Nieuwendyk has skillfully avoided in his underrated time in Dallas.
Nieuwendyk and new owner Tom Gaglardi need only to look to Terry Pegula’s ill-fated shopping frenzy as evidence that you don’t have to spend all that new money in one place.
So, it seems Jake Allen was onto something.
The St. Louis Blues goalie noted a few days ago that Calgary Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Brian Elliott despite his early-season struggles.
Well, Elliott has since put together strong performances in back-to-back games against Central Division opponents from Chicago and then St. Louis.
After earning a shootout win over the Blackhawks on Monday, Elliott was put back in the Calgary net to finish off the back-to-back road set.
Facing his former team, Elliott made 23 saves on 24 shots and the Flames recorded a 4-1 victory. It was a special return to St. Louis for Elliott, who spent five seasons with the Blues.
“I saw that on the schedule from a while ago in the summer,” Elliott told NHL.com. “You want to come back here. I had so much fun playing in front of these fans in this building and wanted to do it again even though it was another team. The guys did a heck of a job in front of me to get that win for me.”
Not a bad trip for the Flames, with a maximum four points against two teams considered to be contenders in the Western Conference.
“I thought we were good in front of him, too,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald. “I thought we kept a lot of the stuff to the outside, but he made some big saves, especially at the end, when we knew their push was coming.
“I thought that was when he was his best. And that’s what you need — we put ourselves in position to win and then he carried us through.”
Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson began Tuesday’s game on the bench, but was forced into action to begin the second period against the San Jose Sharks.
Jonathan Bernier, who got the start, left the game with an upper-body injury and was doubtful to return, the Ducks stated on Twitter.
Bernier has played in only one other game for Anaheim so far, making 42 saves on 45 shots in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 15.
Frederik Andersen‘s difficult start to the season continues.
After an interesting exchange when questioned about his goaltender prior to Tuesday’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning and some guy named Steven Stamkos, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was once again forced to answer inquiries about the play of Andersen, who allowed seven goals on just 24 shots.
Andersen stayed in the crease for the entire game, as the Leafs lost 7-3. He certainly didn’t get much help in the defensive end from his teammates in front of him.
Stamkos started the scoring for Tampa Bay, and continued it with a rocket one-timer past Andersen, before finishing with a four-point night.
But in Toronto, the conversation about the amazing play of rookies like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner seems to have shifted to the play of their goalie, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Anaheim, in which Toronto parted ways with a first- and second-round pick to make it happen. The Leafs then signed him to a five-year, $25 million deal.
Playing on a new team in a hockey-crazed market has likely been an adjustment. His season also started with an injury in Olympic qualifying.
Following the loss Tuesday, Babcock explained his reasoning for leaving Andersen in net for all seven Tampa Bay goals, two of which came late in the third period.
“I want him to play. He’s my guy. I want him to play,” said Babcock, as per Jonas Siegel of The Canadian Press. “So I could pull him and then say, ‘Okay I showed you!’ But what did I show him? To me, dig in there with the rest of the guys, make the next save and give us a chance to come back and win the game. You can’t do that sitting on the bench.”
The Maple Leafs face the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Florida’s goalie Roberto Luongo knows all-too-well about the pressures that come with playing the position in a Canadian market.
It is early in Andersen’s Toronto tenure.
But Babcock will likely be facing a similar line of questioning until his goalie turns it around.
The rookie got it started. The stars finished it.
The Philadelphia Flyers looked like they were headed for a second straight loss, down three goals to the Buffalo Sabres on home ice entering the third period of Tuesday’s game.
Matt Moulson had a pair of goals for Buffalo, both on the power play. He capitalized six seconds after Claude Giroux was called for hitting Zemgus Girgensons from behind the into the boards.
But the Flyers, who played Monday in Montreal, came roaring back in the third period.
Travis Konecny began the comeback, scoring his first career NHL goal. He had five assists coming into this game, but finally buried his first goal on a nifty deflection in front. The milestone moment got the Flyers on the board.
Late third-period power play goals from Brayden Schenn and Mark Streit just 1:05 apart sent this game to overtime, as Philly was able to capitalize on a pair of late Buffalo penalties.
Giroux and Jakub Voracek scored in the shootout to complete the comeback and give Philadelphia a 4-3 victory.
Meanwhile, the Sabres, without Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, are still searching for their second win of the season.