The good times may seem like a memory now as the Dallas Stars continue to trudge through their January doldrums. But GM Jim Nill says the team's scorching pace in the season's first half bought it time to figure out its problems and come back stronger.
Nill answered media questions about where the team stands as winter marches on:
Q: How do you view this current slump?
Nill: You're always concerned when you're not winning. We're in the winning business. But as a realist, you know it's going to happen, and it may happen more than once in a season. The key is how you deal with it, that's what will eventually make you a better team.
On the Stars' earned luxury of a first-half point stash that has kept them in third place in league standings:
Q: When you look back, do you wonder if the start to the season was too easy?
Nill: I look back and the games are so close, and a lot could have gone the other way. We won in overtime, or they hit a post, or we got a good call. Just like during this stretch, we could have won in San Jose in overtime and everyone would have said we're coming out of it and everything will be fine. It's that close out there, and the season is going to be like that. We did bank away a lot of points, that's what we were supposed to do, and that should give us the ability to work our way out of this.
He also addressed the big question: how ready the Stars will be for a deep run in the playoff appearance that is still likely to happen.
Q: So where are you in the process of trying to win a Cup? Does that affect how you make decisions?
Nill: I think we are becoming a better team and that creates new challenges. You look at the games we are playing right now, and we are getting the best efforts of other teams. That's a good thing. That's accountability. We have gone through a stretch where we just haven't had it, mentally, physically, both, and we're working our way through that. I think it's important to be able to win a game when you don't have it, I think it's important to be able to find a way to keep your head above water, and we're trying to do that. That's the next step in trying to be a good team, and all good teams have to live with it. If we want to be the best, there's an accountability that goes with it.
There's much more under the link. [SportsDayDFW]
One uplifting outcome of the Stars' difficult California road trip has been the return to form of Ales Hemsky. He spoke after the game about the team's current frustrations and playing on a productive new line with Mattias Janmark and Antoine Roussel.
You know Uncle Razor has your back during this sadness. And he leads with an excellent old-school Ice-T reference from the same soundtrack that produced Six Gun by Dallas' own Decadent Dub Team, so there's that extra bit of wow that always comes with a good Emporium. (As if comparing Jonathan Quick to a big wet towel wasn't enough added value.)
There will be quite a bit more #MDK action tonight:
- St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings, 7 p.m. Central time
- Colorado Avalanche vs. Buffalo Sabres, 8 p.m. Central time
- Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks, 9:30 p.m. Central time
Josh Cooper delivers a great story on Patrick Eaves and how he's found a home with the Stars after a long and troubling concussion history. [Puck Daddy]
Former NHL enforcer and current San Diego Gulls winger Brian McGrattan hit the ice face first and was knocked unconscious last night during a fight with the San Antonio Rampage's Daniel Maggio. [Deadspin]
The Gulls tweeted an encouraging update last night.
INJURY UPDATE: Brian McGrattan is conscious, alert and has full movement.— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) January 20, 2016
Justin Abdelkader didn't just help Michigan State cinch the 2007 NCAA hockey championship, he scored the title-winning goal. Years later, as an NHL player with the Detroit Red Wings, he still remembers how it was to "bleed green and white," and he proved it by completing his MSU degree last summer.
A lot of parents might have seen dollar signs, or just been blinded by the thought of their kid playing in the NHL. But my dad was always like, "Imagine the feeling of putting on the green and white jersey and playing for the entire school? How cool would that be?"
And he was right. It was cooler than I could've imagined. And it's not just about the hockey stuff, like the racks of free sticks and the professional training staff (thanks, Mike Vorkapich, for making me puke the first day of conditioning), it's about the college experience as a whole. Little stuff like showing up the first day on campus in East Lansing and seeing everybody in green hoodies building their loft beds in the dorm. Everything's buzzing. You get hit with a feeling that you're part of something bigger. A real community.
Which Pacific Division team fines players for not flushing the toilet? Alex Prewitt isn't telling, but he does give an enlightening look into the NHL's locker-room justice system. [Sports Illustrated]
Also in SI, the Blackhawks have hit the top spot in the NHL Power Rankings. [SI]
Ever wonder how NHL referees determine what qualifies as a "distinct kicking motion"? Former official Kerry Fraser is here to explain in his "C'mon Ref" column. [TSN]
NHL Central Scouting has released its midseason top prospects list, and U.S. forward Auston Matthews is still at the top. [Sportsnet]
Professional athletes rising to the level of their own incompetence as entertainers will never not be funny. This time, the stars of the South Carolina Stingrays dive back into the Frozen pond to bring you a very special medley. Enjoy.
Finally: The Canadiens made a special presentation at last night's home game against the Bruins to honor Boston Pride forward Denna Laing. Proceeds from an auction of last night's game-worn jerseys will go toward expenses related to recovery and rehabilitation for Laing, who suffered a serious spinal injury during the Women's Winter Classic on New Year's Eve 2015. Check it out at auctions.nhl.com/dennalaing.