Dallas Stars To Carry Eight Defensemen? Jim Nill Says So. We'll See.
I'm not convinced, and there isn't much that can be said to convince me short of the opening faceoff Thursday night.
The older I get the more and more value I get from one key idea: trust and believe in yourself and abilities because ultimately the person who will gain the most from you being you is you. From that comes peace from the comfort of trusting your instincts and a sincere willingness to respectfully question situations that don't seem quite right while still being able to trust in people who demonstrate competency.
Jim Nill has repeatedly shown himself to be more than competent at his job. His long career in hockey management gave him an impeccable resume when the Dallas Stars hired him, and the job he has done transforming the roster in his tenure as the general manager has been inspiring. We quite literally couldn't have asked for anyone to do anything more to improve the Stars than what Nill has done.
Trust. He's built an unprecedented level of trust between management and the fanbase in the post-Stanley Cup era. We need a better understanding of what that trust means though. It does not mean that everything Nill touches is gold or that every word out of his mouth is intended to enlighten us about the inner workings of a professional hockey team.
He does and will continue to make some moves that don't work out and he will continue to make statements in interviews that seem like they're telling us a lot. What Nill is usually doing is telling us things we already know because there is no reason whatsoever for Nill to publicly state anything of consequence about his team that we don't already know.
Jim Nill recently went on KTCK 1310 The Ticket and said "We are going to go with eight defensemen" for the upcoming season before listing reasons why they would be doing that. Might they keep eight defensemen? Sure, but Nill isn't going to tell anyone if the opposite is true. What benefit would the Stars see from announcing that they will carry a traditional roster featuring seven defensemen?
Let's sit down and examine this situation. The reason Nill gave for keeping eight to start the season is legitimate which is the beauty is his rhetorical skills. He isn't lying to anyone. The reason given is that injuries happen so the Stars need to be prepared. Nill then went on to mention the "four to five" guys they have in the AHL as depth also, which begs the question: "How much depth do you really need?"
That answer Nill offered is the most logical answer, but it doesn't pass the sniff test. If the Stars only carried seven defensemen they still have the depth to cover for injuries. The reality is that only carrying seven defensemen means that they'd be giving up on a younger player they claim to like, in this case the overwhelming favorite to be gone is Jamie Oleksiak. Every team in the league knows this. They have eyes. He would be claimed off waivers and the Stars would lose a recent first round pick for free.
As it stands now, the roster has no flexibility. Curtis McKenzie, Mattias Janmark, and Valeri Nichushkin are the only guys who might make the roster who can pass waivers to go to the AHL per hockeyscap. Nichushkin is on the roster for sure. Unless the Stars waive Travis Moen or Colton Sceviour one of McKenzie or Janmark will be removed from the roster. Janmark won't be going to the AHL, so the odd man out will probably be McKenzie through no fault of his own if the Stars carry eight blueliners.
If two forwards are suffering through minor injuries the Stars are going to have no options other than dressing seven defensemen and rotating a winger through the fourth line. They did it at times last year. It would almost have to happen if this scenario plays out. You never want to be in a situation where you're forced to make a decision. Carrying eight defensemen doesn't allow them much strategic wiggle room.
Could the Stars carry eight? Yes. They could also be listening to trade offers to run a more traditional 23 man roster out there on Thursday. The Stars might not move a defenseman within the next week, but it's pretty obvious that the situation is coming to a head in the near future one way or the other. They won't be able to run with eight defensemen long term.
Jim Nill deserves your trust, but not at the expense of realizing his motives. His job is 100% to make the Dallas Stars as good as he possibly can, and a big part of that job description is keeping a strong negotiating position. If the team does want to move a defenseman they aren't going to be able to get as much back for him if the league knows the Stars are shopping him.
Could the Stars carry eight? Yes, and all of the public comments suggest they will. But, trust your eyes over what you hear if the two don't match up. Don't be caught off guard if it does happen soon regardless of what you hear. In the past the Stars have valued roster flexibility and developing their young players. Keeping eight defensemen is counter to both of those goals.
I'll believe it when I see it officially.