We have seen a plethora of words used to describe the recent history of the Dallas Stars: Rebirth, Rejuvenation, Renaissance, Rebuild, Makeover, et cetera. It has been absolutely wonderful to feel this level of enthusiasm after enduring years of a moribund franchise shackled to the never-ending fall of Tom Hicks. These dark times may have reached their nadir in the signings of Adam Pardy then Aaron Rome (brought in after the sale, but not by Nill) who were both given "go home, you're drunk" multi-year deals that they never finished in Dallas. Then Tom Gaglardi hired Jim Nill (and spent lots of money) to build a team that would look pretty in green, play well on the ice, and endure for years as one of the elite teams in the NHL. Even for those in Dallas who have been watching and waiting every step of the way, the state of the franchise seems almost too good to be true. And some have wondered whether it actually is.
One of the underlying fears amid all this glee has been how the Stars were going to regain their former glory. Sure, Lindy Ruff seemed like a solid veteran coach; and yes, Jim Nill certainly appears to know his way around a telephone when other teams are looking to ship out top talent; but there has been a lot of discussion about how advanced the team's analysis really is when it come to building a roster, and, fair or not, there is usually going to be concern that two veteran hockey guys like Nill and Ruff might be resistant to change (see: Toronto). After all, can guys who have been around the league for decades or more really adapt quickly enough to keep up with the best teams, especially when it comes to accepting the importance of relatively new possession statistics in order to see a deeper and truer picture of how their players are really performing?
The answer, according to Travis Yost, is very, very yes:
The general consensus around credible numbers guys is that Dallas is doing something to complement their coaching and scouting analysis — something, perhaps, embedded in data analytics.
Perhaps not to anyone's surprise, Nill told me that's exactly the case — the organization is making a concerted effort to bring every level of player analytics together, looking for the slighest [sic] competitive advantage in a hard-cap league.
Away from the roster assembly and high expectations for coming seasons, Nill and I talked quite a bit about the future of hockey analytics. To virtually no one's surprise, he's a big supporter in league-wide player tracking technology. The idea of SportVu, in particular, intrigues him — despite some of the difficulties the league's facing with the uniqueness of the sport.
It's hard to overstate just how significant this is, even if we don't know exactly what metrics the Stars are using (and won't, if they do their job right and keep their proprietary data to themselves). A good recent example is Antoine Roussel, who was recently re-signed to a four-year $8 million deal. It's safe to say that the Stars did their homework before signing him--as anyone should before spending eight million dollars--and Yost thinks likewise, pointing especially to Roussel's solid even-strength shot-share and impressive relative Corsi%. In a world where Calgary voluntarily signed Deryk Engelland for more money and shorter term for no discernible reason, this is something to be thankful for. It's not necessarily that we have to love the Roussel deal on its own merits every minute of the next four years; it's more about the fact that Dallas as an organization appears to be light years away from even considering the type of silly decisions that Calgary, Florida and Washington are making. For a team that has been dismissed for everything from their nontraditional market to their playoff impotence over the last decade, it's hard not to laugh a satisfied and jolly laugh when your team goes from (chiller font) Marc Crawford (/chiller font) to riding the crest of the wave pushing for the advanced metrics of their sport.
Here is where I will offer the obligatory statement about how Nill is an imperfect human being who is still in possession of Gonchar, Sergei (Qty: 1) Condition: used and expensive, and Lindy Ruff still comes up with "interesting" line combinations now and then. We can't all go bar-down with every shot.
In fact, almost as if to reinforce their humanity in response to the sentence I wrote long after he wrote his article, Yost revealed that Nill and Ruff read even more hockey blogs than you weirdos who click every link I put in these posts do. At least they are being paid to do it, though. Here's Nill:
"We are always — we are all trying to get 3-5% better. It’s a cap world and we are limited. We are always looking for the next thing. That’s the best part of the game."
"There’s amazing stuff in the blogosphere. We sit down all the time and analyze it. Lindy and I are on the plane all the time and looking at this stuff – we look at it and track it to see if there’s something there. Like I said, we’re all very competitive, and we are all looking for the edge. And whatever’s gonna help us is great for the game."
So, there you have it, DBD community: Bona fide proof that Dallas has already taken your sage advice and tried to trade Gonchar and Cole for P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. I think it's safe to say that deal is all but done.
Anyway, read the whole article. Yes, it's prudent to keep our ecstasy in check until the season is well underway, but let's just take a moment to realize how fortunate the Stars are to have good players, a beneficent owner, and a coach/GM tandem that is, by all accounts, utilizing everything in their power (and ours!) to make the team competitive now and for a long time to come.
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Links to the Past (and Present):
Reminder: November 22nd is the first DBD night at the AAC. Here is why you should be there: 1) That game will have a pregame ceremony honoring Modano's HOF induction 2) Stars hockey 3) This is your chance to get back at your significant other for dragging you to that party where you didn't know anyone. (I am not a relationship counselor!) Anyway, there are a few seats left, but not a ton, so if you want to spill your $10 drinks all over Sudbury and pretend it was an accident, this is your chance. (If you go, take pictures of the group, and I might put some or all of them up in the links post, especially if you are all mostly clothed.) [DBD Group Game Night]
One-time Dallas Star Patrick Cote confessed to two bank robberies. He has been sentenced to 30 months in prison. That is sad. [DMN]
Tyler Seguin was one of many players to take part in Smashfest, the charity table tennis tournament that sounds like basically the best thing I can possibly imagine. [Twitter]
Travis Yost had another post about the article linked in the main post, with this extra bit: Jim Nill says he traded good players to Ottawa for Spezza. Well, I should say so! [Hockey Buzz]
Sad news about Cory Sarich, who was hit by a car and suffered multiple fractured vertebrae. Glad to hear he's expected to fully recover. [The Score]
RFA Ryan O'Reilly has begrudgingly (we can only assume) signed a 2-year $12 million deal with the Avs. Who thinks he'll be in Colorado all of those two years? [Denver Post]
Patrick Kane went and dominated a random men's league game because he was bored, throwing up (gross) a 5-5-10 line. Hey, it can be tough being that good. [The Score]
Loui Eriksson is going to be Boston's first line RW this year, and their fans apparently need some convincing that this is not a disaster. Here's hoping he comes back from his two conkies last year and makes the trade look at least a bit closer to even. Best of luck, Loui. [Days of Yorr]
Lars Eller will be paid by the Canadiens $14 million over 4 years. That is more money than I have. [Puck Daddy]
Here are the saddest entries from each NHL team's Wikipedia page. The Stars' one is probably right-on--at least until someone uploads a picture of he-who-must-not-be-named. [The Triangle]
Finally, it is summer, so here is a video of Mike Keane punching somebody who hit Jere Lehtinen. Ralph and Razor with the call: