Seeing as tonight is the second of five meetings between the Stars and Predators, and the first meeting wasn't all that long ago, I'm once again turning the reins over to an enemy blogger. The excellent J.R. Lind of, well, I don't really know what his actual day job is, but it's in Nashville, and he's also the author of the oft-linked III Communication. Which for me is credentials enough. This is what he has to say...
1) Nashville's record has been less than stellar of late, and in an already crowded Western Conference playoff picture, they would appear to be becoming less and less relevant. Is this fair? Or do you still hold out hope for great things to come?
I'd say now most everyone is resigned to the fact that this is going to be another year of missing the playoffs - two years in a row after making it seven of the eight previous seasons. Pekka Rinne's hip injury obviously was a huge blow - he'd probably be worth 5 or 6 extra standings points at this point in the season, which would have the Preds on the bubble. Both Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec have performed admirably at times...and at times have looked really bad.
In Elliote Friedman's 30 Thoughts this week had a lot of Predators content and interestingly, David Poile put most of the blame on himself rather than on Barry Trotz and he mentioned that he'd like to make a move; presumably, a rent-a-goalie would be his first priority, though most people in Nashville would prefer a Goal Scoring Forward (all capitals intentional, because people in Nashville treat Goal Scoring Forwards as deities which have never visited their blessing upon us). And by the time the puck drops in Dallas on the Chambers Pot tonight, he might have already made that move.
I'm not a person who thinks an organizational change is totally necessary, but a growing segment of the fanbase does and the question seems to be whether to get rid of Poile, Trotz (or both).
2) We all know and admire Real American Hero Seth Jones. Who are some of the more unfamiliar guys to watch for? The underrated players who might be worth our time?
Craig Smith is having a nice season - he leads the team with 10 goals (yes, 10). He's been inconsistent for stretches in the past - and, much to the chagrin of lots of folks around here, ends up in the doghouse - but he finally seems to be putting it together.
Beyond him - Gabriel Bourque is a fun guy to keep an eye on. He forechecks with a single-mindedness of an 11th-century Crusader; there have been times it looked like he gave up the puck just so he could forecheck some more. Roman Josi is a guy I like to point out on the blueline. He plays opposite Shea Weber and even Pierre McGuire said he was the best player nobody had heard of, which is incredible since Josi didn't play junior hockey in North America, so I'm not sure how Pierre even heard of him.
3) You're obviously one of Conference III's most staunch advocates. Seriously though, which is better? The Central Division, or the Pacific?
"One of"? Is there someone else even close?
I think the best teams in the Central (Chicago and St. Louis) match up well with Anaheim and LA and may even be better on balance. And I think the bottom two teams in the Central (Winnipeg and Nashville) are better than Calgary and Edmonton. I think the Pacific is better through the middle (that is to say Vancouver, San Jose and Phoenix are better on the whole than Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas).
So that's pick your poison, I suppose. I will say that even if the Pacific is better, there's no way it's tougher than the Central.
4) And of course, what's your prediction for tonight?
I love this game so much - so much that I gave it a name, declared it the second-best rivalry in the division and frankly, started my blog because of it. In any event, Nashville is reeling a bit but has had a good run of success against the Stars (something like three of the last four), so I'll say Nashville in OT 3-2.
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It's well time for the Stars to start getting results at home. They've had a few good performances, but the schedule's been so inconsistent with home games we still don't really know what to expect (besides an anemic powerplay). 13 of the next 18 though are at home. Time to capitalize. [Sports Day DFW]
And I'm including this one even though it's a bit older. But I missed it, so I'm assuming some others may have missed it as well. Turns out the Stars had some trouble finding practice ice during last week's California road trip. So they got creative, and a little fun. [Sports Day DFW]
Hope you're still in the Christmas spirit, 'cause this one was written with that in mind (it's a couple days old as well). Everything happening this week in the world of the Dallas Stars. [On the Radar]
Any time I see the word 'stunning' in a headline I'm sold. 'Stunning' numbers from around the NHL. [Puck Daddy]
Boston media alert! Not so interesting that they're displaying a lack of faith in Tyler Seguin, but somewhat interesting in why they say. [CBS Boston]
Central Division Power Rankings. Unfortunately, they seem more rankings than 'power' rankings, since the author stuck pretty much to the standings. Whatever. If you want to see what a Chicagoan thinks of the seven teams of the Central, look no further. [NBC Chicago]
Time Magazine with an article on hockey? [The Malik Report]
And lastly, not sure when the film will be made, or who it will star, but 'Moneypuck' is becoming a thing as fancy stats force their way into the picture. [Washington Post]