The Dallas Stars lost on Saturday in their opening night game against the Nashville Predators, and yet fans walked away from the shootout loss with an overall feeling of optimism and hope.
Amazing what a summer without playoff hockey can do for a fanbase.
Tonight the Stars take on the Edmonton Oilers in the first of a three-game Western Canada road trip. It's a tough trio of games (although the game in Vancouver is looking a bit easier at the moment) that will be a good litmus test for a Stars team still eager to learn and adapt to a new system. Two teams that have met more times in the playoffs than any other non-Original Six teams are squaring off tonight, but these are not the Oilers and Stars from the big playoff battle of a decade ago.
After the jump, we take a look at the matchup with the Edmonton Oilers. Also, our SBN brethren at The Copper & Blue have some none-too-kind words to say about the Dallas Stars.
There's no denying that Edmonton Oiler fans despise the Dallas Stars. After all, the two teams have faced each other more in the playoffs than any other matchup in NHL history that didn't involve the Original Six. The Stars have won more series than they lost, and in fact can thank the Oilers for kickstarting their rise to the top of the West in the late 1990s. In 1997 the Oilers and Todd Marchant upset the Dallas Stars with a thrilling game seven overtime win in the opening round of the playoffs, ending Andy Moog's career and prompting the Stars to work harder to build a better team. Two years later the Stars were hoisting the Stanley Cup after ousting the Oilers in the first round.
Bitterness and anger set in and has never been relinquished.
The Dallas Stars:
With Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen out, here are the projected lines for the Stars.
It will be interesting to see how long Crawford sticks with Fistric as a healthy scratch, especially after the Stars had trouble clearing bodies from around the net at times. Tom Wandell gets a chance to shine on the third line with Ott and Brunnstrom, a line that could be dangerous in the zone but shaky on defense.
The Edmonton Oilers:
Jacques - Horcoff - Hemsky
O'Sullivan - Comrie - Stone
Penner - Brule - Cogliano
Nilsson - Gagner - Stortini
Souray - Visnovsky
Grebeshkov - Gilbert
Smid - Staios
The Oilers are coming off a tough loss on Saturday, when Khabibulin misplayed a puck in the final minute that led directly to the winning goal. The Oilers are also playing under a brand new coaching staff with a new system, that is working to make the team more physical and defensive minded than in the past.
Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue has this to say: "The Oilers debut under Pat Quinn didn't lack for effort. The team is committed to the forecheck and finishing the play. They've still got personnel issues - but the want is there now. Dustin Penner was the best player on the ice against Calgary with a goal and an assist -- his extreme makeover is in full swing. The game ended without much fanfare.
"Actually, the game ended with Nikolai Khabibulin's & his flying circus possibly making a clearing play on a puck, or possibly attempting to get some fresh air. Either way, it was the third time in his stint as an Oiler that a puckhandling gaffe led to a goal. Khabibulin is going to be relied on for at least 55 starts this year and the Oilers need a strong performance to have a chance. Picking up an assist on the game-winning goal against is not recommended."
Dallas: C Mike Modano (ribs) and RW Jere Lehtinen (hip/groin) are doubtful. Edmonton: LW Ethan Moreau (ankle) and C Marc Pouliot (lower body) are doubtful. RW Fernando Pisani (back) is out.
Dallas: C Mike Modano (ribs) and RW Jere Lehtinen (hip/groin) are doubtful.
Edmonton: LW Ethan Moreau (ankle) and C Marc Pouliot (lower body) are doubtful. RW Fernando Pisani (back) is out.
There's no doubting that Oilers fans aren't happy with the Dallas Stars, and are happier than anyone else to see the Stars in what could appear to be a low point for the franchise. But this?
The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be. To illustrate here's a quote from Brandon Worley at Defending Big D: "the Stars have some serious depth at forward with the addition of Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell. The defense has been shored up (somewhat) with free agents Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka." Yeah... They also fired Les Jackson (experienced management type) and hired Joe Nieuwendyk (former player with little management experience). As an Oiler fan, I know a little something about glory-days nepotism but I'll give the short version here: it's not usually successful (I'm being kind). To wit: one of Nieuwendyk's first actions as general manager was to fire Dave Tippett (good coach, good person) and hire Marc Crawford (? coach, annoying voice). Further, and this is the real killer, your team is only projected to spend 48M dollars against the cap this year including 7.8M to Brad Richards for winning a Conn Smythe trophy for another team and 1.9M for Sean Avery to actually play for another team. There's also Marty Turco making 5.7M and Mike Ribeiro making 5.0M (he signed that contract the year after shooting 25%). Of the sixteen teams that made the playoffs last year, only one spent less than 50M and only two less than 53M in cap space. The fact that the Stars have four contracts that are quite likely to be poor value (and in the case of Avery it's a 100% guarantee) and are only projected to spend 48M likely means they're going to be a bad team. I have them finishing 12th in the West. I know Stars fans aren't used to having a bad team so Brandon's optimism above is understandable but, hey, as an Oiler fan, I've got plenty of pessimism to go around.
Be sure to check out their seething, but original, Old World hymn on the Dallas Stars.