Matching Minors: Opening Night Roster Questions, and Is Lindy Ruff Headed for the Hot Seat?
Marcus and Robert have a virtual sit-down to ponder what Lindy Ruff's Key Performance Indicators are for this year. Also, what will the opening night roster look like? Literally nobody knows, but I bet it will be written on paper.
Welcome to a no-longer-new feature in which two of our writers have a little back-and-forth about a pressing issue with the team. No matter how emotional the arguments get, just remember: hockey is a very big deal, and if you disagree with someone about it, that means they are wrong and deserve to be shouted at.
Robert: The Stars finally have more than a few great young players. This is great! Unfortunately, the Stars cannot have 27 people up in the NHL to start the season, so that means that choices must be made. What are those choices, and what implications might they have for Coach Ruff? Marcus is here to ask just those sorts of questions, and I am here to kind of muck around while he answers them. Let us away!
Q: Is this the roster (barring injury) that will skate against the Penguins on October 8th?
Robert: Yes. There is some "wiggle room" cap space left, but nothing that presages a significant move prior to the season. You have your 13 forwards and eight defensemen ready to go, so until something shakes loose on the back end--dance analogy--you are probably in WYSIWYG territory.
However, I seriously doubt that you'll still see this same group come later November. As I've been insufferably vocal about in the past, I don't see where Jamie Oleksiak fits into the long-term picture for this season. But of course injuries can always change things. Let's hope they don't.
Marcus: I almost agree with you, Robert. I wanted to. I tried really hard. I don't think there will be any more big moves, but one of the kid defensemen is going to get traded. Jim Nill understands that he has to posture, but is Jamie Oleksiak really going to sit in the press box until someone gets hurt?
Even then, that means the Stars dress 7 defensemen every night with one in the press box. I know all the hipsters are going to try and tell me how Dallas could easily dress 7 defensemen for a whole season, but I'm not buying it.
Robert: I guess it just comes down to whether you think a d-man is traded before or after the season starts. I tend to think that the Stars would like to see at least a handful of games with the kids before rendering final shape up/ship out judgments, but I certainly wouldn't be shocked if a move was made prior to game one.
Of course, we're talking about Jim Nill, so I wouldn't be shocked if he was actually in my garage fixing up my car right now. I don't have a garage, but he's just that sneaky.
Marcus: I am saying Oleksiak gets traded before Jim Nill finishes with your oil filter.
Q: Lindell, Johns, Faksa, Honka, etc. Which of these prospects will play the most games for the Dallas Stars next season?
Robert: Lefty/Righty is going to be the big thing, but given the glut of blue liners, I'd say Faksa might actually have the chance to rack up the most games. The Stars have a tad more flexibility on the forward side of the roster, so if he has as good a training camp as everyone is hoping for and a couple forwards miss a fair bit of time, Radek 2 could sneak in 30 games this season.
Marcus: I think you are spot on with the Lefty/Righty comment. In a vacuum, I think Lindell would be next in line. Ultimately I think you are right on Faksa for the reasons noted (depth, flexibility of the group, crowded blue line), though I don't think there is any way he plays in 30 games. I will say Faksa, with 18 games, in the Billiard Room. Injuries are key here. A trade of Oleksiak and an injury to Goose is all it would take for Lindell to break in.
Robert: The Stars are in this weirdly good position where they are finally equipped with good talent and a deep-ish roster, but the kids that most of us tend to expect to take a lot of those spots still aren't up yet. Oduya and Sharp aren't long-term solutions, but it certainly appears that players are going to have to fight for big-league spots much moreso than back in 2011. That's probably a good thing, but it's weird to have so many kids with decent potential and so few places in which to put them.
Marcus: Hard to disagree with anything in that comment. It is really amazing how quickly they have retooled down in Cedar Park. They won the whole thing two seasons ago, got swept by Rockford last season, and now they look stacked again. It will be interesting for me to see if these guys' play on the ice matches the pigeonholes they have been placed in by the fans.
Q: What does the team need to do this year to keep Lindy Ruff off of the hot seat?
Robert: I am assuming this is not a trick question--Win games, Stars!--so I will say they need to make the second round of the playoffs to keep things from getting awkward come year-end performance reviews.
To do that, they'll probably need what almost all Jack Adams coaches get: good goaltending. Yes, team defense is important etc etc, special teams play blah blah blah, but this team should put up at least a +20 goal differential even if Lindy Ruff spends half the season playing Candy Crush. Goaltending can cause and solve a lot of problems, but Niemi is one heck of an effective (and expensive) insurance policy.
Marcus: Unfortunately for Lindy Ruff, this is not a trick question. If the Stars miss the playoffs he may skip the "hot seat" stage and go straight to the unemployment line.
Lindy is a fine hockey coach. He is poised, very technical, and the players like him. If the Stars make the playoffs this season, Lindy will be comfortable. Some people don't want to hear it, but it's true. Nill is a patient man. Hopefully this is a moot point (I just wanted to type the word "moot", I think it looks funny).