A couple of weeks ago I wrote a small piece discussing what name we could potentially see come out of training camp and make the NHL roster. I submitted to you Jonathan Cheechoo, Brent Krahn, and Philip Larsen.
Let's check the standings:
Young Mr. Larsen has not had the definitive public developments to suggest that his chances are over the other two have, but at this point, were I a betting man, I wouldn't put any money on him being in a Dallas Stars jersey on opening night. He's been good up to this point, but a season of running the power play in Cedar Park and adjusting to the North American game is exactly what the doctor ordered for him. I don't doubt that he will be here in Dallas at some point.
I hadn't considered Gagnon too seriously, even though he impressed in the AHL playoffs last year, because of the teams' depth at center. Jamie Benn has yet to deviate from his path at the center position this pre-season and the closer we get to the 8th, the more that looks like it's not changing. With Richards, Ribeiro and Wandell (Petersen in waiting, and Steve Ott having played center in a pre-season game) it seems there's no room for the scrappy 24 year old.
The problem (a good problem to have) is that he's been one of the best players on the entire roster in the pre-season. His -1, 2 PIM and 44% faceoff struggle from last night take a little of the shine off, but I still wouldn't mind seeing him shoe-horned into the lineup somehow. To use another hockey cliche "his compete level" is off the charts, and this team could use that fire.
Then there's Mr. Blindenbacher...
"Adjusting to the North American game" is a hockey cliche we could use here, as with Philip Larsen, but his experience at 27 years of age seems to be giving him an edge in that department. Having only seen him play one game with my own eyes and listened to his other two on the radio, I'm hesitant to give you an evaluation because it's not fair to anyone. He has 1 assist, 6 blocked shots, 2 SOG and a -3 in three pre-season games played with the Stars.
The Stars have been interested in seeing him in as many situations as possible. He's played nearly 20 minutes or more in all three games and has killed penalties in each. Last night, with the Stars badly needing a goal late in the third period, Crawford put him on the ice as the only defenseman on the power play and he responded with an assist on James Neal's goal.
Blindebachers challenge is doubled by the Stars financial situation. While he's been competent and could be a nice infusion of change on a blue line that sorely needs it, Dallas cannot afford to pay two defensemen as healthy scratches every night. And who would the Stars take out of the lineup for Blindenbacher? Not Grossman, Robidas, Fistric or Skrastins. The commitment ($$) to Niskanen is evident and the eternal optimism that this will be Trevor Daley's big offensive-breakout year is in full swing again. As much fun as it is to talk about a new defenseman, the reality is that his path to the NHL is hard to see happening this year.
One injury and this conversation changes, so you never know. If nothing else the Stars know that if they need to call some of these guys (Vincour, Gagnon, Blindenbacher, Larsen) up this year, their teammates will have full confidence in them, and we should too.