Around the Stars Universe Vol. 1

Let‘s call it a bit of an experiment. I have (probably way too many) thoughts about the Dallas Stars organization. This is the way of putting them out there, when one thought alone is just too big for a tweet and also too short for an article itself.

Following the Dallas Stars from overseas is a challenge sometimes. Friday night, it meant going to sleep a bit earlier and waking up at 3.00 AM to catch at least two periods of Stars hockey, for example. Try to do that with a two-year old in a three-bedroom apartment, I dare you.

Luckily, new coach Pete DeBoer implemented a new system which a) kept me awake without additional supplements that shouldn’t be consumed at that hour and b) is somehow not affecting my mental stability and nerve system, especially when holding a lead. That may change as the year goes on but those are my early findings from the first two games of the season.

The observations seem almost scientific.

One of the quirks of watching the games early in the morning, or late in the night, depending whether your age begins with number 1, 2 (night) or higher (morning) is that seldom I have the cerebral capacity to react and post my aftergame thoughts immediately and in digestible manner for you, the reader. Sometimes, it’s positive – as all the feelings and information can be folded into your brain and with a bit of a sleep afterwards, you can analyze the things that happened better.

It also causes situations where there are so many things happening I want to touch on, that it’s just way too much information for my Twitter feed. It’s also probably not worthy of an article itself (at least not in my regard) therefore I’m setting up my semi-regular article Around the Stars Universe. It will be a collection of thoughts and the following thought process behind them, all put together in one article. An emptying of the notebook, if you will.

Just to get you more acquainted with how this article was made, I wrote the main part below on my notepad in my car while waiting for my daughter to wake up from her daytime nap this Sunday, the day (or just a few hours) after the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators 5-1.

Jacob Peterson scratched in the first two games

Jacob Peterson started the season as a healthy scratch in the first two regular season games for the Dallas Stars. That was followed after Pete DeBoer called his performances in training camp and preseason games downright average. Peterson is still a waiver-exempt player, so the logical question arises. Wouldn’t it be better to call up a forward like Tanner Kero to play 13th forward and possibly let him jump into the lineup for a short while in the case of an injury?

You can always juggle players up and down as you need but from a development perspective it doesn’t seem ideal to have a player like Jacob Peterson sit for a longer than just a few days. He’s still only 23 years old and while he jumped into the lineup without needing an extra long adjustment period in the AHL last year, maybe now he needs a little bit more than sitting in the press box. In the minors, you have players who are more suited for a 13th forward role as their development curve has stopped, be it the aforementioned Tanner Kero or even a new free agent acquisition like Riley Barber.

Dallas plays Winnipeg tonight and then they travel East for a four game road trip that also includes a set of back-to-back games. Peterson will probably go on the trip with the Stars as there is a bigger chance he will see a game or two, mainly because of the congested schedule where coaching staff might rotate some players in and out of the lineup.

Matej Blumel (and possibly others) already seriously asking for NHL looks

That the Stars have sent young 22-year old Czech forward Matej Blumel to the AHL affiliate Texas Stars relatively soon during the preseason was a surprising move to many, including me. He was having a very strong camp before being sent down and was also the most productive player in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, where he even registered a hat trick in a game against the St.Louis Blues.

Blumel apparently used the demotion to the AHL as a motivational fire underneath him and started the season for the Texas Stars with guns blazing. In the first game of the season, he scored a goal and added an assist in a loss vs. the Colorado Eagles, the minor league affiliate of the current Stanley Cup Champions. He even improved his stats in a rematch the day after, where he scored two goals and helped Texas get the first win in a season, overpowering the Eagles 5-1.

(Funnily enough, both NHL and AHL teams of the Stars organization started their respective games at the same time and therefore finished more or less at the same time, but with the same 5-1 result for the both Stars teams.)

If Blumel continues to shine for the Texas Stars, it will only be a matter of time until he is called up to play his first game in the NHL. Be it only a performance merit question, the call up could happen pretty soon but there are also cap implications that may postpone the decision. Dallas currently has only a smidge over $140,000 in cap space and probably aren’t in a rush to send somebody down as their record is still a perfect 1.000 and the oldest coaches’ cliche is that you should never change the winning team.

Maybe a little swap with Jacob Peterson could make sense? When we talk about a possible swap, could we make a point that a line of Blumel - Riley Damiani - Marián Studenič could be as effective as the current fourth line of Joel Kiviranta - Radek Faksa - Luke Glendening, while costing the Dallas Stars about $3.4 million less in cap space? Yes, before you say it, I know there would be less “veterans” and “grit” in the line-up. Consider it as just a small food for thought.

Anton Khudobin with a strong first game for Texas

Anton Khudobin made 30 saves on 31 shots with a 96.8% save percentage in a 5-1 win over the Colorado Eagles, his first match of the season. This is a great bounce back sign not only for a 36 year old netminder coming from a surgery and shaky preseason but also for the Dallas general manager Jim Nill and other GMs in the league, too.

During the summer, it was often discussed how the Stars should trade Khudobin and his $3.3 million cap hit to alleviate some cap issues and allocate that space to a more cost-efficient player in the lineup. The byline of that trade was always the price of getting rid of the contract Khudobin has, be it an effective roster player like Joel Kiviranta, some B-level prospect like Riley Tufte, or a draft pick.

None of that materialized as Nill didn’t find a dance partner for such a trade, but make no mistake. While Nill said they expected Khudobin to be ready for a training camp, there were also rumors that they were actively offering him (and mostly his contract) to other teams. With the questions looming over Khudobin’s ability to play meaningful games at the NHL level ever again, you’d need to entice other teams with a sweetener that Jim Nill simply wasn’t ready to offer.

However, if Anton Khudobin continues to play like he did in his first official game after his injury, maybe there won’t even be a need to sweeten the pot for other teams to facilitate a trade. There are teams with cap space that could accommodate Khudobin’s contract as we speak, they just don’t need to at this moment. When an opportunity arises, Jim Nill has to be ready to react. If he manages to obtain any draft pick for Khudobin, the potential trade should be seen as a win already. Just trading him to another team for future considerations might be seen as a victory to some.

And even if Nill either decides to keep the veteran goalie for a longer while, that’s still acceptable, too, for the moment. He’s still a serviceable guy and if he gains more confidence with expanded playing time in the AHL, he could be one of the best third goalie options out there. Or his contract could be a potential trade facilitator come trade deadline in early March.

As it is probably evident, I do love working around with cap and also yes, unnecessary cap space is my personal pet peeve. Just with the last two thoughts there is a potential of saving  $5.6 million of it. But I digress...

Lian Bichsel article teaser and some early impressions of him:

Finally, during the weekend , the Dallas Stars first round pick from the 2022 NHL Draft — Lian Bichsel — played around 29 minutes of ice-time altogether over the two games against Timra and Växjö, where his team, Leksand IF, conceded only 1 goal against.

According to some sources covering Leksand IF, those two games were probably the best showings Bichsel had this season. That his game is seemingly developing from game to game is a great sign of him adjusting to ťhe professional hockey level as well as getting more comfortable playing tougher minutes against men in a very tough European league. He has already played 9 games for Leksand IF as he’s stapled to a third defensive pair with Jonas Anghelov but also logging from 13 to 16 minutes a game.

Earlier last week, I had a chance to talk to Rasmus Näsman, a local journalist and Leksand IF beat writer, who has seen Bichsel and his progression ever since the young prospect arrived in Leksand, Sweden from his home country, Switzerland. Also thanks to his insights I have prepared a rather extensive feature on Bichsel which should be published in the coming days.

In the article, you will also find an exclusive opinion of a hockey scout on Bichsel as well as his closest player comparable and also the actual timeline of when we can realistically see towering Bichsel in a Victory Green. Apart from that, there will be many more interesting tidbits from people watching Bichsel closely for multiple years, head of scouting or general manager of the team, and also some other nuggets about another young Stars defenseman, who honed his craft in Sweden and has been a revelation under Pete DeBoer so far.

I sincerely hope you’ll like it as it was probably the most interesting piece I have written, so far. At least to me it was, thus I hope your reading experience will be the same.