We've been blathering on about how one must take pre-season results and trends with a grain of salt for two weeks now, all the while delving into it as deeply as one can because let's face it: What else do we have to do?
How much emphasis do you put on pre-season? If you examine the Dallas Stars pre-season records over the last ten years they seem to (loosely) foretell the caliber of the team. The teams of 10 years ago had pretty good pre-seasons. The last two teams had sub .500 exhibition results. This year they went 3-2-1. Should we start making predictions from that? No. Probably not, but we're a little closer to understanding how well this thing is put together. Let's see how what we thought we knew is stacking up against what we've seen. (Or listened to on "Cruisin' Oldies" against the Avalanche.)
What we thought we knew: "Kari Lehtonen has a high ceiling but is a little fragile."
What we've observed: Lehtonen has seen action in three games totaling 8 periods of play. He has stopped 75 of 77 shots he's seen and had a clean sheet on Saturday night before being replaced by Raycroft. His numbers are stellar, he looks calm and relaxed. His conditioning is far superior to what it was when he started playing for the Stars last March. He also had a slight groin problem already and missed a scheduled start in favor of resting.
So that seems right on par. If he stays healthy his ceiling does still indeed appear quite high.
What we thought we knew: "The Dallas Stars, in returning the same defense from a season ago, will struggle to protect Lehtonen the same way they did Turco last year."
What we've observed in the pre-season: The jury's still out on this one. Lehtonen saw less than 10 shots a period in pre-season (always a good thing) and the penalty kill so far has been greatly improved in front of him. (Dallas killed 31 of 34 power plays in the pre-season.) We did not see all six NHL defensemen in a game (that I recall) and the team lost both road games, an area of great consternation last season. Things seem better so far but I'm not willing to change my mind on this quite yet.
What we thought we knew: The Brenden Morrow of 2008 has not come back and some of the more hasty fans (you know who you are) were wondering if Steve Ott is poised to take over that Morrow-like role.
What we've observed: Not true at all. Morrow has been a beast in pre-season play, putting an exclamation point on it in his last game against the Avs: A goal, an assist and a fight. (They called it roughing, but it was a fight.) It was his second multi point game and he's showed great chemistry with Burish and Ribeiro. Put this one in the win column for now. Brenden Morrow has me excited for the start of the season.
What we thought we knew: "Mike Ribeiro was nearly traded over draft weekend and some felt his style of play is a mismatch for this team making him a bit of a question mark."
What we've observed...
Mike Ribeiro entered camp in the best shape of his life. He added muscle and has made a commitment to being a more positive presence around the team and a greater leader in the room. He has chatted with Marc Crawford and Joe Nieuwendyk about his role on the team and feels good about the season. Any negativity or hard feelings that might have been present have not been evident to me. I've seen him in the locker room...He looks happy.
As for "does he fit with this style of play?" ... I think Ribs and Morrow have struck a comfortable balance between what they "do" and what coach wants the team as a whole to do. Will that translate to Friday against the Devils and beyond? That's the question.
Ribeiro even wore the "C" on Saturday night in Brendens absence and apparently it was an honor bestowed upon him by this teammates. Everything is A-OK in Ribeiro land right now.
What we thought we knew: "The ownership situation would be resolved or at least much further along by the start of the regular season."
What we've observed: Not so much.
Our dreams were supposed to be coming true by now. Gallacher or Gaglardi were supposed to have purchased the team and a trade that takes on a little salary was supposed to be in the not to distant future for some defensive help. Instead we've had Gallacher pull out and we've learned that the lenders have enough cash to run the team this year and they're perfectly content to just sit an wait for more bidders. They want the price to go up. We're wondering how the value will increase if no one's going to do anything about the talent.
So in this case we were wrong. Dead wrong. Instead of saying that this won't be as "hard as the Rangers sale", maybe imitating the Rangers (storybook year ending in division title PLUS the awful sale ordeal) wouldn't be so bad.
What we thought we knew: "Jere Lehtinen will probably come back, but even if he doesn't we'll know something by the start of camp."
What we've observed: No one knows what the heck Jere is thinking. I've spoken with people in Frisco and they say that he has barely skated at all but keeps himself in such good shape that a return wouldn't be a major undertaking. He's enjoying being home with his family. He seems retired, but won't make it official.
Don't rule out a mid-season return, particularly if the right injuries make it a little more prudent. Right now I wouldn't know where to put him in the lineup. Perhaps with Benn and Ott?
What we thought we knew: The opening night roster as far back as July 2nd.
What we've observed since: Yeah, we were pretty bang on with that one, but it wasn't without a little bit of drama along the way. While were hoping to see a big camps out of Scott Glennie and Jonathan Cheechoo, and maybe a little noise from Jack Campbell, what we actually saw was a completely different group of hopefuls impress.
Severin Blindenbacher, Aaron Gagnon, Tomas Vincour and Philip Larsen all showed something this pre-season and the future looks bright for these four even though they were all assigned to the AHL Texas Stars yesterday.
The forward grouping (minus Modano, plus Burish) and the defensive grouping (same, same) is what we've thought it to be for the last three months. Improvement will not come from personnel changes. It will come with better execution and a little bit of heart.
What we thought we knew: Defending Big D readers are awesome.
What we've observed since: Yep! DBD surpassed 1,000,000 page views last month and our page views (and more importantly the excellent conversation with everyone) just keeps getting better. Thank you for stopping by and making your voices heard. It's going to be a fun season here no matter what happens on ice.
Oh and let's not forget the most important thing we've learned... How to pronounce Vincour's last name. VIHN-tsoh-oor (or just VIN-SOOR, if you like.)
It's not Vin-koor, you Blues and Avs play by play guys.