The player who’s spawned his own social-media movement remains something of an enigma to his own team as they try to find his highest and best use, writes The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika. (As an aside, should we read anything into last night’s significant increase in ice time?)
The Stars are trying to find the right use for Julius Honka this season, and that’s been a moving target. Honka returned to the lineup Tuesday after four healthy scratches. He has played 25 games and has three points (one goal, two assists). He’s averaging 13 minutes, 49 seconds in time on ice, and the coaches clearly are protecting him when he is in the lineup.
”It’s a process to learn how to play defense in the NHL,” said Stars general manager Jim Nill. “It takes time.”
“I don’t think at any time we put a guy in if we don’t think he can help us win,” [head coach Ken] Hitchcock said. “I don’t think you can bring a guy in and say, ‘Let’s have this guy gain some experience.’ That’s what the American Hockey League is for. We’re in the winning business. If Honks looks like he can help us win, we’ll play him.”
Of course, at the ripe old age of 22, Honka is already a seasoned AHL veteran with nearly four years in the Stars organization under his belt, including three in Cedar Park as an everyday player. And after the departures this season of fellow high draft picks Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth – defensemen whose own development often came under question by frustrated fans – the talented Finn is balancing his own expectations on a daily basis:
“It is hard. Let’s be honest, it’s hard,” Honka said of remaining patient. “But at the same time, it’s always fun to come to the rink and do anything. So I just want to enjoy what I’m doing and try not to think about too many things and then just play my game.”
“I know exactly how they want me to play and what they want me to do, so I just have to go out there and do it. ... It’s just be smart, be calm, play hockey. You just have to go out and do it.”
Mike has more. [SportsDayDFW]
Here’s Hitch discussing the method behind his management of Honka.
Honka returns to the lineup tonight, and Hitch takes 90 seconds to explain his approach with the young defenseman and how he manages his playing time. pic.twitter.com/zN72jPkEwM— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 30, 2018
Elsewhere in Heika: Here’s the postgame roundup from last night’s game in the AAC, featuring Tyler Seguin, Darcy Kuemper and more.
From Heika’s weekly chat: Mike tackles the burning question of why backup goalies have become the Stars’ kryptonite.
Stars fans have determined the final duel in the Defining Moments bracket: Are you in for #BennArtRoss or #99Cup?
After months of voting, we've reached the end of our Defining Moments Fan Vote and only two moments remain. Which one is the quintessential moment in Dallas Stars history?#BennArtRoss vs. #99Cup pic.twitter.com/2BPL3JH5dT— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 29, 2018
Dan Hamhuis reached a major milestone with his 1,000th NHL start last night.
Congratulations on 1,000 NHL games, Hammer! pic.twitter.com/i67CjKprhA— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 31, 2018
The Hangar has a special puck to commemorate it.
The Stars, of course, are also part of this NHL tribute to Jaromir Jagr, now playing for HC Kladno.
Around the League(s)
Last Night In #Death
Never give a Central Division team an opening:
- Michael Hutchinson backstopped the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in his season debut. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
- Zach Parise was the shootout hero for the Minnesota Wild as they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2. [Hockey Wilderness]
- Goalie Carter Hutton got his eighth win in his past 10 games as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1. [Eyes On The Prize]
- In Central-on-Central violence, the Chicago Blackhawks won the four-point game against the Nashville Predators, 2-1. [Second City Hockey]
- And the Colorado Avalanche broke a 10-game win streak, falling to the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime. [Mile High Hockey]
Here’s what the division standings look like after last night.
And the Vegas Golden Knights made history with last night’s 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames: They’re now tied at 33 with the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers for most wins by an NHL team in its inaugural season.
So which team lost the biggest to Vegas during the NHL Expansion Draft? Find out where the Stars land in Down Goes Brown’s Regret Rankings.
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who has set a priority on filling the lower bowl at PNC Arena for all home games, will implement a plan for tonight's Ottawa game allowing everyone to sit in the lower level. Or the suites, if need be. Even the owner's suite. Story coming.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) January 30, 2018
Greg Wyshynski has a story on how the Texas billionaire wants to embrace the team’s Hartford Whalers history. On the table: playing games in the classic jersey, and perhaps even a home match in Connecticut. [ESPN]
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders will return to Nassau Coliseum for 12 games in 2018-19, which sounds like it may be the hockey version of going on a few dates with your ex to see if there’s still something there.
The NCAA has produced some of this season’s biggest rookie stars, including the 2018 All-Star MVPs from the NHL, AHL and ECHL.
Meanwhile, Kailer Yamamoto tops Ryan Kennedy’s list of prospects to watch. [The Hockey News]
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park
AHL president Dave Andrews’ All-Star Weekend press conference included some realignment news: The Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage will leave the Pacific Division for (probably) the Central in May. [100 Degree Hockey]
Ben Bishop may have taken last night’s loss, but these fans still have faith. Enjoy.