It was another busy week for the Dallas Stars, as they would play every other day, continuing a trend that goes for almost the entire month of February as we rush closer and closer to the NHL's trade deadline. Things could have gone a little smoother on the ice, as the Stars lost three of their four games, gaining only three of a possible eight points.
It started at home on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. It was a back and forth affair with the Kings going out to an early lead by capitalizing on turnovers, only for the Stars to catch up in the second and third period with goals from Loui Eriksson and Alex Goligoski. Another sloppy turnover from a defenseman led to Jordan Nolan netting the game winner midway into the third.
With the Detroit Red Wings on the agenda for Tuesday night, things weren't going to get any easier. The Red Wings had an opportunity to stake sole claim of the record for most consecutive home wins in NHL history, and they wouldn't let those pesky Stars get in the their way. After firing off 20 shots in the first period alone, the Wings dominated the play and skated to a relatively easy 3-1 victory.
Things would get better on Thursday night, when the Stars took on the Calgary Flames back on home ice. It was a relatively close game that the Stars won in overtime, which is perhaps a bit bittersweet, given the fact that the Flames are the team the Stars are trying to overtake for that 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. The charity point was quickly overlooked by most everyone, however, as Mike Ribeiro was no less than 5 different shades of sexy as he channeled both John Tavares and Sheldon Souray with his slick overtime game winning goal.
The Stars would hope to ride that positivity to a win against the ever familiar Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. It would be a very close game that once against required overtime to decide. As could be expected, it was a goaltender duel between Dallas's own Kari Lehtonen and former-fan-favorite Mike Smith. Sadly it was another boneheaded defensive lapse in judgement that would decide the game early in the extra frame, as Fistric and Daley were falling all over themselves as Radim Vrbata skated in, unmolested, to win the game.
That was the story on the ice this week, but the biggest story surrounding this team lately is off the ice. The NHL's trade deadline is fast approaching, and that's forcing the Stars hand in making some decisions that have to be made. The first of those decisions was to trade Nicklas Grossman to the Philadelphia Flyers for a couple of draft picks.
Grossman was part of that triumvirate of young defensemen that all came in together a few years back. Now Mark Fistric is the last man standing, as Matt Niskanen was shipped to Pittsburgh in the deal for Alex Goligoski. It seemed at times like each one of them was going to be a long-term member of this team. Niskanen started off really strong, paired with Sergei Zubov, before quickly regressing and being shipped out.
Then Grossman seemed to be the safe pick, as a big steady defensive defenseman in the mold of defenders past, but untimely turnovers and an inability to fully utilize his large frame led to the Stars decision to ship him out in favor of keeping Mark Fistric, at least in the short term. They are very similar players, with almost zero offensive upside to talk about, with the big difference being Mark's physicality, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on who you ask.
Many fans weren't pleased with the return the Stars got for Grossman, and felt that a proven defensive defenseman would be worth a lot more for a team with a chance to contend for a Stanley Cup, but the market has a way of setting itself. His expiring contract and slight regression as of late really kept the Stars from getting too much more. I've never been one to get excited for draft picks, as I feel that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, but the asset management isn't that bad with this deal, as few believe Nick would be offered a contract to return next season.
Those very draft picks may well be sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets before it's all said and done, with it being well documented (beaten into the ground?) that the Stars have been heavily scouting Ohio's team as of late. As Brandon elaborated on earlier, the sexy player for the Stars to target would be Rick Nash, but that doesn't make it a very realistic target.
With Rick Nash spelling out which teams he'd prefer to be traded to, it's no surprise that the rebuilding Dallas Stars weren't reported to be on his list. It would make a lot more sense for the Stars to target Jeff Carter, the former Flyer, disgruntled Blue Jacket, and controversial fan of Philadelphia night life. He's versatile, having played both center and wing in his career, and is exactly the shoot-first offensive talent that this team so sorely needs on it's top lines.
Call me crazy for early speculation, but assuming Mike Ribeiro isn't going anywhere and Brenden Morrow can regain some semblance of health, that line has the potential to do some very real damage, and take some of the pressure off of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson to carry the team. Carter needs a pure set-up man to feed him the puck, and that's something Rick Nash has never pretended to be. Mike Ribeiro can be that player, and if the price is right, I'd be absolutely tickled pink to see them try.
The Stars have a lot of proven veterans that may be attractive to teams that are looking to make a push, and a lot of worthy youngsters that are ready to take on those roles on an NHL roster for the first time. I've said it once and I'll say it again, this trade deadline is going to be hugely important to the shaping of this team and the direction of this franchise under Joe Nieuwendyk.
It's an interesting time to be a Dallas Stars fan, even if it's not the most rewarding.