Not even a game into the season and the Dallas Stars have a morning skate with some surprising news to report.
Julius Honka, the first round pick from 2014 and a promising young puck-moving defensemen, will be a healthy scratch tonight. It’s a move that is unexpected because Honka seems to suit the system new head coach Jim Montgomery wants to put in place (aggressive and puck-moving are two hallmarks of his system). With Stephen Johns suffering from post-traumatic headaches and unavailable for the time being, it seemed Honka was penned into a starting spot in the lineup.
Now, it seems that place will go to Connor Carrick, the 24-year old puck mover acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday morning. Carrick has had two days of practice to acclimate to Montgomery’s system. When asked at morning skate about the decision to put Carrick in over Honka tonight, Montgomery told assembled media that “We want to see him play with more pace, take away time and space better.”
It seems there is still some competition in the bottom pairing right now among the seven healthy blueliners.
Montgomery on shaping tonight's d-men, with Carrick and Polak in: “We knew who the top four were, it was the bottom three. The two who defended the best were going to be the two that go in today’s game, and those two defended the best yesterday in practice.”— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) October 4, 2018
The return of Johns when he is healthy is likely to further muddy the waters, so getting into games now and making a case for consistent playing time is key for Carrick, Honka, and Polak.
The rest of the lineup for tonight hasn’t changed all that much. Valeri Nichushkin will remain out with a day-to-day lower body injury, and Gemel Smith will be the healthy scratch among the forward group. Lines at morning skate were as follows:
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Blake Comeau
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick
Jason Dickinson – Roope Hintz – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Marc Methot – Miro Heiskanen
Connor Carrick – Roman Polak
Ben Bishop will start the game as expected.
That’s not the ideal defense Dallas Stars fans had penciled in to start the season. It’s a little less mobile than most would probably have picked, but there’s one thing fans do not have the insight into - and that’s how players are picking up the system and how fast they’ve assimilated to play it when the games start to matter. Some might just need more time than others. After all, training camp opened just three weeks ago, and there haven’t been a lot of practices in between preseason contests. With a lighter schedule to start the season and plenty of days for practice and additional video review time, you’d think that Honka will be able to get up to speed soon and crack the lineup.
Now if it’s 10 games into the season and it’s still something like the above, then something has likely gone very wrong in Big D.