There is a silver lining to the dark cloud that has followed the Dallas Stars like an unwanted second mascot throughout the 2016-17 season: There is literally nothing to lose by letting the kids carry the show.
It’s a healthy move for an organization that needs some reorganization, as The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika observes:
...With Patrick Sharp (hip) and Antoine Roussel (hand) shut down for the remainder of the season and Patrick Eaves, Jordie Benn and Johnny Oduya playing on other teams, Dallas has cleared the decks for next season.
Yes, there still is much to do — like determine the fate of the coaching staff and the two goalies — but, for now, getting a look at improving youngsters is a very good thing.
Curtis McKenzie, Remi Elie and Jason Dickinson have represented the Stars’ young forward group with increasing skill and confidence, and one of the most highly anticipated Cedar Park call-ups has just joined the big team. During a brief stint in Dallas last November, Julius Honka dazzled both fans and media types – so much so that The Hockey News ranked him with the likes of Pavel Zacha, Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews among the top NHL debuts of 2016:
Honka may be ending his three-year AHL career at 191 games. He should play in all six of the Stars' final games of the season and then is a candidate to be an NHL regular next season. He might never see the minors again. The 21-year-old is a skilled right-handed defenseman, and it looks like he could be the kind of player who could help fix the blue line in 2017-18.
"It's good to see the younger players and let them get a chance to see the NHL," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We're in a place where we need them to play important roles and we need them to play well."
There’s more at Mike’s place. [SportsDayDFW]
Score aside, Jamie Benn and Jordie Benn will always have special memories of Tuesday’s Stars-Canadiens game.
"It was a pretty cool experience for myself and Jord. I'll probably remember that one for a while." pic.twitter.com/WWGkFG0qeI— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 29, 2017
Last night in the Central:
- The Chicago Blackhawks won their sixth straight game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1. [Second City Hockey]
- The Colorado Avalanche continued their uncontested run to the league’s worst record, losing 5-3 to the Washington Capitals. [Mile High Hockey]
- And the St. Louis Blues moved further up the division standings with a 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. [NHL]
It looks as if NHL teams prefer to announce their protected-player expansion draft lists themselves, rather than keep them private now and see them leaked later. [NHL]
It also looks as if the league doesn’t plan to let the KHL have the China market all to itself.
Looks like Gary Betman finally found a rink where he does not get booed. It's located in Beijing but you gotta start somewhere.— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) March 30, 2017
Speaking of which, Elliotte Friedman received an IOC e-mail suggesting that if the NHL wants to play in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – and they do – they’ll need to reconsider their stance on 2018 in PyeongChang. [Sportsnet]
Meanwhile, the IIHF has agreed to pick up travel and insurance costs for participating players – but the league is angling for Top Sponsor status or its equivalent, which will allow the NHL to market the Games on its own platforms and effectively give them special treatment over, well, every other sporting federation. [Reuters]
From the Rookie Scoring Title to the Race to Fire Willie Desjardins, Dave Lozo tracks 10 races to watch as the regular season ends.
It’s still a good idea not to face the #MurderDeathKill Division the moment you enter the playoffs, and that’s why the Western Conference wildcard race is worth keeping an eye on, writes Jared Clinton. [The Hockey News]
The Texas Stars are on a road trip this weekend, but fans can still gather: There will be watch parties at Pluckers Lakeline on Friday and Sunday.
Finally: THE PLAYOFFS NOVELTY SONGS ARE HERE YOU GUYS, and the first one over the hill is by a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan (is there any other kind?) named Azeem Haq. Enjoy.