Jamie Benn, Mike Modano

Can the Stars return to relevance in Dallas?

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Time will tell if the Dallas Stars nabbed a true difference-maker who was traded too soon in Tyler Seguin. It could very well be that their trade with the Boston Bruins will merely draw even on the ice – Loui Eriksson is a gem, after all – but the move could be just as important for ticket sales.

As great as Jamie Benn and other quality Stars players have been, it’s not a stretch to say that Seguin represents the team’s first true “face of the franchise” since Mike Modano’s heyday.

Combine that splashy move with a green-tinged new look, and it’s possible the Stars turned some heads this summer. The question is: did they turn enough?

An easy start

Much like the Avalanche in Colorado, the Stars came to Dallas with as close to a ready-made contending team as you’ll see in relocated sports franchises.

That helped the Stars hit the ground running fairly quickly (though not as drastically as the instant-success Avs), but the franchise also skipped ahead of the growing pains experienced in markets such as Nashville and Columbus. The Stars even lucked into the fact that they were booming in a lousy era for most Dallas professional sports teams, something they cannot count on with regularity.

Those were blessings early on, although maybe that fast start proved to be a bit of a curse?

Just win

While competing with the mighty Cowboys has never been the point, it’s become clear over the years that Al Davis’ “Just win, baby” mantra works well for the market (and most sports cities in warmer climates, really). It’s easy to forget the struggles of other sports teams in the area, including the booming Texas Rangers.

The Stars have quietly been respectable recently, yet they’ll likely need a playoff run – or maybe even a few deep ones – to really rekindle that connection with locals.

It’s anyone’s guess if they’re really on the right track, but at least they’re trying to make some waves.

More Dallas Stars day at PHT

Defense shows promise

Tyler Seguin is the wildcard

Center of change

Leaning on Lehtonen

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”