The Texas Stars, like the Dallas Stars, are officially prepping for the proverbial golf course, which means I get to wax optimistic about next season.
Texas finished with a 34-37-1-4 record.
Travis Morin led the team in points, with 55. Matej Stransky led the team in goals, with 27. And you probably don’t want to know the save percentage of the goalies, so we’ll stop there.
Amidst the failures were various successes.
Denis Gurianov: Sooner over Later?
The 19 year old Russian rookie started the season slow; a byproduct of playing 4th line minutes, and a feature of making the dramatic transition into a foreign land. But by the end of the season, he got more than just pressbox chicken fingers for Dallas, and made the most of the second half.
This past week he scored back to back game winners against San Antonio.
This solo effort was remarkable for a number of reasons that require no further comment, really. And this one:
A good look at his ability to go to the net and fish for rebounds.
“Is he ready?” fans often ask. He’s talented enough to push the play forward in limited minutes. He’s quick enough to play the energy role. He has the profile to make a positive impact in Dallas. Is that enough for the organization to trust Gurianov in a small role over a veteran in a specific role? That seems to be the question for a team trying to capitalize on Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg’s prime years.
I’ve said my peace before. I believe Gurianov would benefit in an energy role at the NHL level. In part because I believe ‘development’, such as it is, happens easier for forwards than defensemen. Making the most of your talents follows a linear process for wingers; you create chances, don’t take too many risks, and let your instincts guide you. Defensemen have to do much more, such as reading, anticipation, in addition to using their talents. Defense is a collective effort, so this shouldn’t minimize the role wingers play away from the puck. But the last stretch saw Gurianov on Derek Laxdal’s penalty kill, which speaks to Gurianov’s maturity as well as talent.
The blueline situation in Cedar Park is at a crossroads. Mattias Backman, a player I’ve been high on, was loaned to Hershey. Ludwig Bystrom, another defensemen I’ve been high on, had a tough season thanks to ill-timed injuires. And then there’s everyone else.
Matt Mangene, Dustin Stevenson, Darren Dietz, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Nick Ebert are more or less, career AHL’ers. Dillon Heatherington has looked good as a stay at home type, but he’s not all that different from Patrik Nemeth.
Chris Martenet and Ondrej Vala got some looks the past two weeks. Vala, called up from the Kamloops Blazers, stood out as a no-nonsense blueliner with the size of a small building. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses next season. Martenet, even when he drew into the lineup, simply didn’t get enough minutes to make an impression.
Needless to say, this is not the blueline that used to boast Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, and Stephen Johns.
However, as I noted in Texas’ April 15th contest, Gavin Bayreuther continues to impress. Despite his profile as an offensive defensemen, killing penalties and his general IQ have allowed him to brew a unique stew of zone exit flash with a low key shutdown capacity.
This and That (copyright, Steven Simmons)
- The most talented forwards, Stransky and Gurianov, will likely start in Texas next season. It’s a barren looking forward core to start next season, but there are a few caveats.
- Roope Hintz looked brilliant in Finland for HIFK in the second half of the season, and throughout the Liiga playoffs. How he continues to develop, and how soon Jim Nill will want to see him in Texas is a question mark, but what is not is the hype surrounding him.
- Nicholas Caamano played for Texas in April, eventually settling onto a line with Gemel Smith and Stransky. He plays a clean game; no wasted movement, and plays well positionally. However, it’s hard to forecast his ceiling.
- The blueline may or may not get some European reinforcements in Texas. John Nyberg, who has been logging prime minutes for Frolunda, is probably the best candidate now that Niklas Hansson has struggled just to dress for the bench.