Fresh off the disappointment in our superheroes come to celluloid life, Robert and David try to break down everything you need to know about the impending dramas of the 2016-2017 season, and everything you don’t about the aesthetic merits of the Gagarin Cup.
Truth or Snare: Valeri Nichushkin has been to some KHL games, and therefore has the power to terminate his contract and leave Dallas for good.
Robert: As much as I bristle reading the annual “RFA STILL UNSIGNED, IT IS PRACTICALLY SEPTEMBER OH NO” comments, Nichushkin didn’t exactly help to stem the tide. Those “I’m not playing 20 minutes” quotes back in March were not the very best things he could have said, and when you combine them with the usual bad preconceptions about Russian players being perpetually unhappy and ready to flee the country, speculation was bound to happen.
That said, let’s remember that the KHL product is not, shall we say, its own best endorsement. Nichushkin may have just wanted to attend a game to be reminded of how inferior the KHL is to the Big Leagues.
As he gets older, the chance for more money in his home country might mean something, I guess. But the kid’s still young, and young hockey players have a tendency to sort of all want the same Cup, and it’s not the one that looks like a gilded steampunk afterburner that fell off an experimental plane. Nichushkin going to the KHL right now would make about as much sense as Jamie Benn deciding to switch to professional softball.
David: Thanks for adding gilded steampunk afterburner to my lexicon. Still, my first thought was ‘C3PO’s Iron Giant ancestor crotch protectors’. As simplistic as stereotypes are, we can’t deny that they’re rooted not in truth, but in examples. So yes, Nuke is enigmatic to me. His talents are almost quixotic more than confident, and yet I think his room for growth is worth holding out on. I don’t really care if Nuke is kind of a primadonna. We don’t know these men, but I guarantee you some have personas worse than ‘young and hungry for the spotlight’. They do a good job of hiding behind celebrity crush questionnaires, and desert island bands, but deep down they’re like everyone else: finding sanity only when they endorse sane perspectives.
Robert: It’s the old “a year too early or a year too late” quandary, right? Nuke isn’t leaving of his own accord, but surely any prospective trade partner will ask for him right away, given the upside and perception of his expendability. We can at least be somewhat confident that Dallas does not trade superstars based on specious formulations attitude or work ethic.
More importantly, C-3PO clearly predates the Iron Giant. “Long, long time ago” and all that.
Truth or Snare: Tyler Seguin finally gets in serious hockey trouble by aligning himself with a political party.
Robert: I’m shocked this hasn’t already happened, really. Can’t you see a young superstar like Seguin wearing a hip mesh cap with “Know-nothings” plastered on the front? Or, barring that, maybe a similarly 19th-century political poster hanging on his fridge the next time he gives a house tour? Certainly that’s what I would do. #BULLMOOSE2016
David: Seguin is the right kind of frat. He’s the all star athlete who’s cool with inviting the band camp members over to the party just to see if they can handle the beer bongs. He’s not the Patrick Kane kind of frat: the type that lures band camp members into his sinister lair of creepily arranged forest twigs hanging from the ceiling to foreshadow social doom. Eventually a party will rise from hipster culture, which Seguin will endorse. They will be called the Whigs. And they will be all about ironic modernization and sarcastic tariffs.
Robert: Only sarcastic tariffs can make this country great again, and Seguin can throw some smarmy shade with the best of them. It’s always nice when you can back up your talk with superstar-caliber play. I mean, I assume it must be nice.
If Seguin were to endorse the Whigs, it would have to be the British variety. Eurochic, my man.
Truth or Snare: Jim Nill was actually honest about Dallas’ two goalie system this whole time, Dallas struggles early, and Dallas fans start going all Vancouver on the streets.
David: You won’t find a harsher critic of Kari Lehtonen than me. I could spend 1000 words alone complaining about his “happy just to be here” interview following that Game 7 loss to St. Louis. He’s not even an average goalie at this point in his career, and he somehow gets worse in the playoffs. So yea. The goalie situation is toxic in ways that are unquantifiable.
I think Nill believes what he’s saying. No, I don’t think he believes we have two goalies who can win the Cup. But I think he believes Dallas is good enough to win in spite of their mistakes. Everyone always suggests trading away prospects and futures for a solid goalie. I always read that as an understatement of Dallas’ depth. Dallas’ scoring depth is tied up in veterans (Sharp, Eaves, Hemsky) and free agents (Hudler) likely gone after this season. That means trading forward prospects becomes riskier than usual. Oduya will be gone after this season, and Hamhuis the season after. You’re looking at Klingberg, Johns, Jordie, Nemeth, and Oleksiak holding the bag in their wake. If that defense scares you it’s because you define defense by beating them in an arm wrestling contest. I.e. trading defense prospects becomes riskier than usual.
Nill has to give up these assets if he wants that proverbial white whale, and I think it’s a tougher decision to make than fans assume. Especially when you consider that Dallas just needs mediocre goaltending. So I won’t join my fellow fans in rioting should the goalie situation remain the same. Unless Mike Valley still has input on goalie drafting and development. Then we’re going heeled.
Robert: Yeah, it’s all about the cost. Nill could doubtless acquire a few different goalies today, were he willing to pay the price. And, as you say, the Stars have to be careful not to empty the coffers, given the upcoming departures (we think) of Sharp, Hudler and Hemsky.
Still, I can’t get away from the fact that Jim Nill has tried to solve every obvious deficiency in this team since he’s arrived. Whether it was center depth, blue-line prospects, more center depth, or especially right-handed blueline prospects, Jim Nill has consistently addressed the team’s shortcomings, or tried to.
And let’s not forget that the Stars still are not a stingy defensive team. Their overall shot numbers are great, yes; but a high-event team with highly porous goaltending is a dangerous wave to ride in the playoffs. I just can’t see Nill (and Ruff) rocking 31 and 32 again next spring. Of course, should one of the goalies put up an out-of-nowhere great season, things could change. I do not think things are likely to change in that regard.
So, should goaltending just not be available for less than a decimating cost, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Stars try for a big trade on defense instead. If you can’t patch the hole, then get better bilge pumps, right? That’s not exactly what you want to hear your captain say as you head into open water, but if duct tape costs a million dollars a roll, it’s hard to blame him for not buying it. (“Aye, we made it nearly 80% of the way to the shore last year with that thar same hole, maties!”)
I have no doubt that the Stars want to upgrade their goaltending. I have no doubt that they will upgrade their goaltending, eventually. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch Jim Nill dance around it.
Truth or Snare: Cody Eakin starts the regular season at 1C. And begins the playoffs at 1C.
David: And I was in a good mood too. I try to be calm, collected, and copacetic over Cody. I take a deep breath, and remind myself that Alain Vigneault loves Tanner Glass, and underplayed Keith Yandle. I remind myself that even the great Mike Babcock thinks Luke Glendening is a great checking line center, while Brenden Smith is an underperforming defensemen. I try. Really I do. But then Eakin ignores an obvious pass in a two on one, or tries to check an opponent already covered by his defensemen that leads to an odd man rush, and I lose all hope. Sadly, I think this is ‘truth’. What am I missing Robert? Help me understand.
Robert: Well, David, if you would like to understand why Cody Eakin spent a lot of time as the 1C, then take a look over here in this other room, where I have prepared all these piles of supporting data for you to peruse. As you can see from this evidence which you are about to pick up in this room, Eakin has many traits that are best utilized by giving him top ice time with the- *Throws pillowcase over David’s head and drags him up to the Memory Modification Mezzanine*
So, there you go. It’s really quite simple.
(Also, we can hold out “hope” that Ruff will always Ruffle, as he did in Game 3 of the season last year by moving Eakin down to the third line and Seguin back to center after the 6-3 Colorado debacle.)
David: *quivering in fetal position inside the upside down place* should I stay or should I go...if I go there will be trouble...if I stay it will be double...so come on and let me know…
Truth or Snare: Dallas is asking for Lundqvist because why not. They’re willing to take Lehtonen because Jeff Gorton is eyeing Lindell AND Honka since he’s tired of eyeing Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Nill blinks.
David: I’ll try not to use this as an excuse to tell readers how awesome I believe Honka already is, and will be. Or how much nuance he adds to the blueline, and the transitional play he’d gift to Dallas’ already talented forwards that no other defensemen can provide. Oops. But I have a hard time with this one. My problem is twofold: I hate goaltending, and I like players more than teams. My allegiance is torn, but doesn’t Lundqvist all but guarantee a Cup? If so, that’s that. Case closed. But I find myself attached more to the aesthetics of hockey. I’d rather watch a cohesive, freeflowing hockey team than one whose totality of calumnies, indignities, and deceits are salvaged only by a sovereign netminder. Should we strike another match, and start anew, I’d support Dallas regardless.
Robert: That’s kind of you not to belabor the point (man), but I’m ready to hear all the Honka excitement you’ve got. It’s fun to get on hype trains before they have to meet reality head-on.
I’d be more on board (different train now, try to keep up) with Dallas getting Lundqvist (that still looks insane to type) if not for the King’s rather ineffective playoffs this past April. Yes, Dallas is a better team than New York, but do you really trust their high-event system to make a 34-year-old goaltender who just had a bad playoffs look like he deserves $8.5 million for the next five years (or even the next one)?
There’s no question that Lundqvist is an upgrade, now. Most any starter would be. But if I have to dump good players to acquire a goalie for this season, I’d prefer one that doesn’t require a $40 million bet on him being the next Luongo in his mid-to-late thirties.