If you've been around these parts for the past couple summers, you may be familiar with these Musical Analysis posts. We did one on the third line a couple years back when I was still using Links as a thinly veiled excuse to blather on about nothing of substance; then there was another one last summer about a couple of defensemen and Kari Lehtonen.
Both of those posts followed a pretty simple formula: take three Ben Folds (and/or Ben Folds Five) songs and apply them to Stars players, with slight lyrical modifications as needed.
Well, this time around, I thought I'd switch things up. I know a lot of y'all probably don't fancy Ben Folds's songwriting to the degree that I do, so that's why I've decided to do three more Ben Folds songs. If you don't like them, then you are musically deficient, and I consider it my bounden duty to repair this flaw of yours. (Thank-you notes may be sent to me c/o Taylor's Twitter feed.)
The other thing I wanted to do this time around was focus on the brass, from Lindy on up. Summer is a time when coaches and management receive good, hard looks, as well they should. With no games to validate their strategies from day to day, we are free to critique, laud or deplore their various moves with no immediate repercussions. Being a fan is basically the easiest thing ever (except for those occasional times it involves your heart being ripped out and thrown into a thresher).
Anyway, let's get to it.
Jim Nill (and Steve Yzerman)
From our perspective, Jim Nill's job this offseason was about as straightforward as GM's jobs can be: replace the departing defense from within or without, and fix the goaltending. Esa Lindell and Dan Hamhuis appear to be the strategy to supplement the existing defense for now, and while no one would say they are exact substitutes for Goligoski or Demers, they give the Stars enough options to start the season and adjust from there.
As far as the goaltending? Well, that's where the the GM of Tampa Bay comes in...
They even looked at each other once across a crowded bar
He was with [Kari], he was with [Ben]
Neither of them really knew what was going on
The Ben Bishop Trade has been exhaustively discussed. There were a few teams in search of top goalies going into the offseason, and the Stars are the only one of that group to still have their goaltending situation untouched. The two teams are ideal trade partners, and while Tampa would be perfectly sane to just hold onto Bishop for one more year, every indication is that Nill is trying his best to find a way to get a deal done.
It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day
We can throw out names on each side and run them through our subjective Trade Fairness Indicators, but at the end of the day, I wonder if trades aren't a bit like the beginning of relationships. They require overall compatibility, sure, but they also involve a whole host of other factors. Fear: One GM might be too scared of the worst-case scenario should he proceed with the move. Insecurity: An organization charges an outlandish price for Dan Ha- er, the asset in question to make sure they visibly "win" the trade, and they're okay with sitting tight if team B isn't willing to pay it. Timing: If both teams don't feel the way they need to about enough of the players involved in the deal, it isn't going to happen.
And it's not like they were ever actually unhappy in the lives they lived
He [stayed married to] Antti, [Tampa to Ben],
Just this vague notion that something was wrong
A naked absence, a phantom limb
An itch that could never be scratched
Should Dallas go into the playoffs with these same two goaltenders next April, you can be sure that said "itch" will feel a lot more like a massive rash. And you can be positive that we'll all be scratching furiously, wondering why we didn't buy the balm everyone agreed this team needed back in the summer.
It really is easy, from above, to say that trades, buyouts, or signings need to happen. And just because we can't see everything doesn't mean we can't criticize. But there's nothing wrong with falling back on a little "well, it happens" from time to time when things don't get fixed the way we would choose.
Coaches are a tough breed, pretty much universally. And if they don't all start that way--Glen Gulutzan comes to mind--they generally become more confident, more surly, and more cocky as their careers continue. That's not an insult at all, but merely an observation. Coaches are leading millionaire athletes by making hundreds of decisions for each game, many of them almost instantaneous ones. And they're doing so under the watchful, ominous eyes of owners far wealthier than those wearing the skates.
Go ahead and laugh all you want
I got my philosophy
And I trust it like the ground
That's why my philosophy
Keeps me walking when I'm falling down
Given those constraints, it's little wonder that most successful coaches are not exactly crowdsourcing their lines from game to game. They want to win, but like most anyone in management, they also want to win their way.
Would you look at me I'm crazy
But I get the job done
I'm crazy but I get the job done
For the third straight year since Lindy Ruff's hiring, the Dallas Stars have improved their point total. Of course, critics will level the same argument towards Ruff that many do against the goalies; namely, that the team is so talented, they are winning in spite of Lindy/Kari/Antti's flaws rather than because of their virtues. And while Lindy Ruff certainly has his flaws, most of them tend to be those common to nearly every veteran coach in the league. Valuing mediocre or declining veterans over promising-but-inconsistent kids is certainly tough to watch for us on the outside, but remember that Mike Babcock in Detroit often received the exact same criticism. Personally, I find it tough to get too worked up about Ruff being, to some extent, a pretty standard product of his environment. Would I, in Ruff's shoes, keep fighting to get Jamie Oleksiak minutes after disastrous plays like this? I want to say I would still try, but truthfully...I'm not so sure.
And it's really not that you can't see
The forest from the trees
You just never been out in the woods alone
This might read like an appeal to authority that says we shouldn't ever be harsh on Lindy Ruff, but that's not the case. Saying that it's irrational to expect Travis Moen to be healthy-scratched for 82 straight games is, I think, something most fans would grudgingly accept, but I still would love to know Ruff's rationale for characterizing Cody Eakin the way he does, as all the available evidence points to #20's being fearfully miscast in his current role as top-line defensive center extraordinaire. We can and should criticize coaches' decisions, but we also need to remember, I think, where these guys are coming from. A little charity along with judgment usually won't go amiss.
It's been 17 years since the Stars celebrated that ultimate victory. Yes, the Stars still managed to remain relevant for nearly 10 years after that. Of course, the five years post-2008 nearly erased the vibes from that one deep run. It's amazing what Marc Crawford, league-imposed budgets, and bad free-agent signings can do to a team's accumulated good will, eh?
By the time the buzz was wearing off
we were standing out on the sidewalk
with our tattoos that looked like [Cup] rings
in the hot [DFW] sun
Tom Gaglardi rode into town in late 2011, and the team long-starved for stability in ownership began to look down the road, for once. Things were still bleak, of course. And it would take another couple of years for Gaglardi to bring on the key pieces in management he wanted in place. In the meantime, the surprising hot start of 2011-12 fizzled out, and the Stars prepared for the lockout-shortened season by unloading Adam Pardy and Steve Ott for Derek Roy. Whether by Gaglardi's suggestion or not, Joe Nieuwendyk would primarily add short-term veterans like Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr, priming the team for a big makeover the following summer.
That makeover involved Jim Nill's addition, and you all know the story from there. Tyler Seguin, more veterans, and Playoffs, at last. Then the Spezza/Hemsky offseason of 2014 that fueled optimism galore. About that...
Christmas  came around
yeah and everything was going to crap
The new-look Stars weren't only a team able to spend to the cap; they were a team able to make moves, and that's exactly what happened after a disastrous beginning to what was supposed to be a promising season. Dillon-for-Demers was one more, but John Klingberg's promotion was the far more notable act. And Klingberg's eventual long-term deal was one that Tom Gaglardi surely smiled at, once Nill got it done.
and they seemed to all need to believe it
so we danced and smiled and [Jim Nill] paddled hard beneath it
Oh [we]'ve got you to thank
This isn't meant to ascribe undue glory to Gaglardi. An owner's job should always, always be to enable and cauterize, not to manipulate or paralyze. Gaglardi, so far, has enabled his capable staff, and he's been willing to cut losses (the Aaron Rome compliance buyout being a prominent example) for the good of the team.
So, while Tom Gaglardi isn't the only one responsible for the Stars' upward trajectory, he is certainly the one who has paid the most to make it happen. I think I can muster a "thank you" for what that $240 million purchase has meant to fans thus far.