The season in Dallas is officially done, and unfortunately for their AHL affiliate, so it goes for hockey in the Texas on the whole.
Texas went 1-3 in week 26, letting in 16 goals over their four game span. The offense didn't lend much of a helping hand either. Nor did their special teams, which still "boasts" an inert power play, and a league worst penalty kill (is there an echo?). For fans of hockey in general, however, there are often silver linings.
The most shocking narrative for Dallas fans is the conttribution of their AHL prospects at the NHL level.
Devin Shore and Jason Dickinson have been highly touted prospects who everyone (except me in Shore's case) knew offered value to the Dallas club. They had the stats and the pedigree to establish themselves in future roles.
But who pegged Remi Elie, Gemel Smith, and Justin Dowling to look like rock stars in victory green? They probably won't form the talented riffs of a Soundgarden, but they're getting close to Tad status; music that won't reinvent the wheel, but that offers an aggressive facsimile you welcome nonetheless.
We Don't Need to Talk About Stransky, but I Will
Forgive me, but this season has made me ornery. A lot of players given the "not ready" bumper sticker have jumped into the NHL with a positive impact, and suddenly we're supposed to reserved skepticism for Texas' leading goal scorer?
Stransky eclipsed his previous goal high of 23 by scoring his 24th last week.
That's only 3 less goals than all of Smith, Dowling, and Elie's goal totals in Texas combined? 24 goals isn't a magic number for an AHL forward. But Stransky offers more than a finishing touch. He plays the game of a strong possession forward; protects the puck well, dangles in tight spaces despite his size, and logs minutes on the penalty kill. Smith and Dowling deserved their call ups. But with Dallas' short supply of right shot right wingers, it's strange to see Stransky remain quiet within Dallas' HQ. Stransky's not the future of wing in Dallas. But you could probably stick him at center with Jamie Benn, and he'd be good for at least 3 goals. I can't think of a single player in Dallas who could underachieve that bad.
Denis the Shorthanded Menace
I won't always talk about the same players in these reports, I promise, but it's impossible to avoid talking about Dallas' recent number one pick.
Denis Gurianov has led an interesting season, and I don't mean "interesting" in a passive aggressive or overly diplomatic way. I'm genuinely interested in his bowling game, what it's like to have your coach help you get your driver's license, and how much he enjoys Brandon DeFazio help him pay the water bill.
Within the culture shock, Gurianov has progressed from a 4th line winger, to a top six role trusted in shorthanded situations.
Gurianov will naturally be compared to Valeri Nichushkin. And that comparison will often have combative tones given Nuke’s decision to “run” to the KHL. Two things: Nichushkin was never a liability, and the modest drama of his departure should be seen through the lens of a prospect still growing. Second, Gurianov is a very different player, and his commitment to playing defensively is simply more embedded in his DNA (the prospect of them together being centered by Jason Spezza, or a youngster with promise like Roope Hintz should be a goal, not a conflict). He made a brilliant play against Stockton to puckjack a Stockton forward on a backjack for a partial breakaway on the counterattack.
On the defensive front, Gavin Bayreuther continues to stand out, but I’ll have a more in depth profile for the summer. Even though Texas won’t be making the playoffs, Nicholas Caamano will be joining the team in Cedar Park, so the storylines continue with just six games (mostly against San Antonio) remaining.