[Note by Brandon Worley] Big thanks to Flacolaco for his contribution. This FanPost is a perfect example of what will automatically get promoted to the front page.
The Dallas Stars finished the 2008-2009 season with the 6th highest goals against average in the league; A whopping 3.06 GAA. Some will point fingers at the goaltender, and rightfully so, but blame can be equally apportioned between Marty, the PK, the coaching, the injuries, and the defensive players themselves. The general consensus is that a two pronged off-season attack of, a) Trade or sign new defensemen and, b) Find backup goaltender is a sensible and prudent course of action to take.
In other words, Stephan Robidas is not a #1 d-man in this league.
But it's not as easy as going to the store and picking up a new #1.
The signing of Joe Nieuwendyk as the Stars general manager has done little to dissuade anyone from expecting this approach to the off-season and free agency. While discussing the budget limitations of the the new sports market place, Mr. Hicks said that they would have a budget in place in roughly three weeks. Great, let's go out and 65spend some money, right?
How many roster spots do you have?
Will Zubov play? Will he play 60 games? 40?
What free agents do you go after?
Can you swing a trade?
The cases for new faces
When you think Joe Nieuwendyk, you think of the guy that would fly down the right side of the ice and unleash a wicked wrister from 25 feet out that would somehow find the top corner of the net. Not defense. But Joe played for the Stars in a time when Hitch had things buttoned down tight. The team was known for shot blocking. The team was known for grinding things to a screeching halt and absolutely smothering a hockey game once it got to the third with a lead. Then Mr. Nieuwendyk went to the Devils. Same thing, right? Defense. Goaltending. Stanley Cup.
So when the new Stars General Manager looks at what he's got, and thinks about how he won as a player, there's a pretty large disconnect there. We don't have a Matvichuck. We don't have a Hatcher or a Ludwig. We had a Sydor last year, but it ain't the same model, now is it? We have a Zubov. But it's old and it's broken down. Joe might want some new toys to play with.
But what about Niskanen? What about Fistric? What about all that time spent bringing along this young crew? Joe Nieuwendyk didn't draft them. He didn't scout them. He didn't spend a lot of time bringing them along and giving them a shot. He certainly didn't give Trevor Daley that contract. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what weighed heaviest on his mind when he pondered the job offer. Everything we thought we knew about how the team was invested in these young players might get completely thrown out the window.
Or is it more of the same?
All that being said, the reality of the situation might cause the Stars to pick up a favorite saying of Avery Johnson and Donnie Nelson's in recent years regarding the Dallas Mavericks: "We like our team"; Which I always took as "We are unwilling or unable to move anyone right now or sign any free agents, so stop asking."
Reality #1: The Tom Hicks "internal budget": We heard a lot about the "internal budget" last year, and though more than enough Stars hit the long term IR to free up some cap space all we ever got out of it were Steve Begin and Brendan Morrison; both presumed gone now.
Reality #2: Trade chips. We don't "got em": Call another GM and who are they going to ask you about? James Neal? Jamie Benn? (if they're feeling lucky)...Ivan Vishnevskiy maybe? They were clamoring for Matt Niskanen at the trade deadline of the infamous Brad Richards deal, but what could you get for him now? Could you trade Trevor Daley and his bloated contract? GM-Joe was hyping "building through the draft" yesterday, I doubt we'll be parting with any draft picks of significance.
Reality #3: Free Agents: Which ones do you like? Here is a list of defensive free agents in this years pool. Which one's float your boat? And forget Bouwmeester, it's not happening and you know it. Let's assume we're not gearing up for an all or nothing season, first of all. Heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Modano and Zubov, but I don't think a win right now this year approach is being applied. Let's assume free agents in their twenty's, and reasonably priced are ideal. After reading between the not so subtle lines of yesterdays press conference, let's assume we won't be handing out any 8 year deals (a la Gomez or Cambpell, etc) either. Who does it leave? Who will be reasonably priced after the Canadian teams jack up the prices and give away crazy contracts?
Reality #4: That little tidbit yesterday offered by GM-Joe: "onus on the forwards". That was one of the first things that came out of his mouth yesterday, and caught everyone's ear.
Reality #5: Nieuwy called Zubov "one of the elite players in the league" yesterday. That's his opinion, and could be just words, but they don't comfort my need to see some real change on the blue line.
GM-Joe certainly has good cause to go this way or that as he chooses, but unless he pulls of a monster of a trade, the defense could look much the same next season as it did the last. The young players could continue to improve, Robidas could benefit from less minutes, and Zubov could return to form for another year or two. In a world where Brett Hull was General Manager of a National Hockey League team, anything is possible.