With all of the great predictions being made lately, it's natural for us to wonder whose prognostications are going to come to fruition. So many great discussions have been had based on the thoughts and estimates we've put forth, and that's what makes being a hockey fan just so great. Arguing with people you have no hope of really convincing about things that you won't be able to verify for months or even years down the road is basically our national pastime. After hockey, I guess.
Which is great, but it doesn't solve the pressing issue of Finding Out What Happens Now. Sure, we can all speculate about what amazing ringtone Jim Nill has loaded on his phone for the calendar reminder that pops up at 12:01 a.m. the day that Sergei Gonchar's no-trade clause lapses, but that's all we can do: speculate, speculate, speculate, speculate. Reading that word four times is as repetitive as summer speculation in August -- no new information means we are forced to try to chew our meatloaf countless different ways in hopes of eliciting one tiny little morsel of new flavor. Sometimes we almost think we've found something different, until we remember that it's just the taste of not-meatloaf, which seems like so very long ago by the time you've been rolling meatloaf around for fifteen minutes.
Until now, that is. In the name of Hockey Science, I traveled into the future, crossed inter-dimensional ley lines heretofore unknown, and returned with a headache, a transcript of an online chat I held during my brief stay, and fourteen fingers. Time travel is hard. Anyhow, let's have a look at how this season might have gone.
2014-2015 Postseason Wrap-up Chat
Hey, everybody. Congratulations to the Hartford Whale on winning the Stanley Cup. It's not easy for a franchise to be uprooted from a forsaken hockey wasteland mid-season and go on to beat the defending champions in four games. Even though you were formerly located in a land obviously unintended for human habitation, it's always tough to see a city lose its hockey team, even a city like Detroit.
Okay, I've only got a few minutes to chat before the latest episode of the Scooby Doo HBO miniseries comes on, so let's get started.
Q: What did you think about Jamie Oleksiak's call-up in November and subsequent play? -, Bakersfield, CA.
Hey Jeff, great question. Well, what can you say about a kid that scores 44 goals from the blue line in his first full season? While one might point to the fact that Ales Hemsky, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin combined for 193 assists, there's no question that Oleksiak deserves all the praise he's gotten this year. From his willingness to play net-front during power plays, recording 42 of his goals via deflections, or his great, steady play in the offensive zone (where he started 86% of his shifts), it's clear that Oleksiak has done everything he's been asked to do. Remember way back to the all-star game in winter, when we saw those totally rad neon green and chrome sweaters that players wore? Well, don't forget that Oleksiak actually won the fastest skater competition, too. You saw that come into play with Oleksiak's 31 breakaways this year, even if you disagreed with his frequent decision to use a drop pass right in front of the crease, stand in front of the goalie, and let the trailing player shoot through the screen. The Big Friggin' Rig, as he has now instructed us to call him, has truly come into his own. Too bad he lost the Norris to Brooks Orpik, though.
Q: Hey Robert, do you agree with Nill's decision to keep Gonchar for the whole season? I'll take the answer off the air, thanks. -Craig, no address given (emailed voice message #future)
Hey Craig, great question. It's tough to say just what effect veteran defensemen can have on a team when they aren't playing all that much, but given how the season turned out, there's no denying that Gonchar was valuable. Here's a little story I've been asked not to disclose the source for: In late March, as the Stars were fighting with Minnesota for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, you may recall how Nichuskin was healthy-scratched on both nights of a back-to-back. While we were told that scratch was due to "neck stiffness," there are strong indications that Val was actually the victim of a wicked, wicked practical joke by ol' Sergei that wound up with Nichuskin wandering around Carrollton for 52 hours straight in search of buried treasure. While Nichuskin was upset--and the fact that Gonchar's Mercedes was later found with its hood rolled back like a cartoony sardine can seems to suggest he was--his eight goals in three games down the stretch seem to show that Gonchar knew what he was doing all along. You can't build that kind of camaraderie with a paint by numbers set and a hockey analytics blogger, Craig. That's what guys like Gonchar can do for your team.
Q: Given the Stars failure to make it past the first round again this year, would you say the Spezza trade was a waste of some really, really, really, really, really great young power forward player? -A. Chiasson, Ottawa, Canada.
Hey A., great question. There's no doubt that Dallas had higher hopes for this year than getting knocked out of the playoffs by Anaheim once again in round 1, but it's important to look deeper than just the results on the scoresheet. Sure, Tyler Seguin only scored two points in the playoffs this year, but don't forget the fact that he got suspended for sixteen games after Game 1 for Tweeting a video of Corey Perry hunting dolphins with a rocket launcher during the first intermission. Granted, you never want to see your top center lose control like that, but when you think about the fact that PETA has duct-taped Perry to the underside of an as-of-yet unknown oil rig to prevent leakage into the sea for an indefinite period of time, you'd have to call that an even trade.
Another great example of this is Trevor Daley's plus minus, which was solid. Not bad for a 2nd line winger.
Q: Why do you think the Stars traded Jack Campbell, Julius Honka and Devin Shore at the deadline this year? I thought it was a great move, but some people seemed to disagree. -Mike Milbury, Wal-Mart parking lot, Cheyenne, WY.
Hey Mike, great question. It's always tough to part with high draft picks, especially ones as young and talented as that group. However, you have to look at Jim Nill's perspective on this one. The Stars have been saying that they want to challenge Kari, and none of the backup goalies were doing that. Lehtonen had played 39 games in a row prior to that trade, and Campbell, Lindback and Rynnas had posted a collective .862 save percentage, which leaves something to be desired. Given the fact that Lehtonen was able to get some more rest down the stretch during the Stars 2nd-consecutive playoff season, it's hard to argue with a trade that allowed Dallas to bring in two great former Stanley Cup Final players like Ty Conklin and Ray Emery--and don't forget that 6th-round draft pick as well--although it should be said that Nill would have done well to sign both of those goalies during December or early January, before Detroit did. It will be fun to watch the former Stars picks in Motown, though.
Look at it this way: Lots of people criticized Ken Holland for his decision to sign the two aging players and then carry four goalies through January. And on the surface, they were right to give him grief. But then he went and traded both of those newly-signed veteran backstops for three top prospects from Dallas. Now Nill is the one being criticized by some, but who's to say he won't end up having the last laugh as well?
Q: Have you heard anything about a Stars third jersey? -Muu Terrus, Internet
Hey Muu, great question. Jim Lites has confirmed that Dallas will be sporting a black, logo-less third in 2015-2016. Look for that to become the primary by the time Jamie Benn signs his extension.
Q: Do you actually like the Stars? -Marty T., Golf Course
Hey Marty, great question. Yes, very much. Like, I cried while typing that Ty Conklin trade paragraph very much.
Thanks, everyone. Gotta get my Scooby Snacks ready before the show, so I'm going to sign off. It's been a roller coaster ride for sure this year, but let's not forget to celebrate the victories as well as mourn the defeats.
***Note: I'm sorry
* * * * *
Links are here, and they are real. They are real links, on Friday.
Who are the top five prospects in Dallas' system that you might not know about? Find out by reading this. [THW]
Mike Heika profiles Trevor Daley, the inoffensive defensive/offensive defenseman. [DMN]
Heika says that the top six forwards will probably be who we all think they will be, unless they're not. They probably will be, though. [DMN]
An adorable picture of two people being doused with water simultaneously poured from the Stanley Cup and the Calder Cup. [Twittter]
Tim Cowlishaw reiterated his belief that the Mavericks are better-positioned than the Stars to make a long playoff run, as is his right. [DMN]
The San Jose Sharks have decided that a republic ill-led is inferior to a leaderless mob, stripping everybody of letters and basically just daring anyone to do anything about it. But Patty and Joe might want to just keep some Velcro C/A letters around, because it's not like San Jose hasn't done this before. [Fear the Fin]
The NHL is both permitting and encouraging diving, says Bill Schoeninger. Why, look, it's James Neal being accused of playing the game in a manner unbecoming to an upstanding citizen of hockey! Also a Scott Hartnell GIF, if you're into that. [THW]
The Bertuzzi/Moore saga is officially (officially) [really] over. The Canucks have finally said so, and they are marginally more trustworthy than Bertuzzi's lawyer, and infinitely more trustworthy than Rob Schick and Brad Watson. [CBC]
The powers that be have decided that Connor McDavid is way too good to just hand to Buffalo or Winnipeg, so they went ahead and changed the draft lottery rules to "punish the worst teams." Take that, organizations in desperate need of help! [Puck Daddy]
Part five of the search for hockey WAR. Or should I say, GAB? I should not say that, although it is sort of implied that people might say that in this article. [A.C. Thomas]
And I shall say again: The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles are something else. [SB Nation]