The mantra of Joe Nieuwendyk since the day he took over in Dallas has been that you build your team through the draft, and it's one that Stars owner Tom Gaglardi echoed on day one of his tenure at the American Airlines Center on November 21st last year. The next entry in that blueprint will be written tonight and tomorrow morning with the Stars needing to address some specific needs this time around.
Stars 2012 Entry Draft Picks: (1)13, (2)43, (2)61, (3)74, (4)104, (5)134, (5)144, (7)194
Dallas picks five times in what is essentially the top 100 of what is considered by most to be a pretty deep draft, so they feel they can find quantity and quality if they hold on to all eight of their picks.
The Stars say they will trust their board, and they've shown that they'll stick to their guns in the past when Cam Fowler, for example, fell and fell, but Jack Campbell was their guy through it all. Les Jackson says they'll take a "best player available" approach to pick #13 but the message coming out of Frisco all off-season long is that a blue-chip center prospect is what they really crave.
Pick #13 puts them in a pack of talented second tier players, most of them defensemen. With the centers they desire likely gone in the top-10 and the next crop of pivots not worthy (according to most) for selection until later in the round, the real question tonight is whether the Stars will trade up, trade down, or ignore their principle positional wish and take the most talented player available at 13 regardless of where he plays.
"Everything is in play right now," GM Joe Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Morning News. "We have to be prepared to move up or move down. We have to do our homework, and we have to be able to adjust on the fly."
The festivities begin tonight on NBC Sports Network at 6:00pm CST, and continue tomorrow on NHL Network at 9:00am. You can join us here at defendingbigd.com for live conversation throughout each of the seven rounds and analysis posts and more coming throughout the day and night. Follow the jump for tons more on the Stars draft...
Adjusting on the fly, as Nieuwendyk said, with the clock running is a tricky proposition. The Stars would have to find a willing partner who isn't as happy as they are that a particular young man is falling, and they'll have to gamble on what they believe the strategies and desires of those ahead of them are when choosing whether or not to work the phones.
Moving up in the draft on the day of the first round can be a costly proposition. The Stars, at 13, don't have many places to go. Any move would almost certainly take them into the top 10 and that's where prices sky-rocket. Moving to the top-5 requires prospects and roster players, traditionally, and future #1's. The Stars could move up a few spots to grab someone they like (Faksa?) and it might cost them #13, a second, a third and a fifth. That's a steep price to pay and at #10 history says team's are still not promised a sure thing a high enough percentage of the time.
The other side of the coin is that Dallas needs top prospects. Blue chip prospects. The Stars wallow in the bottom third of the league as far as farm systems are ranked because they lack the sure-fire talent at the top end of their system. Most would say that Jack Campbell is the only truly elite prospect the Stars currently have. (Whether or not that's a fair assessment is a subject for another time, or the comments).
If the Stars want to build a contender through the draft, as they've often said, it might take sacrificing quantity for quality. A gamble could net them the high end-prospects they'll need to replenish at the NHL level in a hurry around Benn and Eriksson, while playing it safe could see them gather seven or eight more "guys" that don't slot into big time NHL roles.
The safe path versus the gamble to acquire what could be more of a sure thing is the conundrum Joe Nieuwendyk and his staff face as they try to build a winner for Tom Gaglardi. Trading known assets for potential is a risky business.
Read More: NHL Draft 2012: Dallas Stars Trade Up & Trade Down Scenarios - A detailed look at what players the Stars could look to move up for and how they might fall, or why the Stars could move down if things don't fall their way at #13.
The refrain from the franchise, the fans and anyone else who takes a look at organizational depth for the Stars has been a center. Perhaps two or three centers, depending on how the board falls. The Stars could have plans in trades or in free agency but there appears little to be had, and an aging Mike Ribeiro is entering his "contract year". That leaves the Stars with Jamie Benn and they don't seem united in the thought that the winger will be a center for the remainder of his career. Depth at the position is non-existent and the Stars should take a center or two, or three Friday and Saturday.
In 2011 the Stars selected Emil Molin at Center. In 2010 they selected no centers. In 2009 they selected Reilly Smith, then classified a center, now classified by most as a right wing. (Some will say Vincour was a center when he was drafted but he was classified by most even then as RW). The influx at the position in recent drafts has been practically non-existent.
With Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth making the jump to the AHL next season the Stars will have just three defensemen developing between the NCAA, CHL and Europe. They'll need to add to that queue significantly in the next two summers, so a few of their eight picks Friday and Saturday could be utilized to refill those cabinets before we're talking about "lack of defensive depth" to the extent that we were leading up to the 2010 draft. That year Tim Bernhardt admitted that if two players were about equal on the board, the Stars would definitely lean toward blue lines. They still have flexibility to take the best players on their boards this year without worrying about glaring organizational holes, but a good defenseman or two would go a long way here.
Joe Nieuwendyk famously started addressing goaltending in his first full season here when he traded for Kari Lehtonen just before the Olympic break in 2010. The addition of Jack Campbell later in the year added to a stable of Lehtonen, Raycroft, Bachman, Climie, Krahn and Beskorowany.
Two years later Raycroft is gone, Bachman has moved up, Climie and Krahn were let go, and Beskorowany's future is uncertain after a mostly down season last year in the pro's. Swedish goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp was added just weeks ago to compete for jobs at the NHL and AHL levels, but he's 28 and probably not a long term solution.
Jack Campbell's future is now arriving and Kari Lehtonen will likely sign a lengthy contract extension sometime in the coming 12 months. With the apparent NHL readiness of the two potentially overlapping soon it's possible that one will need to be moved in the coming seasons, or else they'll split time (if things go like everyone wants them to and Campbell proves NHL capable) with the big club. What then is coming down the pipe?
The answer is very little. Don't be surprised if the Stars take a goaltender in the later rounds to start re-stocking that need a little bit for 4-5 years down the line. Goaltending is a numbers game, and the more they have to look at the better their chance of hitting on one when they need to.
With eight picks the Stars can afford to trust their board for the most part and perhaps lean one way or the other to fill these organizational needs. We'll expect to see selections out of the NCAA and USHL pools, as has been Nieuwednyk's custom, as well as WHL picks. They also dip into the Swedish prospects in the later rounds traditionally. Tim Bernardt's departure means Les Jackson's role is more prominent, so it will be interesting to see if any of these habits start to change.
2009's draft seemed to be one of "speed" for the Stars, while last year's theme was unquestionably size. With Tom Gagardi eager to start making his mark as this team's owner, and Joe Nieuwendyk's hands un-tied a little financially, the Stars could be a much more interesting team to watch this time, making one of this year's possible themes "trades." Will the 13th pick be the lead story, or will this one will be more interesting than that? We hope you'll join us tonight in our draft thread as the first round unfolds.
Defending Big D chose Morgan Reilly in the SB Nation Mock Draft:
"We talk all the time about power play quaterbacks and how important offense is from the blue line; the Dallas Stars have struggled with both aspects on the team the past four years. What we've seen is that finding such a player through free agency -- or even trades -- is absurdly expensive and most teams find such players through the draft, with some lucky enough to have players like Rielly fall to them.
According to our poll earlier in the week, more Stars fans would have drafted Brendan Gaunce over Rielly -- and over Collberg, Aberg and Maatta as well. It's obvious that most fans are focused on the need for a center, something that Gaunce certainly would fill and likely could step into that role as soon as this season.
The issue with Gaunce over a player like Collberg or Rielly is that his long-term potential and ceiling is nowhere near as high as the others. While he fills a need, Rielly represents the sort of player that doesn't come along too often, especially with the 13th pick in the draft. While the concerns about the health of his knee are valid, at some point you have to take a risk and not go for the sure thing, the good-to-decent player that will be a good player in the NHL for long time -- instead opting to take a risk on a guy that could be a very special player in the NHL for years to come.
I really like Gaunce and I especially like Pontus Aberg (he would have been my pick had Rielly been gone), but it was a ridiculously easy decision to draft Rielly in this situation."