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Archive for May, 2008

Of course it won’t happen, but it would be so sweet if the Pittsburgh Penguins were to come back and beat the Detroit Red Wings and win the Stanley Cup. So sweet!

It’s like imagining winning the lottery. You know it won’t happen, but it’s fun to pretend.

GO PENS!

Update: Oh, well.

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Trevor Daley has the prettiest smile. It’s the very definition of beaming.

The Stars signed Trevor to a 3-year, $6.9 million contract today. It’s a huge raise for him, but over the course of the contract it should end up being a bargain for the Stars.

He’s only 24 but he’s already very good. He was a high-scoring defenseman in juniors and the minors but once he got to the NHL, he was encouraged to concentrate on his defensive game. His scoring has been much less than people might have expected, because he’s been working on his defense. Now that he’s establishing his defense, he’s starting to work the offense back into his game. He’s just finished his third full year in the NHL and he’s still very young, but he’s about to break out.

While his offensive skills are why they drafted him, he has certainly developed his defensive skills. He had a really good playoffs this season. There were a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays that made me say, “Wow.” In one instance (I think it was against the Sharks) he had pinched up in the offensive zone and the puck got by him. The opposition forward got it and headed in for a breakaway, but Daley dug in and skated all the way back, caught up to the play, and poked the puck off the guy’s stick just as he was about to shoot. That’s the kind of defense a skater can play.

And he really can skate. That’s why he is going to be a good offensive guy. He can pinch, or skate down by the net, but he’s fast enough to get back in time to defend if the play breaks up.

Defensemen mature much later than forwards, in general. I think it’s because defensemen have more responsibility and only the goalie is behind them to cover for them when they make mistakes (and, naturally, goalies take even longer to hit their peaks). Daley is already very good at a young age and still has his peak to hit in the next couple of years.

And he has a really beautiful smile.

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So long, Ulfie.

Ulf Dahlen has made his decision about next season, it appears. He’s leaving the Stars to coach in Sweden. He’ll be the head coach of Frolunda, of the Swedish Elite League.

I was hoping he’d sign on for next year. I honestly don’t know the details about what he contributed to the coaching staff, but I can tell you he certainly contributed to the overall appearance of it. He’s a handsome man, especially when he’s wearing his little glasses.

He was usually up in the pressbox, or a suite, watching the game and calling down with his observations, then he’d show up on the bench for the third period. He worked a lot with the power play units, too.

Our power play was pretty damn good in the first round of this years’ playoffs and still darn good in most of the second round. There’s some thought that Zubov’s return made them fall back into a style that was too easy to predict, compared to what they were doing to Anaheim without him.  I think Dahlen had a lot to do with the success of the power play.

I’m sure Ulfie had a lot to do with the collection of Swedes we have now. He was a scout in Sweden for the Stars after he retired as a player following the 2002-2003 season with the team. Loui Eriksson and Joel Lundqvist and Nick Grossman were probably pretty glad to have him around when they were new here. 

According to Heika, he turned down an offer of an extension back in November so he could study his options. I’ve been hoping he’d stay but I can understand that he wants to be a head coach, or at least a bench assistant, and Frolunda is giving him a head coaching position right now. I presume he plans to work his way back to the NHL and someday have his own team.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long.  Best of luck to him.

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Antti Miettinen gets a lot of flak. I like him, though. He seems like a good guy and his teammates seem to like him. He’s kind of self-deprecating and he gives hints that he has a sense of humor.

He is criticized for his lack of production, but when he was put on the top line for a while during the regular season, he went nuts. He had 14 points in a 10-game stretch in December when his linemates were Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro. Unfortunately for him, he’s not first in line for that plum spot and when he was moved back to his regular role of 3rd- and 4th-line winger, he tailed off quite a bit.

He was one of many players that had career years this season. He ended up with 15 goals and 19 assists, for 34 points. It’s not hugely impressive, but it’s not too bad for a 7th-round pick.

He’s a good hitter and he’s not afraid of contact. He seems like a really easy-going, funny guy in real life, but he’s tough on the ice. I think he adds to his line by making and taking the big hits, and making some of the more unsung plays. He’s defensively responsible but his troubles lie in his finish. He just doesn’t, usually.

I’d be happy if Mittens were to stay, but he’s a free agent this summer and it’s not looking very encouraging. I would not be surprised if he’s helped by a change of scenery, though, since I think there might be a better fit for him out there. I don’t think he’ll ever break through and be the kind of top-six gem the Stars had hoped they’d stolen in the late rounds, but he’s a really good role player and I hope he finds his niche.

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This is part of a series of posts where I plan to give my full attention to a single member of the Stars organization.

Let’s start with Dave Tippett. Tipp is a “player’s coach,” and he came to town to replace the ultimate in not a player’s coach, Ken Hitchcock. Hitch had coached the Stars to the Stanley Cup, but by 2002, was just berating them mercilessly with no real results.

Tipp was a respected defensive forward in his playing days, from what I understand. He coached the Houston Aeros to a championship in the now-defunct IHL, then went on to be an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings. (I always thought it was cool that he coached the Aeros. My first hockey game was an Aeros game. I think I was ten.)

He’s been the head coach of the Dallas Stars since the ’02-’03 season and his regular-season record in the years since is 235-121-28-26. They haven’t missed the playoffs under his watch and they’ve won two division titles.

I’ve always liked him. He is amiable when things are going right and he’s livid when things are not going right. He treats his players as adults and there is every indication that they all love playing for him.

(more…)

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Tom Hicks has re-upped Les Jackson and Brett Hull as co-General Managers of the Dallas Stars.

They were originally “interim” co-GMs but now it’s official, and for three years.

Personally, I like the idea. Obviously, they’ve done a good job in their first year, mainly by not screwing anything up. But they’ve also made a big impression in their own right.

The two big moves that most people point to are the trade for Brad Richards and the signing of Mike Ribeiro to a five-year deal.

I think they each made an unheralded impact on the team, too. Brett Hull reminded Modano and Morrow to get open in the slot, and Les Jackson told Dave Tippett to play the kids.

I was pretty upset when Doug Armstrong was fired, but I came around pretty quickly. If he had still been here when Zubov and Boucher were both out with injuries, he’d have gone out and signed some over-paid veteran at the end of his career rather than have three rookies on the blueline (which made 24-year-old Trevor Daley the seasoned veteran).

Jackson and Hull immediately loosened up the atmosphere when they came on board. Most of all, they encouraged the coaches to play the kids. And because of that, there’s a whole new optimism surrounding the team, and a new anticipation for the years ahead.

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It seems like everybody’s posting this video, but I saw it first on Puck Daddy, over at Yahoo. The ex-advertising major in me is wildly impressed with the creativity of the concept. It’s both fascinating and moving.

I’ve been kind of wondering if I could be interested in the Stanley Cup Finals when they a) don’t include the Stars and b) include the Red Wings. But this commercial reminds me of why I love the playoffs so much, no matter who’s playing.

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