Marc Crawford, to borrow a phrase Mike Heika used today on his blog, remains "defiant in his optimism" regarding the Stars chances at playing more than 82 meaningful games. We can't blame him. It's his job. The general who knows his troops are hopelessly out-numbered cannot admit defeat to his men. Everyone wants to keep a brave face. Everyone wants to fight to the death, and more importantly, everyone answers to someone. The players and coaches will play their roles well until the math runs out. GM Joe is watching through his budget-colored-binoculars, after all.
Luckily the rest of us can be a bit more candid in our assessment of the situation, and that assessments is considerably less than good.
Were the Stars season a curling match, (damn you, Winter Olympics) the time for handshakes would be fast approaching, if not here already. Alas, hockey is a business, and every game represents revenue streams and contract commitments left and right. The feeling of the inevitable must unfortunately make way for the somewhat meaningless hockey that will ensue, and perhaps the team will get the chance to spoil someone else's season along the way.
But what if it's not meaningless at all? Kicking this thing while it's down will get it's fair run on this blog, we promise you that, but in the mean time, we have 14 games to watch. My Windows calculator tells me that's 17% of the season. It also told me to stop using Firefox. Weird.
Anyway, this morning there will be no autopsy. Let's take a look instead at the 5 best things to watch and look forward to as April 10th nears...
#5. Kari Lehtonen.
Two or three more losses down the road, the Stars will be formally eliminated from the playoffs, if not, they'll be so close that even management must relent and call a "spade a spade." When that happens, Marty Turcos' tenure with the team, having already been through a few symbolic swan songs, will come even closer to an official end.
At some point, the "goaltender of the future" (and by the way, right now, that future could possibly be the 2010-2011 season only as far as a contract goes) will start to see the majority of the action, or at least an increased work load as his health allows. These starts will give fans and the front office alike tape on a guy that will command a few million dollars next year. Kari Lehtonen has not started well for the Stars so far, but his continued return from a lengthy NHL layoff is one of the big reasons I will continue to watch the Dallas this season.
|2009 - Kari Lehtonen||2||98||0||1||8||4.90||50||42||.840||0|
#4. Brandon Segal
Brandon Segal was picked up just before Olympic break off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, and already he strikes me as a bright spot to watch the rest of the season above most else that's happening with this team right now.
In his Dallas debut, he tallied a goal (the game winner) and an assist against the Phoenix Coyotes. He's played in only 6 games, has 6 points and is a plus +4. Already he has three multi point games (Mark Fistric recorded the first of his entire career yesterday) and somehow got benched the game before against Los Angeles in favor of Brian Sutherby. (Start Krys Barch discussion here...no, wait, not now.)
His impact speaks for itself statistically, short though the sample size may be, but his impact passes the eye ball test as well. We talked about it yesterday during the game: He just looks impactful out there. His right shot creates chances that a lineup with 11 left-shot forwards didn't before. Mike Ribeiro likes playing with right handed shots. That's not a bad place to be. The reason why this is a bright spot going forward? Segal is only 26 and is signed for next season at only $550,000.
|2009 - Brandon Segal||6
#3. Jamie Benn
This one speaks for itself. I must apologize for things I said back in August and September. I, of little faith, did not believe that Jamie Benn was ready to make the leap to the NHL, and boy am I glad to be proven wrong. He is among the leaders in NHL rookie goal scoring. He has played with a dozen different line combinations. He has even consented to learn a new position (center) for the betterment of his team and his own game. He's a big kid who is only 20 years old (wow) and he's only going to get bigger, faster, stronger, and better.
Jamie needs only 3 more goals to reach 20 in his rookie NHL season, and we bet he can do more. Jamie Benn is a good reason to keep watching this team and hoping for a bright future.
|2009 - Jamie Benn||68||17||15||32||-3||39||2||0||2||0||141||11.3|
#2. Mike Modano
No one knows for sure what Mike Modano wants to do after this season, but let us assume here that Mike is at least as smart as we are. He sees the writing on the wall. He knows the financial situation the team is in. He knows that things are unlikely to change drastically for next season. He knows that in a little under 3 months, he turns 40 years old.
If Mo wants to come back for another season, there are many who feel that the Stars should let him. They should let him come back for as many years as he wants, they say. He's earned it. Hard to argue there, but I can't help but wonder if lost in this whirlwind season of disappointment is the "Mike Modano Farewell Tour." There's been very little written about it in papers here or elsewhere, but every time Mike visits Chicago, Montreal, Colorado, Detroit, etc, for the last time, I wonder if he feels it when he leaves those places. He may not be returning again.
Worst of all, when the Stars play the Anaheim Ducks on April 8th, I worry that Mike Modano's career will come to a proverbial "thud" of an obscure, uncelebrated end.
I urge everyone to keep an eye on this guy. Maybe he'll be back, maybe he won't, but I plan to err on the side of caution, appreciating every Mike Modano shift from now until the end, whenever it may be.
|2009 - Mike Modano||54||13||13||26||-5||20||3||0||2||0||107||12.1|
#1. (Potential) Sale of the Team
This one you cannot see on your television screen. You can't read about it here at Defending Big D (not until there's some real news). You can't hear Ralph Strangis describe it to you on the radio, and you can't listen to BaD radio talk about it on The Ticket just yet.
But it's out there. There was a shred of news earlier this year, lending an equally small shred of hope to the Dallas Stars faithful. It's not that Tom Hicks wasn't a good owner. He was. For a very long time he was, you cannot deny it. But he isn't NOW. Every single conversation we have is framed in this $45 million box that everything must fit into, and we're tired of it.
The #1 hope, bright spot, whatever, we have going forward is the potential sale of this team. It might be this off-season. It might be next off-season. It might be five off-seasons from now, but it's going to happen. And things will get better. Some day.
That's my top 5 list. What is yours? What positives and hopefuls did I leave out? Sound off in the comments.