There’s no getting around how disappointing this season has been for Stars fans. You can see it in the half empty arena, the comments section here on Defending Big D, and the game time tweets from that nebulous corner of the internet known as “Stars twitter.”
It’s hard to watch your team lose night after night. The existential despair felt by those fans still faithfully watching every game has understandably led to calls for bold actions: a new coaching staff, big trades at the deadline to improve the weak points, and yes, at times, even a desire to blow the whole roster up.
I understand wanting a new coach. I too have been baffled by the defensive pairings deployed night after night with no seeming improvement to gameplay or chemistry. I too question why a team full of offensive power can’t reliably score on the man advantage. I too question why, if the Stars have so much confidence in the young defensive core, they can’t seem to muster an effective penalty kill. I too question why Dallas can’t seem to play effectively in any situation but 5v5.
I have all of these questions, and every loss chips away at my confidence in Lindy Ruff.
There’s going to be a lot of speculation on the trade deadline on this site in the coming weeks, but what I’ll say now is that I also understand the desire for a big trade at the deadline. I don’t know what this big trade would look like, but it would certainly be nice to have a goaltender that has a better 4v5 save percentage than either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen. It would be great to have a goaltender that is better than exactly NHL average at 5v5.
The thing I question here is the ability to actually get that goaltender and not just new blood with the same numbers they already have. See the trade rumors surrounding Marc Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop for reference.
What I can’t understand are the (admittedly small number of) calls to blow the roster up. Do you hear what you’re asking for?
This team is one season out of a second round berth in the playoffs, and the only reason Dallas couldn’t get to the third round was their inability to solve Brian Elliott. Yes, this season was expected to be more of the same, but remind yourselves that the Stars are without three key pieces (Val Nichushkin, Ales Hemsky, and Mattias Janmark) that were assumed to be in the Stars’ arsenal last fall.
And I know you’re tired of hearing about all of the injuries, but they’ve been a significant detriment to the offensive success of this Stars team.
Blowing a roster up, like the Colorado Avalanche are expected to do this season, means literally anyone is on the table for the right price. Do you want to trade Radek Faksa as he’s hitting his prime? Do you want to pull the plug on finding out what Devin Shore’s ceiling is? Are you ready to have to play against John Klingberg because you’re tired of his inconsistent play when paired with inconsistent partners who aren’t as good as he is?
The truth is that Dallas already has a talented roster that is (collectively) having an abysmal year. Jamie Benn just won the Art Ross in 2015, not even a full two years ago. Two seasons in a row he’s been named to the NHL’s All Star Team (second and first team, respectively) by the PHWA. Tyler Seguin is a top scorer and point producer, and at 25 he’s just hitting his prime. John Klingberg missed the top ballot for the Norris by three spaces in his sophomore year. Do you really want to waste the best seasons of these player’s careers with a rebuild?
Even outside of the obvious future Hall of Fame contenders, Patrick Eaves is having the season of his career offensively. He’s one goal behind his career high with 27 games left to go in the season, and he’s already passed his high in points. Yes, he’s only on a one year contract, but his name’s been thrown about as a possible trade piece at the deadline and would likely be a target in the summer to be re-signed as an UFA. Radek Faksa (an RFA this summer) has improved on a solid start in his rookie season with an impressive sophomore season.
But it is true that there are areas needing improvement. Goaltending, as previously mentioned, is a long standing scapegoat for the woes of this team, although somewhat undeservedly this season. The "somewhat" encompasses the aforementioned abysmal 4v5 save percentage while paying lip service to the average 5v5 save percentage.
Dallas pretty desperately needs an actual first-line center if that first-line center isn’t Tyler Seguin. If it is Tyler Seguin, then the wonder twins need a first-line right wing. And the blue line could certainly use some bolstering in puck movement and speed.
Of course, there’s always the chance that the 14 contracts expiring this summer will make some of the decisions for Dallas. Six forwards and one defenseman are expected to be UFAs: Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler, Patrick Eaves, Lauri Korpikoski and Johnny Oduya.
Are there people I would like to keep here? Sure, I’m not ready to stop writing letters to Dearest Annabelle. Are there people I would like to trade or just let walk? Obviously, but what would we be able to get in return for Korpikoski? Would Patrick Sharp be willing to take a pay cut to stay or should the Stars see what they can get for him as a loaner at trade deadline? I’m all for this speculation.
There’s also some young guns going RFA: Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Curtis McKenzie, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrick Nemeth, and Esa Lindell. Again, there are players I’m more interested in keeping than others: Ritchie, Faksa, Janmark if he’s healthy, and probably Lindell (but only if they can stop trying to make the Klingberg/Lindell defensive pairing happen).
Players will be traded, whether at the trade deadline or over the summer. I’m not a fan of action for action’s sake, and I wouldn’t want Jim Nill to take a lopsided trade just to get someone new in the locker room.
They’ll probably end up letting some UFAs walk this season with a handshake and a thank you for their service to the team, not to mention they’ll definitely lose someone in the expansion draft. Those are the inevitabilities of doing business in the NHL.
But blowing up a roster by definition means a complete overhaul, and with this arsenal of talent, it’s just not necessary.