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.
The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.
In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).
Here’s his first goal of the night:
While this is his overtime game-winner:
It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.
The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.
October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.
November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.
Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.
More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.
Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.
Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:
… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)
Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.
You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.
Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.
Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.
You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.
It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.
Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.
Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.
Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.
Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:
Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.
If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.
Check out this incredible shot of that moment:
Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.