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Logan Stark is an editor at DefendingBigD.com. You can follow her @LoganStarkBooks. Hey…Stark on the Stars. We just thought of that! Anyway, here’s the Q&A we did with her two weeks ago when the Stars were here

Let’s get this out of the way up top. While the CEO swearing about the team’s two stars is good for comedic value out here, isn’t it nonsensical as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are just about the only reason the Stars are anything? (not to mention Benn’s long-standing place with the team and fans)
– First of all, Bishop and Khudobin have been absolute brick walls this season. They’re a large factor of why the Stars are still in a playoff position this late in the season. Second, Miro Heiskanen is a godsend for this team, especially when half the blue line was injured during the first half of the season. Okay, on to the real question. CEO Lites’ comments were beyond nonsensical. Not only did the tirade tarnish the team’s reputation around the league (what high-profile player would want to sign with the team now?), but it also made them a laughing stock. Benn and Seguin have proved Lites wrong with their on-ice performance, but those comments are continuing to hang over them and the team almost two months after they rocked hockey Twitter. Benn and Seguin are the faces of the franchise and are fan-favorites, and they were definitely fan-favorites for their classy responses to the comments. In the end, Lites’ comments backfired, I think, landing egg on his face – while getting some good splatter on the team that will come off with time. CEOs come and go, but Benn and Seguin are here to stay for a long, long time. In the end, it’s their on-ice performance and leadership in the locker room that matters the most. The team and coaching staff still support them, so why should fans do any different?
Why has Julius Honka not worked? The pedigree is there, he seems to have a coach that wants to play faster, and yet four points is four points…
– Do we have time for me to draft a graduate dissertation on why Honka hasn’t worked? No? Okay, let’s give this a shot: The yo-yo effect under Hitchcock last season did absolutely nothing for Honka. Not only was he bounced between the Dallas Stars and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, but he was bounced with such frequency that he never had a chance to settle into the lineup and make a real impact. When Honka did spend time in Dallas, it was most often as a healthy scratch or with sub-par ice time. None of that helped his development and can only have hurt his confidence on the ice. We’ve seen flashes of his brilliance on the ice, but not this season. He’s been a healthy scratch with regularity under Montgomery, which leads me to believe that Montgomery doesn’t know where to slot him in within the current lineup. There’s just not room in the lines for a player struggling to produce (hush, let’s not talk about Nichushkin) and who needs time on the ice to get his skates back under him, so to speak. At this point, I would say it’s time to trade Honka, use him to bring in fresh talent that’s capable of producing at a steady rate.
Jim Nill has gotten three coaches. At what point does the cannon point at him?
– If the Stars fail to make the playoffs this spring, I think there’s going to be a turnover in the front office. It’s pretty clear that management expects this roster to be a repeat contender, yet they’ve failed to make a real postseason splash. If the Stars fail to make the playoffs (or fail to make it past the first round), I would place good money on Nill being let go. The lack of postseason performances and his lackluster record at the draft table would definitely be grounds for his exit from the team. At a certain point, it’s not about the coaches, but about the guy in the front office saddling said coaches with questionable trades, picks, and players.
What are the Stars gong to do before the deadline (assuming they don’t do anything before we print this, in which case I’ll just switch whatever you said to what they did and make you look like geniuses)?
– Nill has gone on record saying they’re looking for offensive power and depth at the deadline, and Dallas scouts have been checking out Zuccarello and Panarin (they got Zuc, and then he got hurt-ED). I would keep an eye out for the Stars to make a move for either of them on a rental basis (with an extension option on the table). One thing to watch for: the picks and/or players they send the opposite way. Just what is the front office willing to part with in exchange for a player that just might help the Stars get to the playoffs? In the past, Nill has been pretty good about not giving up first round picks or developing players that will aid the team. However, the Stars are getting desperate to make that playoff push this year, so is this the year Nill finally parts with the golden ticket of a first round pick?

 

 

Game #68 Preview Suite

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Logan Stark is a contributor at DefendingBigD.com. You can follow her @LoganStarkBook. Hey…Stark on the Stars. We just thought of that!

Let’s get this out of the way up top. While the CEO swearing about the team’s two stars is good for comedic value out here, isn’t it nonsensical as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are just about the only reason the Stars are anything? (not to mention Benn’s long-standing place with the team and fans)
– First of all, Bishop and Khudobin have been absolute brick walls this season. They’re a large factor of why the Stars are still in a playoff position this late in the season. Second, Miro Heiskanen is a godsend for this team, especially when half the blue line was injured during the first half of the season. Okay, on to the real question. CEO Lites’ comments were beyond nonsensical. Not only did the tirade tarnish the team’s reputation around the league (what high-profile player would want to sign with the team now?), but it also made them a laughing stock. Benn and Seguin have proved Lites wrong with their on-ice performance, but those comments are continuing to hang over them and the team almost two months after they rocked hockey Twitter. Benn and Seguin are the faces of the franchise and are fan-favorites, and they were definitely fan-favorites for their classy responses to the comments. In the end, Lites’ comments backfired, I think, landing egg on his face – while getting some good splatter on the team that will come off with time. CEOs come and go, but Benn and Seguin are here to stay for a long, long time. In the end, it’s their on-ice performance and leadership in the locker room that matters the most. The team and coaching staff still support them, so why should fans do any different?
Why has Julius Honka not worked? The pedigree is there, he seems to have a coach that wants to play faster, and yet four points is four points…
– Do we have time for me to draft a graduate dissertation on why Honka hasn’t worked? No? Okay, let’s give this a shot: The yo-yo effect under Hitchcock last season did absolutely nothing for Honka. Not only was he bounced between the Dallas Stars and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, but he was bounced with such frequency that he never had a chance to settle into the lineup and make a real impact. When Honka did spend time in Dallas, it was most often as a healthy scratch or with sub-par ice time. None of that helped his development and can only have hurt his confidence on the ice. We’ve seen flashes of his brilliance on the ice, but not this season. He’s been a healthy scratch with regularity under Montgomery, which leads me to believe that Montgomery doesn’t know where to slot him in within the current lineup. There’s just not room in the lines for a player struggling to produce (hush, let’s not talk about Nichushkin) and who needs time on the ice to get his skates back under him, so to speak. At this point, I would say it’s time to trade Honka, use him to bring in fresh talent that’s capable of producing at a steady rate.
Jim Nill has gotten three coaches. At what point does the cannon point at him?
– If the Stars fail to make the playoffs this spring, I think there’s going to be a turnover in the front office. It’s pretty clear that management expects this roster to be a repeat contender, yet they’ve failed to make a real postseason splash. If the Stars fail to make the playoffs (or fail to make it past the first round), I would place good money on Nill being let go. The lack of postseason performances and his lackluster record at the draft table would definitely be grounds for his exit from the team. At a certain point, it’s not about the coaches, but about the guy in the front office saddling said coaches with questionable trades, picks, and players.
What are the Stars gong to do before the deadline (assuming they don’t do anything before we print this, in which case I’ll just switch whatever you said to what they did and make you look like geniuses)?
– Nill has gone on record saying they’re looking for offensive power and depth at the deadline, and Dallas scouts have been checking out Zuccarello and Panarin. I would keep an eye out for the Stars to make a move for either of them on a rental basis (with an extension option on the table). One thing to watch for: the picks and/or players they send the opposite way. Just what is the front office willing to part with in exchange for a player that just might help the Stars get to the playoffs? In the past, Nill has been pretty good about not giving up first round picks or developing players that will aid the team. However, the Stars are getting desperate to make that playoff push this year, so is this the year Nill finally parts with the golden ticket of a first round pick?

 

Game #63 Preview Suite

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You have to hand it to the Dallas Stars. It seems every couple of seasons, maybe more often, they’re ready to shed their skin. First they were going to be the Run n’ Gun n’ Fun team under Lindy Ruff. Then when that didn’t go anywhere they were going to be a more solid unit under Ken Hitchcock that took its limited opportunities while boring the lower intestines out of everyone. And then that didn’t work so they went outside the box to the University of Denver for Jim Montgomery. And lo and behold…they’re on pace for the same 85-92 points they seemingly always get and never go anywhere. They’re just south of the Wild in the consistency standings, and right there with them in the “Never Do Anything That Matters” standings. Kind of symbolic.

While Jim Nill always wins the Best Offseason GM Award, nothing ever seems to really change on the ice when the season starts. The thought was that Hitchcock was too conservative for the modern game, and that he didn’t really get through to younger players who want to get up the ice more often and faster than Jabba The Hitch would ever be comfortable with.

And yet so far this season, under the supposed forward-thinking Montgomery, the Stars get less attempts, less shots, less goals, and less chances than they did last year under Hitch. They’re not even getting as good of goaltending as they did, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re on pace for 89 more irrelevant points as a team that neither makes them a contender or puts them anywhere in the draft to make a difference next year.

So what’s the problem here? It’s not the top line, which has produced every year as long as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have been together. Now they have Alex Radulov joining the fun. It’s not the goalies, as Ben Bishop has a .920 this year and has been more than solid in his time in Texas.

So scrape beneath that just a bit, and you see the young players that the Stars have pinpointed and hoped would pick up the secondary scoring, and you start to find some answers.

Devin Shore: Second round pick in 2012, point-per-game or thereabouts for three seasons in the NCAA. Had injury problems in his first season as a pro in the AHL but still was a point-per-game when he was around there. Has put up 24 goals and 55 points in two NHL seasons and this year is on pace for…the same 13 goals and 32-ish points that weren’t enough to be a second line player in the first place.

Radek Faksa1st round pick in 2012. Impressive numbers in junior. Good enough in his first season as a pro to spend half the year in Dallas. 17 goals last year in his first full-season in the NHL, looks set for bigger things. On pace for barely 14 goals this year while only just averaging a shot-on-goal per game.

Mattias JanmarkPicked up from the Red Wings in what was thought to be something of a steal. Very good numbers in Sweden. Went from 15 goals to 19 goals last year and looked to be a genuine second-line player. Has two goals this year and like Faksa, is barely registering a shot per game.

Brett Ritchie2nd round pick in 2011. Two-time member of Canada’s WJC team. Bounced between the AHL and NHL for a few seasons. Put up 16 goals last year in his first full foray into the big-time. Has two goals this year and is basically a 13th or 14th forward.

Val Nichushkin: Looked to be a real ass-kicker in his rookie year with 14 goals in ’13-’14. Missed almost all of the next year with a terrible injury, never really looked recovered the next season, fucked off back to Russia for two years, and has yet to score this term.

Honka! Honka! (Julius Honka): 1st round pick in 2014. Tore up the OHL in his one year there. Always thought that Ruff and Hitchcock wouldn’t give him the time of day because of just being a young d-man. Has four points this season though with some promising underlying numbers. Stars needed him to push the play beneath John Klingberg and especially in his absence. Hasn’t really happened. Now behind Miro Heiskanen on the depth-chart

And once again, the Stars are a top line, Klingberg (when healthy) and that’s it. They hope they’ve cracked the code on defense with Miro Heiskanen, and maybe they have But until they finally produce a second line from somewhere, they seem destined to be scenery in the Central Division.

 

 

Game #37 Preview Suite

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For the second time in two weeks or so, we go and bother Taylor Baird from DefendingBigD.com. Follow her on Twitter @TaylorBaird.

The Stars are one of the lowest event teams in the league, which is something of a Hitchcock specialty. But given how this roster is built, is that really conducive to success? Is that why the record has been a touch wonky?
I think they’re still trying to figure out the balance between structure and suppressing chances against while being creative offensively. When they won five games straight right after Thanksgiving, they scored an average of 4.4 goals per game (excluding shootouts/empty netters) and they only allowed 2.2 goals per game on average. That’s a terrific recipe for success, and now they’ve shown they can do it. The trick is finding the consistency to put it into place each night while still adjusting to new linemates/system/coaching/etc. Sometimes that takes longer to put together than fans would like, but I think they’re capable.
The Stars traded Jamie Oleksiak, which seems to be a vote of confidence for Julius Honka. Why are Stars fans so excited about him? 
He’s mobile and very creative with the puck in flashes in games he played last season, something the Stars have lacked at times from their blueline. Stars fans are excited that Dallas could have two of the offensive defensemen style blueliners in the lineup and believe it will help improve the transition game immensely. And while these kinds of players come with inherent risks, Honka has shown that he has the speed to be able to recover from his mistakes, something that Oleksiak struggled with in Dallas. It’s not that people felt Oleksiak was a pylon, but for many fans his defensive shortcomings when he wasn’t providing much in the way of possession/scoring was tough to swallow.
Martin Hanzal, five points, some of the worst metrics on the team. This has not gone well so far, has it?
The better penalty kill from the terribad one last season might say otherwise. He doesn’t look good statistically, but he has had flashes in games this season when healthy of doing all the little things that help maintain possession or cycle in the offensive zone that has created the environment for goal scoring by the next line on the ice. I’d say it’s more likely an “incomplete” grade at this point in the season, especially given that he’s missed games due to injury.
Marc Methot is returning from injury soon. What kind of difference will that make?
I think it will really solidify a top six, and maybe the Stars can stop the bottom four merry-go-round that they’ve run searching for the right combinations. If they can get a group in consistently for a stretch, I’d expect the team as a whole will look much better in general.
What will the Stars need to pick up to lock down a playoff spot this year?
Most likely a top six forward, as the Stars haven’t found the right answer to have a consistent second line threat without breaking up the dynamite grouping of Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov. It doesn’t seem to be ready to be answered from inside the system today, so acquiring that will probably be a top target for Jim Nill at the trade deadline (or sooner) this season.