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Weekly Roundup: Polák and Honka, Kittens, and De Facto Captains

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Let’s take a bullet train through some of the news over this past week

2016 NHL All-Star Fan Fair - Day 2 Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images

Welcome to the Roundup. Every week(ish), I’m going to be attempting a quick tour back through the major and minor points of interest that I don’t get to in other pieces.

It’s the rootinest, tootinest roundup since, like, every other roundup.

Jamie Benn and “de facto” Captains

Former Dallas Stars Senior Reporter Scott Burnside (or whatever his title was for last year) had a pretty odd aside in a column for The Athletic earlier this week:

Folks in Boston couldn’t say enough bad things about Tyler Seguin when he was shipped off to Dallas.

That’s the same Tyler Seguin who scored 40 times last season, inked an eight-year contract extension this offseason and has become the de facto captain of that team.

Now, that’s a pretty weird thing to just toss out there, especially after Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts podcast a few weeks ago where they also mentioned that some within the Dallas Stars organization believe Jamie Benn has more to give.

I think two things can be true here:

  1. Jamie Benn had an inconsistent season last year, even if his scoring did eventually total up all right
  2. Tyler Seguin is clearly more extroverted than Benn, even though the two get along famously

Now, you don’t need me to tell you that extroverts tend to look more like leaders to the outside observer. Certainly they can be! And Jamie Benn’s “lead by example” style might have seemed, to Burnside in his one year with the team, not as “captainy” as more vocal leaders on other clubs.

Still, I don’t think there’s really much fire behind this smoke. Jamie Benn is highly respected by his teammates, and Tyler Seguin is never, ever going to want to take away from that. These are two different guys who both have some charisma, even if Benn’s manifests itself in a less vocal way (in the public eye, anyway).

If anything, I think comments like the one by Burnside just illustrate how the Stars have, finally, multiple strong leaders on the team. I don’t see any sort of Morrow/Modano captaincy re-assignment nightmare happening anytime soon.

(And, for what it’s worth, Morrow and Modano still got along great after that whole fiasco was butchered by team management, continuing to have breakfast with each other every week. Sometimes* the media make things sound more dramatic than they really are.)

*sorry about that, btw

Julius Honka, Roman Polák and Size Mattering

Here’s how Mike Heika addressed Julius Honka’s status in the lineup in a Q&A session this week:

When Stephen Johns suffered his neck/headache issue, it pretty much put Roman Polak in the lineup. When you have Klingberg, Heiskanen and Honka in, that’s just not enough size to go against most NHL lineups. So until Johns returns or until the Stars face a smaller lineup, I don’t see Honka coming in for Polak. He could come in for Connor Carrick, but Carrick has more experience and a thicker trunk, and that’s been two things the coaches believe are helpful. Certainly against a bigger Anaheim lineup, I would think they go with Polak and Carrick again. If Johns comes back and you can ponder a lineup where he and Honka are paired or Methot and Honka are paired, that’s when I think you might see Honka again.

I’m not going to get caught up in the term “thicker trunk” here even though it’s literally the first time I’ve ever seen this written as a compliment about a hockey player. Upper body size is nice, but it’s about how you use it. Besides, your legs are what generate so much more of your power than your torso, just like with pitchers in baseball.

Here’s the thing about size mattering: it’s only an issue if the bigger player’s size actually means they are less vulnerable to exploitation by the other team. So far, Roman Polák has fired a dump-in/icing attempt into Blake Comeau’s hand from 20 feet away, found himself stripped of the puck on an attempted deke with no support to surrender a breakaway against Toronto, and gotten himself out of position to open lanes to the net for a couple of goals against.

So, sure; size can help defend the crease, but only if you’re actually there to defend it in the first place. I don’t think Julius Honka should be killing penalties (which is, to be fair, a strength of Polák’s) or anything, but if he’s out of the lineup solely because he’s smaller (which I don’t think is the case at all), then the Dallas Stars are woefully behind the times.

No, I’m more inclined to believe that Jim Montgomery changed his mind somewhere in between preseason and opening night. Why he changed his mind is still up for debate, but there’s no doubt that both philosophically and observationally speaking, Honka is a better fit for the sort of team Montgomery would like to have. I don’t think this is quite a Martin Hanzal signing yet, where it seems (though of course we don’t know this at all) like a player was brought in whose game is inconsistent with Nill’s wishes. But I do know that Montgomery probably doesn’t keep the great skater who can help with transition play in an uptempo system benched without good reason(s).

Of course, Stephen Johns’s lingering headache issues might just mean the Stars wanted another right-handed defender to kill penalties, and maybe it’s as simple as that. Either way, I’d give it some time before we start flipping our collective lid over Honka being benched. The organization surely wouldn’t let yet another first-rounder’s trade value continue to plummet before eventually dumping him for a 4th-round pick, right, ha ha ha

Kittens and Scoring Threats

Much ado was made among Stars fans this summer about the lack of a move for secondary scoring. That hasn’t quite gone away with Devin Shore currently as the only non-Big 4 scorer in Big D. Head coach Jim Montgomery decided that three games was enough for him to put the other three lines into the blender and hopefully create a new concoction when the Anaheim Ducks come to town tomorrow night.

What does scoring threats have to do with kittens, you ask? Nothing, we just like floof balls.