Things have not gone well for the Stars this season. Of all the places the Stars needed stability this season, goaltending was at the top of the list, as it should always be. The Stars' defense was going to be, erm, fluid from day one, and even with the turnover the blueline has seen, the Stars were always going to need Kari Lehtonen to come up big more than a couple times a game. When he went down early last season with a groin injury, the Stars saw just how much they needed the big guy in goal, as Dan Ellis and Jack Campbell were less than adequate in net. To nobody's surprise, the Stars got over their early season funk last year once Lehtonen returned to action, and they rode the Finnish stallion hard the rest of way, quickly losing confidence in Ellis before trading for Tim Thomas right before the deadline.
Kari had a good season last year, as has been well documented. But the Stars brass were all preaching the same things as always about getting him down from playing an enormous 65 games to something like 55+ per year. Last year, Thomas and Ellis put up a 7-10-1 line for Dallas, which is less than the .500 record you'd like to have a backup provide. (Jack Campbell also played a game last year, but it's better not to mention it; in retrospect, I believe it was a sneak peek of what kind of defense Campbell would have in front of him in Cedar Park this year.)
This year, of course, the Stars' backups are well on their way to driving us to send postcards to Tim and Dan with overt hints that they should "stop on by the rink sometime, bring your gear, who knows what might happen, emoticon wink." Lehtonen has stumbled far below his career norms in Dallas, and Rynnas and Lindback have put up half a dozen horse collars in the win column. The competition-based plan has only really driven the backup duo to match each other in the sense that the two backups are technically tied in wins so far.
One of the offseason options the Stars passed on that I've mentioned a couple times was Devan Dubnyk. After being informed that he wasn't even good enough for Edmonton, he finally found his way to Phoenix, which is in Arizona, where the Coyotes play ice hockey. What has he done so far? Well, let's just say the Coyotes have needed him more than they planned, per Five for Howling:
The Coyotes have themselves an issue. Mike Smith has struggled this season, that is undeniable. Also undeniable is that Devan Dubnyk has performed fairly well in limited duty this season. Which has led to discussion that goalie number 40 should be starting as often if not more than goalie number 41 right now.
Is that a reasonable request? The traditional numbers would suggest so. All numbers before Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Kings.
GS W L OTL GAA SV% SO SF Mike Smith 19 5 12 2 3.23 .891 0 562 Devan Dubnyk 7 5 1 1 2.43 .922 1 232
As the chart shows, the numbers are clearly in favor of Dubnyk. He has as many wins as Smith in fewer than half the starts. His save percentage is much higher and his goals against is streets ahead. This should be a no brainer, right? [FFH]
FFH also goes through all the possible factors that might be helping each goalie, so give it a read. Lots to parse.
With the Coyotes possibly looking to shed salary, one has to wonder if the Stars would take a look at either of the goalies. Would they gamble on Dubnyk continuing his limited success if the Coyotes sent some other salary their way as well? Mike Smith is in the second year of a six(!)-year deal averaging a $5.67 million cap hit, so he would seem to be the obvious choice for Arizona to move, but that contract is as odious as it gets right now.
Either way, the Stars have to be shaking their heads given their situation in net: their former ace backup is faltering in a big way while the passed-over backup shines. Goalies, right? The more you look at what's out there, what's working, and what the Stars have right now, the more you're forced to admit that the Stars will be trusting Lehtonen to be Kari Lehtonen for the immediate future. But don't be surprised if another goalie does find his (or her; paging Shannon Szabados...) way to Dallas sooner rather than later. As Nashville has shown us, the difference between great goaltending and [euphemism] goaltending is more points than the Stars can afford this year.
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Tuesday Links come with free memories of that office party you had last year where you walked away with a stupid mug. What was that all about? Get a better gift this year! You don't even use mugs.
Josh Bogorad says the Stars should continue only allowing a team like five shots on goal every game. I agree. And all jokes aside, you would probably have to admit that this was the "60-minute effort" the Stars have not been showing so far this season. So, good on them. [Stars]
Yes indeed, the Stars posted a "complete effort" on Saturday, more or less. [The Hockey Writers]
Congratulations to Dallas, who escaped the five worst teams listed on Sean McIndoe's weekly rankings. I guess you could say they're up to a "Don't Buy!" [Grantland]
Michael Russo reveals that Ryan Suter came down with the mumps because he refused the booster shot the team gave everyone a few weeks back. "You’ve got to be mentally strong and you’ll never get sick," Suter is quoted as saying, somewhat wryly. This is exactly what my carpool buddy says every day. "Sickness is just mental weakness." And, well, I guess it is until it isn't. Way to hurt your team by being all macho, Ryan. [Star Tribune]
Evander Kane has been suspended two games for boarding Clayton Stoner. This means the Stars won't face him this time around. [NHL]
Jaromir Jagr passed Marcel Dionne to claim 5th place all-time on the NHL points list. Have a look at how Jagr has done his work over the years. [The Hockey Writers]
The Ottawa Senators fired Paul MacLean Monday, which is too bad for that doppelganger guy who always hung around behind the bench. Also, the Senators are kind of sad. A big hockey fan I spoke with in Anaheim Monday night suspects the Senators fired him comparatively early this season in hopes that he will get signed by another NHL team, removing his contract from Ottawa's books. Eugene Melnyk is not amused. [SportsNet]
Jakub Voracek is suddenly one of the league's best players. He plays for Philadelphia, if you didn't know. [The Hockey Writers]
Kevin Klein had his ear reattached, then played some more hockey. It went well. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, here is a terrible video courtesy of the San Jose Sharks. Maybe you'll like it. I did not, and only just barely refrained from roasting this thing frame by frame: