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 Faksa: 1st 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 Janmark: Picked 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 Ritchie: 2nd 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