Whether you like the moves he’s made since becoming Dallas Stars GM or not, you really can’t accuse Jim Nill of being lazy.
Every summer, the Stars seem to be one of the “winners” of the off-season, yet they’re still searching for their first playoff series win since that surprisingly deep run in 2007-08.
The 2014-15 season might just be the last one where they were able to play the “scrappy upstart” role, even if they seem to carry somewhat similar strengths and weaknesses into next season. Broadly speaking, at least.
Expectations are rising each year, and with good reason.
The Stars nabbed Antti Niemi’s rights from the San Jose Sharks and then handed him a three-year, $13.5 million contract. Backup goaltending – and let’s be honest, goaltending in general – was a big sore spot for Dallas last season. Now Nill is spending $10.4 million on “two No. 1 goalies.”
That was a big enough change in itself, yet Nill had another trick up his sleeve, sending Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt to the Chicago Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns.
Each summer, the Stars have landed a big-name forward in a trade:
2013: Tyler Seguin
2014: Jason Spezza
You can’t do that forever and also retain a ton of cap space, even with bargains for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, so now Dallas is close to the ceiling. Especially after blowing much of their remaining budget on Johnny Oduya.
There weren’t many subtractions beyond assets handed over in trades and the departure of Shawn Horcoff, so the Stars look imposing on paper. Now it’s up to Lindy Ruff to make it all work.
Compared to rookie sensation Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov is a relative veteran of the NHL. Considering his bumpy path through three seasons, it’s no surprise that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of showing McDavid the ropes.
“I don’t think I’ll be a teacher. I’m too young for that,” Yakupov told the Edmonton Journal. “We’ve got lots of old guys to tell him things.”
Actually, judging by his interesting interview with the EJ, the 21-year-old may feel a little wistful that his substitute teachers won’t return to his side in 2015-16.
Yakupov acknowledged the chemistry he eventually developed with Derek Roy, a UFA sitting on the sidelines this summer.
“Especially a guy like Derek, who has played in the league for 10 years. He’s seen everything in the game. He could help a young kid like me,” Yakupov said. Soon as Derek got the puck, I was trying to get open for a shot.
“He gave me so much support and I was happy to be playing hockey again.”
Let’s highlight that last phrase: “I was happy to be playing hockey again.”
Just spit-balling here, but Roy could probably be had for a cheap price, and you could pair Yakupov with him for a third scoring duo outside Taylor Hall – Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The veteran and his pupil don’t represent the same threat that those other duos pose, yet they could enjoy some success against lesser opponents.
With Yakupov also needing to adjust from one Todd (Nelson) to another (McLellan), you almost get the impression that the Russian winger got the rug taken out from underneath him.
It’s a fascinating situation to watch, as he’s still very much in a sink-or-swim phase.
The Montreal Canadiens feature two of the things you look for in a championship contender: an elite goalie (Carey Price) and an outstanding, versatile defenseman (P.K. Subban).
Management seems pretty even-keeled about the team’s flaws, especially on offense. Perhaps a division title (not to mention league-wide trends of lower scoring) can breed patience/complacency.*
To most people, P.K. Subban (26 years old) and Carey Price (28) still seem enviably fresh-faced, yet it’s important to remember that windows of greatness can close with cruel quickness in sports.
One can reasonably expect goalies to age a bit more gracefully, yet Price would need to stand on his head to top the award-hogging season he generated in 2014-15. Subban may still have some upside even considering his current level of brilliance, but for how long will either one remain elite?
Look, it’s true that the Canadiens boast a ton of players who are in or around their primes. Max Pacioretty is just 26. Alex Galchenyuk could rocket up the charts, as he’s only 21, while Brendan Gallagher could very well pester for more than a decade considering the fact that he’s merely 23. Heck, Alexander Semin isn’t even that old at 31.
Even so, there’s a cut-off point where a slow-and-steady approach risks throwing away the best years of two of the most talented players on the planet.
If the coming 2015-16 season isn’t a pivotal one for GM Marc Bergevin to decide if he has the right supporting cast around Subban and Price – coach included – then it sure should be.
* – Feel free to use whichever word you think applies to Habs’ management.
The situation is a little clearer for Minnesota Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor as of Friday evening after he was released on $12K bail.
As mentioned in this post, the 43-year-old was arrested on suspected drunk driving and child endangerment charges on Thursday. Sydor reportedly recorded a blood-alcohol level of .30 percent while driving his 12-year-old son to a hockey game.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that he’s facing “two gross misdemeanor counts of second-degree driving while impaired with two or more aggravating factors.”
Those two aggravating factors are: endangerment of a child and his BAC exceeding .16.
The Wild released a terse statement on the matter, not providing information regarding how this may affect Sydor’s status with the team. Their training camp begins on Sept. 17.
For more on the situation, check out PHT’s original post and the Star-Tribune’s update.
It appears as if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are going deep into the NHL expansion process.
Friday marked a big day in that regard, as Quebecor confirmed that they’re in “Phase III” while Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper reports that Vegas accomplished the same task.
These reports are also backed up by TVA’s L.A. Lariviere.
It’s pretty much impossible to make “How many phases are there” type jokes – some prefer Austin Powers references, others might throw in “American Werewolf in London” – but the Associated Press indicates that this might be the final step.
A person familiar with the process told The Associated Press that the third stage involves the NHL reviewing the company’s business plan and revenue projections. If approved, the league would be in a position to award an expansion franchise as early as next month, the person added.
In case you skimmed that paragraph too quickly, let’s underline it: the league could award one or both cities an expansion franchise as early as September.
Wild stuff, right?
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