We've tried this on and off the past few years but I thought I'd give it a shot this week and collect questions for a "mail bag" style of article, even though all of the questions came to me via Twitter. Fortunately, only about a third of the responses were sarcastic questions or comments about Alex Goligoski and only one actually mentioned James Neal.
On to the questions:
@brandonworley what are the top 3 things the Stars need in order to move from playoff chasers to contenders, and are they in the system now?— Chris Lewis (@CJL2012) March 19, 2014
It's arguable that the Stars are already playoff contenders -- given the fact that the team is currently in a dogfight for a playoff spot -- but I understand the sentiment of the question. We've been hearing about how the Stars are re-tooling or whatever for a while now, but the true "rebuild" didn't essentially begin until this past summer. How long, then, until fans can expect a team that is almost guaranteed for a playoff spot; when can fans worry about seeding and Cup matchups rather than worrying about if the team will even make it to the dance?
The good news is that Jim Nill was handed a fairly full arsenal with which to exact this rebuild he's been tasked with. The top need for the Stars last summer was a number one center and the Stars have found that and more in Tyler Seguin. Now, the Stars are working at further transitions from the veteran core of the past while also revamping a roster that more and more seems to be built on speed and skill rather than the defensive shells of the past. So, based on this season's NHL roster, the Stars still need:
1. A top pairing defenseman
2. A true No. 2 center
3. A scoring winger
That's the order of need for the Stars, with the number one need remaining the same as it has the past four years. Ideally that top-pairing defenseman would be an all-star and franchise-level player along the lines of a Shea Weber, but in reality the Stars just need a defenseman that can truly eat up the minutes and competition required of a top pairing guy. The Stars already have an abundance of puck moving defensemen in the system and while someone like Weber is always desired, the Stars really need that hulking and physical shut down guy for the top pairing in order to better balance the defense.
If he's a right shot, even better.
Is that guy in the system right now? Unlikely. Jamie Oleksiak is getting closer and closer to truly being NHL ready, and Patrick Nemeth looks ready to make the jump, but it's insane to think either could step into that top pairing role as rookies and live up to the expectations of the job.
A center and scoring winger are still needed to help round out the lines and to help fill the void of the impending departure of Vern Fiddler and Ray Whitney. Options currently in the system are limited; Colton Sceviour will get an advanced tryout for a top six spot next season, while players such as Brett Ritchie and Matej Stransky likely need more time in the AHL before being relied upon to produce 40+ points at the NHL level.
@brandonworley Thoughts on Stars trading top picks? Do you think the cupboard is full enough to consider? Or is patience still the answer?— Tropical Spittal (@tropicalspittal) March 19, 2014
I'm guessing this question is about the notion of trading some of the more valuable assets in the system, high draft picks, in order to immediately shore up the roster rather than acquiring a player that likely won't see the NHL until 2017.
It all depends on who is available and whether the price to be paid is worth it. If the Stars finish with a pick somewhere in the 15-20 range, then the idea of giving up a first round pick for a current NHL player or top prospect already in development begins to make more sense. If the Stars fall flat on their face and end up with another top ten pick, then giving up such an asset likely won't come close to happening.
Is the cupboard full enough to consider such an option? Once again, it depends on who is available. If the Stars can magically acquire that mythical top-pairing defenseman, who is on the right side of 30 and who is under contract, then giving up a high draft pick or as part of a package involving a high draft pick plus players/prospects absolutely must be considered.
Is this likely to happen? Not at all. But then again, the Stars did get Tyler Seguin.
@brandonworley Scott Glennie..does he stay or does he go? What would his role be with the Big Club should he make the team?— Matt McCary (@ItMatters91) March 19, 2014
So, Scott Glennie continues his journey to hopefully, one day, get a shot at the NHL. The former No. 8 overall draft pick has yet to produce at the AHL level, yet continues to impress with his overall play and two-way game and improved work ethic and commitment to the game. The question, as you put it, is whether he's worth keeping past this season or whether the Stars should jettison him like the bust that he obviously is and just move on and forget the entire affair.
The problem with Scott Glennie is that when viewed with the expectations that come with his draft position, then it's tough to argue with the "bust" status. Glennie likely will never be a top six forward in the NHL, and struggles to secure a spot on the top line in the AHL. But when you view his value in relation to the role he's found works best for him, then perhaps Glennie can still be valuable to the Stars in a way that better fits the skillset and role he's grown into since coming into the AHL.
Scott Glennie is a RFA and should, at the very least, receive a qualifying offer this summer from the Stars. While he may never be the dangerous top six scorer he was hoped to be when drafted, Glennie does show value as a potential third or fourth line winger with good speed and defensive awareness.
@brandonworley something, something, I hate goligoski?— Trevor Sudbury (@Tsudbury) March 19, 2014
Yeah, everyone thought they were real comedians with this stuff.
@brandonworley Do you think if the Stars hit more, they'd win more?— Locelyn Jemiuex (@BrandonBibb_DBD) March 19, 2014
There's this funny thing that happens when a team is skating around trying to knock the fire out of everyone. For one, they tend to not have the puck very often. There's also the fact that going for the big hit tends to pull you out of position; look at how Brenden Dillon has been reeled in physically in favor of a more defense-minded approach.
While I think there is something to having a team with size up front that can impose themselves physically on the forecheck and along the boards, I don't think that stategy is necessarily conducive to winning. If it were, Brian Burke would have been much more successful the past ten years than he has been.
The challenge for the Stars right now is to not attempt to be a chameleon of a team and adjust their approach to match that of their opponents'; they just don't have the build to get into a physical, drag out brute-fest of a game. The Stars need to figure out how to assert themselves in a manner that is comfortable to them no matter what the other team is countering with; that is where they are seriously struggling the past few games.
@brandonworley How far away are the defensive prospects, namely Nemeth and Klingberg?— Zach Walther (@ZWal93) March 19, 2014
Patrick Nemeth is very close and should get a very long and hard look during training camp next season, depending on some decisions that have to be made about the current NHL defense. Every player on the blueline, except for pending-RFA Brenden Dillon, is under contract for next season so there's not exactly a wealth of spots currently available.
Nemeth is another left-shot defenseman, but he's also the sort of hulking and nasty physical presence the Stars desperately need. Some interesting decisions ahead this summer for Jim Nill.
John Klingberg will need at least one season in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL, but it's not inconceivable he'd get a call up to Dallas at some point next season.
@brandonworley "can we have Seguin back?"— TomServo42 (@tservo42) March 19, 2014
No, you can't have him. You weren't nice to him when you did.