This four day break is tough. It's tough because it follows a terrible loss. It's tough because the bottom has fallen out of the news cycle. There's only so much to report from practice when there's no injuries. Mostly it's tough because in four days we will see most Western Conference teams collect points while the Stars sit idly by and wait, but it's important to note that the Stars are in pretty good shape, standings-wise.
They sit in 8th place, officially, but this early in the season points % is a better measure of how things are shaping up and the Stars rank 5th in the West. Look at the Blackhawks in what is technically 5th place with 17 points. They've played four games more than the Stars have and only have one more point to show for it. Detroit is only three points ahead in 4th place.
There's a lot of good news behind the Stars as well. The Coyotes, after having collected 14!! extra points on shootout wins last year have already dropped 5 OT/SO games this season. The Predators have dropped precipitously from 1st to 12th. The Oilers are still the Oilers and at 6-5-1 the Sharks are wondering if they can flip the switch. (I think they can.)
The Stars have beaten teams above them (Blues, Red Wings) and lost badly to teams below them (Ducks, Avalanche). There are no easy games on the schedule. We used to see the Kings and the Coyotes coming and pencil in a "W". Teams can't do that with anyone any more.
I think you can safely say that the Canucks, Kings, Red Wings, Sharks and Blues are playoff teams at this point. That leaves the Stars fighting with eight other teams (sorry Edmonton) for three spots, just like everyone thought before the season started. If the Stars can continue to do what they're doing (.615%) then they will be fine. The problem is the competition is getting tougher with Western Conference play ratcheting up.
Here is my favorite note this morning from Rotowire.com via CBS Sports. Count the red flags here...
Matt Niskanen is a six-foot Swedish defenseman drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round of 2005. After a disappointing sophomore year last season, Niskanen is showing quick movement and confidence in the open-ice. If you see his pick up percentage increase and you're in a keeper league, follow the trend. When and if everything falls into place for Niskanen, 10 goals, 35 assists will be a balanced year.
Swedish? And apparently they're giving him on a do-over on his third year, which was last season, not this season.
- More on Loui Eriksson from Mike Heika. He says Loui is a heck of a skater. I can't disagree, but I've always wished he had more of a burst like Neal has now. Maybe Mr. Roberts can help with that in the summer? [DMN]
- Long time Minnesota North Star Dino Ciccarelli finally "got his due" last night in being inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Let's hope Joe doesn't have to wait as long as Dino did. [Toronto Sun]
- ESPN Dallas updates you on Campbell, Glennie, Chiasson, Klinberg, etc... [ESPN DALLAS]
- Bob Sturm talks about changing the culture in the locker room to more winning ways [dallasstars.com]
- 10 of the bottom 15 teams in the league in points percentage are in the East.Five of the Stars' eight wins are against those teams.