Joe Yerdon

The future of Dallas’ defense is bright

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One area of Dallas’ game that that doesn’t appear to need much tweaking is their defense.

There are a host of veteran guys leading the way. Newcomer Sergei Gonchar joins Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas, and Alex Goligoski along the blue line. Those guys make up what would normally be a pretty good top-four, but it’s the young guys who will make the Stars a tougher team to contend with in the West.

Rookies Brenden Dillon, 22, and Jamie Oleksiak, 20, arrived on the scene and made an immediate impression with the big club. Dillon in particular showed what he was about in adding an immensely physical game with toughness (65 penalty minutes) and some offensive touch as well (3 goals, 5 assists). If you dig into his advanced statistics, you’ll see why many rave about him beyond the standard numbers.

Oleksiak’s game is a bit more raw, but in the 16 games he played he showed enough of what he can do to help make the Stars comfortable enough to move Philip Larsen this summer. That deal netted them Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff who will help them out in other areas.

It’s Dillon in particular that has Stars faithful excited. His play was strong enough last season to earn him a spot on Team Canada’s roster for the World Championships. His mix of defensive and offensive abilities, accidental or not, has some in Dallas hoping he’ll be the next to wear the captain’s “C.”

The Stars certainly have their holes on the roster, but most of them are amongst their forwards. GM Jim Nill only addressed his blue line by adding Gonchar. With the rise of the kids through the system, his concerns can stay on improving the team elsewhere.

Two Nebraska-Omaha players dismissed for starting racially-charged fight

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Two University of Nebraska-Omaha players were dismissed from the program after their roles in sparking a fight in a local bar.

Senior co-captain Matt White and freshman Preston Hodge were tossed from the team after starting a fight in Omaha’s Old Market district that saw them using racial slurs. Rob White of the Omaha World-Herald has the story.

Witnesses told police that the hockey players had been harassing a small group of African-Americans with racial slurs and epithets around 2 a.m. Aug. 3.

The situation escalated and Hodge allegedly pushed Lamar Triplett, 26, of Omaha. Triplett said he responded by hitting Hodge and knocking him to the ground. Hodge hit his head and appeared to lose consciousness, according to a police report.

That sounds like proper karmic payback at least.

UNO athletic director Trev Alberts issued a statement on the players’ dismissal.

“We are extremely disappointed in the actions of these students; we will not tolerate any misconduct of this nature,” he said via press release. “We will continue to work diligently to ensure our student athletes understand the importance of tolerance and respect for others.”

White was third on the team in goals last season and fourth in points. A third player, senior Alex Simonson, was suspended pending review of his role in the altercation. All three players were ticketed for suspicion of misdemeanor assault.

Report: Markham arena deal could be dead in September

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The hopes of seeing a new arena built in the Toronto suburbs to bring a second NHL team to the area may soon be dashed.

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reports Markham, Ontario deputy mayor Jack Heath is looking to put forth a motion on September 17 to kill the financial framework of the project.

“When you add it all up, a second franchise for the GTA is not a priority,” Heath said. “I have no interest in duplicating Copps Coliseum.”

It was just last year Heath declared the project had lost his support and now he’s hoping to put a bullet in it for good and it’s likely because the financial details of the project would put Markham in a big hole.

For what it’s worth, Copps Coliseum is the too-small-for-the-NHL arena in Hamilton, Ontario that Jim Balsillie wanted to move both the Predators and Coyotes to.

As Campbell notes, the city will need to borrow $365 million of which only $162.5 million will be paid back by former Bauer chairman Graeme Roustan. One way or another, the city gets stuck with a hefty bill and no guarantees they’ll get an NHL team to play there.

Roustan said the arena doesn’t need an NHL anchor tenant, good luck selling that to the city council.

New Coyotes owners have ‘no plans’ to relocate or lose $50 million

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Now that the Phoenix Coyotes have new owners, they’re looking forward to helping establish the team’s hold in the desert. Of course, that won’t stop some from looking at the five-year out-clause IceArizona has.

As Coyotes Chairman and Governor George Gosbee tells The Canadian Press, they have no plans or intent to move it or lose it.

“It’s frustrating for me because for this exit clause to kick in, we have to lose $50 million and that’s not something I want to do,” Gosbee said. “We came into this to build a successful organization in Phoenix and that’s our plan. We have no plans of relocating anywhere else and we have no plans to lose $50 million, I can tell you that.”

Well that’s a relief!

Snark aside, it’s good to know Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc along with rest of the IceArizona group know what they’re getting into. The job they’ve got to do to further inspire fans to come out to Glendale won’t be easy. Or maybe it will be if fans were merely staying away because they didn’t want their hearts ripped out if the team moved.

The best thing they can do is make sure they ice an entertaining and competitive team.

Related: Don Maloney happy to lead Coyotes into the future

Dallas’ biggest changes come up the middle

One area of the game that was a major issue for the Dallas Stars last season were faceoffs.

As a team, they were 27th in the league in face off percentage winning just 47.2 percent of their draws. That kind of action won’t let you possess the puck and in a league where that’s of the utmost importance, the Stars struggled.

Dallas’ top four players in taking faceoffs last season were Vernon Fiddler (51.5), Cody Eakin (48.6), Derek Roy (46.7), and Jamie Benn (46.1). Fiddler being the lone guy winning more than half his draws was an issue as he’s a third or fourth line player.

When Dallas acquired Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, and Shawn Horcoff in separate deals this summer, they managed to address faceoffs in a big way.

Peverley, by far, is the leader in this category finishing second on the Bruins behind Patrice Bergeron winning 58.4 percent of faceoffs. While he didn’t take the bulk of the draws, he was more than effective when he did.

Horcoff throughout his career has hovered around 50 percent in faceoffs. While that’s not terribly impressive, it’s still better than the Stars did as a team. Just last season he won 49 percent and that was good enough to be second on the Stars.

Seguin, a center by trade but a winger in Boston, still had decent success coming away with a win in the circle 48.9 percent of the time.

Faceoffs aren’t as noticeable as goals or assists, but the Stars were so poor in that aspect of the game last season that winning more draws could be enough to help spark their offense. Now they’ve got the players to help make that happen.