If it isn't clear yet, don't expect any award winning titles to be produced here. I'm pretty cut and dry and prefer to stay out of Pun Jail whenever possible. Anyway, last time we touched on the ghosts of hockey past. Today I'd like to delve into the future specifically pinpointing a few players and a few personnel changes in the off-season.
I have to start with this kid. I was at opening night last year vs the Predators for Benn's first NHL game. He was one of the starters on the ice and I'll be damned if he didn't fly around the rink with blazing speed checking anyone in sight looking like the ultimate power forward. This was amazing, except for one tiny detail: He's 6' 2" 207 pounds. Not exactly small, but by no means a huge guy. I assessed that if he tried to keep up that particular style of play, the Ice Girls would have been scrapping pieces of him up from the ice by the middle of the second period. Regardless, he was moved off a great line of Ribeiro and Morrow after doing nothing in terms of generating offense for 2, maybe 3 shifts (I might have blinked and Crawford is all about those short shifts)...that didn't take long. I honestly figured this was going to be just another bust of a prospect, but near the end of the season, mostly when playing for the AHL's Texas Stars, he was unstoppable. One of the biggest reasons the Stars made it so far in the playoffs was Benn's goal scoring ability. My hope is he takes was he learned from his first full NHL season and is able to take the next step in the coming year. Lord knows we'll need the offense because the defense is pure crap.
Speaking of, you can't spell "Disaster" without "Stars D." Look, I love Stephane Robidas. The guy has taken more pucks and sticks to his face than any man should, and he sacrifices his body like no other, but the guy is not a #1 defenseman...except on this team. I'll get to Turco, but you can't really fault the guy for the last 2 seasons. He's virtually had a whole core of guys who played in the league 2 years or less and worst of all, they didn't play because they suddenly were amazing, they played cause there wasn't anyone else available. Plain and simple if these guys don't step it up, stop making bad turnovers, and put forth some hussle and effort, it doesn't matter if we have LOLuongo in front of the net, the other team is going to score.
One is a winger who, for the right incentive ladden contract could be quite the bonus to the team if he can stay healthy, the other is a goaltender that makes me go "Why?" In a fantasy world, I had Nabokov and Turco switching sports via free agency. It made perfect sense really, they're both essentially on the same level, the teams in front of them are really the only difference. Well, except for the whole "Dallas can't afford to shop at the $1 store, so how could they give Nabby any sort of a contract he'd want?" thing. I really hope the organization knows what they are doing. I agree that Lehtonen has the potential to become a great NHL goaltender, but didn't Alexander Daigle and Patrik Stefan have the same, if not more, potential to be NHL superstars? Hell, the last time I saw Patrik Stefan he was being reminded how bad he was.
This one just makes me angry. You see, when Joe (I know his last name is Nieuwendyk, but you try typing that a good 10 times from here on out and tell me which name you're going to put down) traded for Lehtonen he traded the #1 prospect in the Stars organization. A defensive prospect by the name of Ivan Vishnevskiy. The fact that the organization kept pumping him up as the next Sergei Zubov gave hope to fans that had never actually seen him play. We loved Zubov and the things he did with the puck. The fact that he chain smoked like crazy, only added to the allure that he was such a great athlete. So Joe goes out and trades him for our new goaltender of the future, in the process making every fan wonder what is going on since we know our defense is horrible and they just traded away the best guy we had in the system (in Joe's defense, Ivan couldn't play D for anything, but he was an excellent offensive threat on the blueline). Thankfully as someone pointed out, if Don Waddell saw any promise in Vishnevskiy, then that means Stars fans probably didn't want him. Touche.
Enter the NHL Draft. I snuck away from work when I heard the Stars were getting closer. I kept seeing Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley drop and drop and drop. How lucky was Dallas about to be getting one of two outstanding defensemen that should have gone in the top 5 with the 11th pick. I was so excited. So happy. Then I saw Joe announce they selected Jack Campbell. Cue the bottle of Crown Royal. Did I miss something? You just traded away your #1 defensive prospect for a goaltender, did you not? Then why did you just draft a goaltender with the 11th overall pick you idiot? I pray that by the time the Stars D can actually help out a goaltender, which should be roughly the time that Jack Campbell applies for social security, that the 65 year old Campbell will have an outstanding NHL career and thus prove me wrong. From here on out the Stars selected D guys like they got them at a half off sale: Patrik Nemeth, Alex Theriau, and John Klingberg, which led me to post a tweet that summed up the 2-day lottery for me:
For as much as I give the guy a bad rap, he really deserves it. Extremely creative with puck handling and piles up the assists like crazy. Sadly, when you're a goaltender, those are not the first two compliments I want to have in mind when I think of you. "Stops the puck from going into the net" would be my preferred #1 choice and that's why you're now in Chicago.
I'd comment, but it takes a little longer to recover from such a kick to the nuts as Modano signing with Detroit.
The Real Deal - James Neal
Sure there are a ton of other players I didn't mention, but this one is my favorite. I jumped on the bandwagon when he started 2 season ago and even drafted him in my fantasy league. Thanks for the 24 goals chief. Drafted him again last year and snagged an extra 27 goals for that shrewd move. The guy really is a complete player who gives his all anytime he's on the ice. It doesn't always end up as a point for him, but I feel he really is the next captain in the making for Dallas. Having said all this, I'm shocked that no one has tried to sign him to an offer sheet considering the current Stars financial issues. I won't complain though, and hopefully here's to hitting a minimum of 30 goals this year.