We are now over halfway through the 2013 season, and it is still difficult to figure out what exactly to make of the Dallas Stars.
They are one of the only teams to defeat the Ducks in regulation, and they also took the Chicago Blackhawks into overtime when they last played each other. At the same time, though, they have lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and and twice to the Calgary Flames. In horrible fashion, too.
If there is one word to describe the season thus far, (besides "frustraating" of course) it would be "inconsistent."
There are a number of reasons it has been that way so far. There was a great deal of turnover between his season and last, and it took a while for the lines to find their chemistry. Jamie Benn missed the first number of games due to contract negotiations. Ray Whitney was out for six weeks, and now Aaron Rome is going through the same with a broken foot. Michael Ryder was traded for Erik Cole, forcing some lines to learn that chemistry once again. Kari Lehtonen was injured, and the backup goalies did not provide the security in net that was needed.
All of these things have kept Dallas from really building any momentum this year. As a result, they are crammed right into the middle of the standings -- just like they have been for the last several years.
The problem, as a fan or even casual observer, is that you can look at the standings, and think that nothing has really changed over the last several years. But, in reality, it is far from the truth.
The Dallas Stars have made a complete shift in strategy over the last few years. Instead of trying to stay competitive with free agent signings and trading away picks, the team is growing from within. The team is finally reaping the benefits of the last several drafts and scouting years, with the young players that they have found beginning to enter the NHL. And that is something that the league is finally beginning to notice.
As Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk explained, the Stars added Jagr, 41, and Whitney, 40, for what they could bring on the ice as well as in the room as veteran mentors for a mostly young roster.
After catching a glimpse late last season of prospects like defenseman Brenden Dillon, a defenseman signed out of the Western Hockey League in 2011, and wing Reilly Smith, a third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Nieuwendyk wanted to see how they would handle significant NHL ice time. Later he added center Cody Eakin, acquired in a June trade with Washington for Mike Ribeiro, and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, the 14th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, to that list.
Overall, the Stars have had 10 players, a group including 2012 All-Star center Jamie Benn, who are 23 or younger hit the ice this season. Their contributions to date have impressed Nieuwendyk.
"Yeah, all our young guys really [have contributed]," Nieuwendyk said. "Reilly Smith has been terrific. He looks like he's on the verge of breaking through and being a consistent point producer. [Antoine] Roussel, who saw this coming? He's just a kid we talked about last summer. We brought Roussel in and he's been terrific. It's really refreshing to have kids that are appreciative and work as hard as they can to stay in the League."
The youth movement is in full swing right now. And while the outcome of this season may still be questionable, the future certainly seems to be trending upwards for Dallas thanks to these kids.
Coming up in today's links: The DBD group party update, more on today's game, and an introduction to advanced stats to help everyone understand them.
- We have 12 seats left reserved for the DBD Group Party on Sat. April 27th. If you want to go, you can still get them, but the deadline to pay is coming up soon. Here's more info. [Defending Big D]
- Mark Stepneski has his preview of today's game, including a stats matchup between the teams. [Stars Inside Edge]
- There's no doubt that this is a big test for the Stars today. It will be interesting to see how they rise to the challenge. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Here is a fantastic introduction into the "advanced" stats that are becoming a little more widely accepted. This breaks down tells you all about Fenwick, and how easy it really is to understand, despite the poor name. [Broad Street Hockey]
- And here is part 2 of the series, that focuses on individual stats, teaching you about Corsi. [Broad Street Hockey]
- Sarah Kwak has a list of teams she believes will make or miss the playoffs in the rac to the finish line. It's interesting seeing one of those teams on the "fall" list. Can't say I mind it too much. [Sports Illustrated]
- The Texas Stars are getting some national love, thanks to their military appreciation night. And those jerseys look awesome. [Puck Daddy]
- The Coyotes signed Ekman-Larsen to a 6 year extension. A pretty good deal for all parties involved. [Puck Daddy]
- Today's video of the day is a pretty good one. The Ottowa Senators try to spell each others' names. And don't fare too well.