Dallas Stars fans tasted their first real life, tangible news about the sale of the team in quite some time yesterday with the bankruptcy court filing. A time line has been established (60-75 days) and sometime just after Thanksgiving, in what we can call the Christmas season, we're all going to get a present we've been waiting on for a very long time.
Even better news... the Dallas Stars are taking the ice in a day for training camp. It's time to get our thoughts back on the ice where they belong, and we'll start with taking a quick look at the defensive corps the Stars have invited this year.
Just a quick fifteen months ago as the 2010 draft approached, we said repeatedly that the "defensive cupboard was a little bare". Ivan Vishnevskiy, though to be the clubs best defensive prospect at the time, had just been traded for Kari Lehtonen and Philip Larsen had yet to play much North American hockey. There were seemingly no NHL caliber replacements in the pipeline and the team's defensive struggles on the ice made the issue feel all that more pressing.
Fast forward to this weekend and the unquestioned organizational strength where prospects are concerned is defense, and it will be on display this preseason in the form of Philip Larsen, Jamie Oleksiak and Brenden Dillon, to name but a few.
The departures of Matt Niskanen, Jeff Woywitka and Karlis Skrastins mean there's a lot to think about on the NHL level as well, of course. A static defensive unit for the last two seasons under Charlie Huddy has been shuffled and a new boss, Paul Jerrard, will be in charge. Indeed one of the biggest unknowns going into camp is the defensive pairings.
NHL defensemen likely include:
How do you best put them together...?
Continued after the jump...
We could try to read a little too far into things and note that Stephane Robidas are on the same training camp group while Nick Grossman is a part of the other. We could try to draw a ridiculous conclusion from this that Grossman is being taken from his long time partner in Stephane Robidas and that he'll see time with Trevor Daley instead.
We could do that. We know better, of course. (See the d-men groupings at camp here)
Speculation from DBD and from the Dallas Morning News earlier in the summer produced pairings that looked like this....
Mark Fistric was lauded after the 2009-2010 season with his outrageous +27 number and the next step for him seemed imminent. Some minor injuries and some coaching decisions people are still talking about later and we're still trying to figure out what happened in nine short months.
He'll have plenty of opportunity to earn playing time coming up, but the evidence pointing to his being the seventh man is pretty weighty. Adam Pardy's $2.0M salary is hard to overlook and the assumption is he was given that money to play every day. Sheldon Souray's presence looms large as well and the Stars hope he'll be able to contribute on the power play and regain some of his form from three years ago. So, if remotely true, where does all of that leave Mark Fistric? Time will tell.
One wonders if a Souray/Pardy pairing will have enough mobility and speed, but not having seen either one of these players ply their craft in some time, we'll leave such observations to the final preseason games.
Can Anyone Push Their Way Up Onto The NHL Roster?
You may have missed it in a flurry of posts yesterday, but Brandon had a good discussion up about how many roster positions are open for competition from the young guys and whether or not the roster is already set. The conclusion was that...there probably is NOT a spot open on the defense right now, unless a complete stand out performance is observed in camp/preseason.
The group of what must at this point be considered to be prospect defensemen (plus Brad Lukowich) is:
|Brenden Dillon||Seattle (WHL)|
|Philip Larsen||Texas Stars|
|Jordie Benn||Texas Stars|
|Jayce Coyle||Medicine Hat (WHL)|
|Hubert Labrie||Gatineau (QMJHL)|
|Dan Spang||Texas Stars|
|Maxime Fortunus||Texas Stars|
|Brad Lukowich||Texas Stars|
|Alex Theriau||Medicine Hat (WHL)|
Brenden Dillon and Philip Larsen are in-arguably the most NHL ready of the bunch, but it does not behoove either of their development curve's to be the number seven man on an NHL roster and not get much in the way of ice time. More likely, barring injury, is that they'll return to Cedar Park and be part of a pretty salty defensive unit there with Lukowich, Spang, Benn and Fortunus all expected to return.
The good news is that their skill sets and attributes do not overlap a ton, and that gives Dallas flexibility and confidence in being able to call up a player to fit any injuries sustained.
According to Hundred Degree Hockey Hubert Labrie and Jayce Coyle will start what should be a competition spanning two different training camps this weekend that decides which one sticks in Austin, and which one goes to Boise. Both finished their junior careers last season and one will likely end up in the ECHL. It's a big month for those two young men.
And That's (Not) All Folks
We'd remiss for if we didn't (once again) mention the European prospects who have already begun their seasons across the Atlantic and cannot attend this camp. John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth would fit in quite well with this group, and together with Oleksiak, Dillon, Larsen (and the absent Troy Vance) could represent an entire NHL defense and then some of the future. Klingberg in particular impressed at development camp in July and we can't wait to see him here soon to show what we can do. It's an embarrassment of riches on the Stars prospective blue line.
Pairings I most want to see in a preseason game: Brenden Dillon + Alex Goligoski. Stephane Robidas + Jamie Oleksiak.
What are your ideal defensive pairings?