Have you had enough ice dancing or couples skating or whatever in Sochi yet? Is your office about to take some kind of bet on the likelihood of Bob Costas' horribly distracting eye being somehow edited out with computer graphics in the coming days?
The Winter Olympics are fun, right?
The matter of the Dallas Stars has hardly been put to rest, though, luckily, and such an extended break affords us ample opportunity to look back on what's been while we all reset expectations for what's to come -- for better or for worse.
We did a little mid-point examination, so this would seem like a good chance to almost answer some typical end-of-season type questions, so I'll start with those I posed on September the 12th as the city of Fort Worth prepped to host training camp...
Who is the second line center?
Good one, Brad. "Crushed it."
Actually, it's been Cody Eakin throughout. It was Whitney-Eakin-Chiasson for months. Then it was Garbutt-Eakin-Roussel for months. Now it's Peverley-Eakin-Cole.
He's accrued some assets for this conversation along the way -- being the third highest scoring player on the team is a big one, with 28 points. He has the fifth best Corsi rating among forwards. He has been tasked with shutting down some pretty quality opponents as of late and has done his best during a 6-1-2 run through the break.
He is the team's second line center. There's no doubt about that.
Should he be the second line center on a Stars team that is a serious competitor in the playoffs? In the future? The guess here is that he'd be considered a pretty fabulous third-line center on a team that was serious about contending. How Jim Nill handles things in June and July will be telling.
For now we'll simply call that a very legit question to ask -- in September, and in February.
Who plays with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin?
It was Erik Cole, of all people, to begin things. He did it well. It didn't last.
Then it was Rich Peverley once he was able to be healthy. Then Valeri Nichushkin finally proved himself worthy and started to produce there, but he's been tired, sloppy defensively, lost in Christmas video magic, and just generally 18. Did we mention he's been tired?
And so it's been Peverley. And Nichushkin. And Cole. And Nichushkin, Peverley, Nichushkin and Peverley.
Again, it was a worthy question to ask, and the answer could be said to be not quite crystal right now.
Alex Chiasson scored 6 in 7 games last season, so he's going to be a monster, right?
A leading question in September, to be sure, as I tried to lower the bar up to which I expected fans to unfairly hold him. And he shut me up in their first nine games with five goals and nine points total.
17 points in the 46 games after that and a -19 rating on the year have this one depressingly prophetic, however. That -19 has him tied for 811th in the league with just 14 players, all on much worse teams, coming in with worse marks at the break.
So... the guess is we'll explore this one more before NHL play resumes. Still, 25 points in a rookie season only 2/3rds complete is nothing at which to scoff. He'll only get better.
Will Valeri Nichushkin make the opening night roster?
Don't you like me because I hold myself accountable for such stupidity?
What will the team's identity be?
"The team does possess a measure of speed, however. Between Seguin, Cole, Whitney, Nichushkin Peverley, Eakin, and Roussel there are some definite wheels there. If the Chiassons and Nichushkins are as adept at aiding overall puck possession as everyone hopes they were, the Stars could attempt a more offensively motivated game plan."
I mentioned speed, so... I win. Prophetic!
In reality they've found, on occasions where they win, a measure of speed along with a heaping helping of responsibility. If they use their greatest advantage sparingly and aptly it could propel them to the playoffs. A delicate balancing act that will define their season, but at least we know what that identity is now.
Is this it for Stephane Robidas?
Hmmm. Maybe it was my fault.
The question was asked in the context of what his future beyond this season would hold. Now it might refer to his ability to make it back and contribute down the stretch, if not play in the league at all. If you saw the intermission feature on his rehab Saturday night you're optimistic there.
Either way, I am putting that into the oddly prophetic category as well.
Will the Stars make the playoffs?
A lazy question, Brad, but one that still lies firmly in the undecided category. The Stars will hold onto that #8 (or we should really call it the second wild-card) spot for the next 17 days or so, and that's not much of an answer.
The important part is that 58 games in the question is still worth asking, and that's about the most you could hope for in year one of Jim Nill's big rebuild.
It is definitely still worth asking.
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