77.4% of the league is on their bye week right now, so NHL content is a little light, which is unfortunate for us Links writers. With that being said...
The first several weeks of the season were quite frustrating for Stars fans. They didn’t come out guns blazing like some thought they would and their play was a lot more reminiscent of last season’s slog than the 1st place performance of 2015-2016. And while the team still has some inconsistent and underwhelming games (last Tuesday vs. Columbus comes to mind), it seems like things are finally starting to click for Ken Hitchcock and Co.:
The Stars have come a long way. After a bumpy start to the season that saw them go 9-9-1 in their first 19 games, the Stars have gone 15-7-2 since Nov. 18 and are tied for the third-most points in the NHL during that stretch. That run has helped push them into a playoff position, the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Hitch has a few favorite buzzwords/phrases that he likes to return to again and again: “greasy”, “identity”, “hard to play against”, and “I love players with size” come to mind (maybe I made one of those up). Whatever fans and the DBD community thinks of some of Hitch’s comments, however, his message seems to be getting through to the locker room:
“I can name you a few teams in the league that already have that identity and they are the top teams in the league,” said forward Brett Ritchie. “If we can be known as one of those teams and be consistent with our work, whether it is physicality or speed or both, we don’t want teams to look at the calendar and say, ‘Okay, we’re playing the Stars.’ “
Let’s hope they can keep up their recent play and keep the kaizen going. Mark Stepneski’s piece goes into much more detail here.
Around the League
If you’re jonesing for some hockey this week with 24 teams on buy, here is a concise little list of the few games that are being played and where you can watch them. [Sporting News]
Speaking of which, there was one game last night. The BJs beat the MLs in OT:
Rob Mixer Mixed Bag is out, in which he bases his entire analysis of the Stars’ legitimacy on one game that he watched. [Sporting News]
This looks about right. I still think it’s so much of an advantage for teams in the Northeast that they barely have to travel at all for divisional games:
How we'd realign the NHL divisions after expansion to Seattle https://t.co/F5BlY3FADe— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 8, 2018
Down Goes Brown takes a deep dive into #MDK:
From earlier: A look through the Central, including the intriguing prospect of the Jets as big trade deadline players. Plus two new teams join the power rankings and lots more in the Weekend Wrap. https://t.co/QOX36WqTuI pic.twitter.com/DHY70Cil24— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) January 8, 2018
Especially when the Stars play them in Colorado:
Not looking good for Jaromir Jagr fans...
With #Flames en route to Minnesota today, RW Jaromir Jagr is not travelling with team. It's been reported that a Flames-Jagr divorce is in works, but team has remained tight-lipped. Officially, he's day-to-day with injury.— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) January 8, 2018
Who should be on the All Star teams? The ESPN crew gives you their takes. [ESPN]