The Dallas Stars’ extra-thin blueline has been an area of need ever since Sergei Zubov packed up his skates and headed home to Russia. After a near-interminable series of drafting and signing hits and misses – plus one epic lottery win (o hai Miro Heiskanen) – they now have a stable of talented young defensemen, both in Big D and in the pipeline.
So why in the world did Stephen Johns languish in 2016-17? Why did the organization starve Julius Honka for ice time this year? And why are putative cast-offs Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak finally playing to their potential on other teams?
Mike Heika is frustrated, too, and now he’s ready to share. The Dallas Morning News hockey writer discussed the issue during his weekly chat on Monday, April 23:
I think [the Stars] needed to pick the one or two [prospects] they wanted and then trust their development. There was too much forcing the player to prove himself (especially against another young defenseman) and it created, in my opinion, an environment where the player was afraid to make a mistake.
They also didn’t need to bring in the safety nets of veteran defensemen, because I think it was too easy for the coaches to choose the veterans. I think Stephen Johns was better this season, because he knew he had the room to make mistakes. That’s needed for a young defenseman. I also would like it if the coach could take a more patient approach to the season. It would be to see a team start with patience and end with a push. I think you can build young players with that philosophy.
By the way, among other things, Mike is willing to place odds that Valeri Nichushkin will be back in Victory Green next season:
Pretty close to 100 percent. I think he wants to be in Dallas, and the presence of Alexander Radulov will help.
Mike has more. [SportsDayDFW]
Whose celly is worth celebrating: the Jamie Benn stick break, or the Radulov sword sheath? @DallasStars is asking you – yeah, you.
Which is the better celly? Benn going full Bo Jackson or classic Rads? Vote using the poll below! pic.twitter.com/QL2drSFAZA— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) April 24, 2018
Here’s a little something from the wayback machine. The Dallas Morning News reposts the saga of how Roger Staubach – then (maybe still) the biggest athletic star in the Dallas firmament, ever – added the extra push that brought the North Stars to Big D.
And in former Stars news, congratulations are in order for Julie and Ales Hemsky, whose first child, Milo Aleš Hemský, was born late Monday night.
Snuggly, super comfy and identical to daddy— Julie Hemsky (@JugarNspice) April 24, 2018
Milo Aleš Hemský
Born at 10:29pm
April 23 / 2018
8lbs 1oz / 51cm
Strong, healthy and adorable. We are over the moon ♥️
.#PuddinIsHere #HavingAHemsky #MiloHemsky pic.twitter.com/ESmH8mfGlf
Around the League(s): The Playoffs Continue
It was oh so quiet in Stanley Cup action yesterday, but there’s a huge Game 7 coming up tonight. The Boston Bruins hope home ice tilts in their favor as they take on a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that battled back from near-disaster to force a final showdown. [CBC]
The league has announced the finalists for the 2018 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. Deryk Engelland, Wayne Simmonds and Blake Wheeler, please make your way to the front of the room.
Elsewhere, Kevin Allen names six players, from Sean Couturier to Mark Scheifele, who have boosted their own stock with star-making first-round performances.
Six star-worthy performers with improved reputations after fast starts in NHL playoffs. https://t.co/Srhw2WW9yI— Kevin Allen (@ByKevinAllen) April 23, 2018
The Washington Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, again. Now they have to shake the Ghost of Playoffs Past, who looks kinda like that dude from Happy Feet, if he had Evgeni Malkin’s face.
another year, another second round matchup in the playoffs between Pittsburgh and Washington -- is it time for the Capitals to get over their Penguins problem? https://t.co/XRsDEVqlw8— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) April 24, 2018
Playoffs season means open season on general managers. The Minnesota Wild, frustrated after another first-round elimination, have dissolved their partnership with Chuck Fletcher.
Elsewhere, the Winnipeg Jets took their time and did it right. Now they have a real contender on their hands, writes Adam Gretz.
The Winnipeg Jets built a Stanley Cup contender by pretty much doing nothing. Smart strategy? Lot of luck? Maybe all of the above? Either way they are in a great position right now by simply not doing anything dumb. https://t.co/uNz6aRK6JN | @NHLonNBCSports— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) April 24, 2018
Meanwhile, about the Nashville Predators’ ZIP code-based ticket restrictions:
Winnipeg fans are upset at Nashville’s policy on restricting visiting fans, but don’t seem to realize Winnipeg restricts visiting fans through its policy of being located in Winnipeg.— J.R. Lind (@jrlind) April 24, 2018
ECHL referee Andrea Barone was in love with hockey by the time he was 18 months old. But he nearly left the sport after one too many of the anti-gay slurs that are too much a part of sports culture. Jason Buckland writes about what “you can play” has to mean, now and in the future.
A Gay Referee Tries to Find His Place in Hockey https://t.co/BLtsETGCVA— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) April 24, 2018
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park: Round Two, Baby!
The Texas Stars owe Mike McKenna a nice dinner after this one. But knowing Mike he'd probably prefer to cook the meal himself. pic.twitter.com/BhPGJjXJ7p— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) April 25, 2018
Denis Gurianov got the winning goal with this sweet follow-up on a Roope Hintz rebound, and now I’m having a lot of emotions, as should you be.
Gurianov buries a rebound after initial shot by Hintz. 1-0 Texas pic.twitter.com/5uMIs132gU— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) April 25, 2018
The Boise Bandwagon
The Idaho Steelheads refused to lie down and die with a playoffs series on the line. After coming within a hair’s breadth of getting swept by the Allen Americans, they’ve won three in a row to force Game 7, scheduled for tonight in CenturyLink Arena. Way to be, Steel.
Forward Cole Ully scored his first professional playoffs goal, and it turned out to be the game-winner. As second Star of the Night, he spoke with the media after the 6-3 win.
Relive the first round through a selection of the best images from NHL.com. Enjoy.