As I began to write this intro regarding Dallas' defensive struggles that have persisted all season long I couldn't help but be reminded of this classic clip from the 1976 film Network:
"I don't have to tell you things are bad, everybody knows things are bad."
It's been a painfully frustrating season for the Stars, and it's been largely caused by their inability to keep pucks out of their own net. Despite being 2nd place in the entire NHL(!) for goals-per-game at 3.10, the Stars are tied for 27th in goals against and 23rd in shots against.
While a lot of the blame for this shortfall should get doled out to goalies not stopping pucks and forwards missing their defensive assignments, it doesn't change the fact that the Stars' blueline is one of the cheapest, youngest, and smallest in the entire NHL.
That, as you already know, is bad.
However, as is becoming more and more obvious in the new salary cap world of the NHL, the best way to build a strong, stable defense in this league is not through trading and free agency, but by building from within.
Luckily for the Stars, the organization already has a promising foundation laid out before them, with four rookie defenders taking the ice and acclimating this season. While there are growing pains now, these early lumps could be just the first step in a long process that yields huge rewards further down the road.
The advancement of young defensemen is one of the most arduous challenges for any hockey organization.
From the physical development of the frame to the neural development of the brain, a great deal of planning is involved. So when you just toss four rookies on the ice the way the Stars did Tuesday night, it’s one of those "overnight sensations" that takes years to develop.
And quite honestly, the Stars are still in the very early stages. Yes, Dallas did use four rookie blueliners – John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak – in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. But that was hardly the plan for this season. An injury to Trevor Daley (knee) and the illness of Jason Demers forced the decision, but a well-prepared group took advantage of the opportunity.
"I thought they played great," Stars general manager Jim Nill said Wednesday. "They were put in a difficult situation, but I thought they really stepped up and met the challenge. That’s a great sign for our future."
*SNIP*It’s been an important lesson for all of the Stars youngsters. Nemeth is 23, Jokipakka is 23, Klingberg is 22, and Oleksiak is 22. That means they have had some time to learn, and now they are ready to push the schedule forward a bit.
"They’ve all played overseas or in the minors here, and several of them won the Calder Cup," Nill said of the AHL champion Texas Stars last season. "Now, they need to take the next step, and I think we’re seeing in a lot of them that they’re ready for that step."
Much like the Philly game, the young D held it together last night and all played strong games as Dallas beat Carolina 5-3.
If everything goes according to plan, imagine how impressive this group (alongside the eventual addition of players like Julius Honka and Esa Lindell) could be five years from now.
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Some quotes from last night's win over Carolina. Alex Goligoski thought that the Stars played a "desperate brand of hockey," which is pretty much exactly what you'd expect out of a team that's currently...*checks the standings*...seven points out of a playoff spot. Yep, sounds about right. [Stars]
Speaking of defensemen, consider one more unicorn captured from the wild as the New York Islanders locked up pending free agent Johnny Boychuk for seven years and $42 million. This wasn't really much of a surprise, though, considering how much success the Islanders are having this season and how much cap space they have to work with. [Islanders]
Speaking of defensemen...err...again...Stars prospect Ludwig Bystrom just finished up his season in the Swedish Hockey League, and according to this Swedish website, he will soon be heading to North America to join the Texas Stars, just like Devin Shore already has. And before you ask, no, I have no idea why the man in that ad is wearing a squirrel suit [Värmlands Folkblad]
Despite getting badly outplayed on a regular basis, the Calgary Flames are somehow magically right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. It's still foolhardy to build a team around concepts like "truculence," but give the Flames credit, they're easily the hardest working team in the NHL and they get rewarded for it [Puck Daddy]
March 11th marked the anniversary of the death of Terry Trafford, a former OHL forward that took his own life last year. Some people are hoping to take the tragedy and turn it into something positive by calling for more support and mental health awareness in junior sports leagues. [Buzzing The Net]
Was former NHLer Nikolai Zherdev a Russian spy hell-bent on destroying America?!? Well, probably not, but that didn't stop former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean (who already has a reputation for saying ridiculous things) from once hiring a private investigator to follow the forward around Columbus, as he admitted in an interview yesterday. [Sportsnet]
Following very disturbing trend as of late regarding gender and hockey, the head coach of the Ohio State University's women's hockey team resigned recently after allegations of sexual harassment [The Hockey News]
And finally, on one of the stranger penalty calls this season, Steven Stamkos was given a 10-minute misconduct last night for...throwing a broken stick into the crowd? Per NHL rules Stamkos' overtime misconduct made him ineligible for the shootout, which the Bruins won: