It's July 4th, and before we all settle down for our barbeques and beer, I wanted to share some thoughts on what we've seen so far from the Dallas Stars this offseason. There's no doubt that this has been the absolute craziest offseason we've seen from this franchise since they came to Dallas in 1993, as the team has jettisoned players like Mike Ribeiro, Steve Ott, Sheldon Souray and Adam Burish, while adding such electrifying players as Derek Roy, Ray Whitney and NHL legend Jaromir Jagr.
Jaromir Jagr? In Dallas?
This is something that not a single Stars fan had ever hoped to consider, even with Jagr in the twilight of his career and on the wrong side of 40. If nothing else, the Stars have suddenly created an instant buzz around this team -- something that has not existed in a very, very long time.
And while the buzz around Jagr will only last so long, his presence will have an everlasting impression on this franchise. The attention the team will now get both locally and nationally will help further the growth of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and will hopefully get more fans involved and show the rest of the NHL that Dallas is one again a desirable location for free agents.
After the jump, some further random thoughts on the Stars while we wait for the charcoal to heat up.
Can you imagine just how drastically different the top two lines for the Dallas Stars will be next year, compared to last? Listening to NHL Home Ice yesterday and other discussions around the NHL, it seems the consensus is that the Stars could suddenly have one of the more formidable top-six combinations in the NHL and possibly one of the more dynamic top lines the Stars have seen since the days of Mike Modano and Brett Hull.
Joe Nieuwendyk said yesterday that in his office, he has written up on the blackboard what he feels to be the top line for the Dallas Stars next year. Which makes figuring the second line even easier.
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Jaromir Jagr
Ray Whitney - Derek Roy - Michael Ryder
It will be interesting to see how two shoot-first forwards in Ryder and Roy play together, but having the playmaking winger in Whitney alongside them can only mean great things moving forward. It's the combination of Benn and Jagr that really has me drooling, however, thinking of two incredible power forwards teaming up alongside the perennially underrated Eriksson. If Jagr can stay healthy, there's nothing that says that Benn won't easily eclipse 80 points this next season.
Health being the optimal term, here. For those upset about the Stars supposedly abandoning the "youth movement," it's important to remember that this is all about one year - and sets this team up perfectly to give the young players development time as well as the chance to taste the NHL this season. There will be injuries. There will be callups. The Stars are just set up perfectly to be competitive in the meantime.
More on this tomorrow.
It's amazing to me just how different the mindset of the fanbase is after it seemed a full revolt was being planned as Sunday came to a close. As I wrote on Monday, patience is needed when the process is more than just about one day or one player, and it's obvious that the Stars have a very distinct plan in place they are working through. This plan is all about a transition from the core of the past six years or so, to the younger core the Stars are currently developing.
Yet Nieuwendyk is not content with sitting idly by while waiting for the kids to develop, knowing that the Stars desperately need to create a buzz in Dallas to get the fans hungry again. Hence Jagr, Whitney and the trade for Roy -- who is under contract for just one more season. The Stars have drastically improved their short term situation while not mortgaging the future ability to bring the young players along. It seems to be a brilliant plan so far.
Quick thought. I wonder how Glen Gulutzan will handle having two 40-year old players on the roster. Will they basically be two extra coaches on the ice? Both are considered to be some of the best mentors and teammates in the NHL, so it an only be a good thing.
I really like the Derek Roy trade, although I understand why some fans are hesitant. He comes with a lot of question marks and baggage, especially regarding his health, but Nieuwendyk has shown to be adept at finding players that are looking to prove themselves and giving them that opportunity in Dallas.
Whether Roy re-signs in Dallas is another debate, especially when we don't even know if the Stars will need him beyond this season. While losing Ott in the process was tough, if it means getting to the playoffs in what is considered a "stop-gap" or "bridge" year -- then I don't know how it can't be considered a successful gamble.
If nothing else, the Dallas Stars are trying to exact change. They realize that the old formula was not working and they're doing their best to try something new. Something very new. Fans may be upset at the loss of a player like Ott, but I get the feeling that if the team is as successful as their hoping to be -- and contending for the playoffs should be considered a success -- then I doubt we'll be all that upset come April.