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Archive for December, 2010

I just had to show this somewhere. I got this email today from Shop.NHL.com. If they need a proofreader, I’m available! (Apparently they do, they just might not realize it.)

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Jere Lehtinen didn’t get the attention he probably deserved, but from what I hear, he liked it that way. Stars fans and his coaches and his fellow players knew how great he was.

I’m a big fan of Jere Lehtinen’s. But just like everybody else, I’ve hardly talked about him all these years.

I have been assuming that he would decide to retire, especially since it’s December already and he hadn’t joined the team. But even though I pretty much knew it was going to happen, I felt surprisingly sad to hear the official announcement.

Over the last couple of seasons, I have thought that he might be a little too oft-injured to help the team that much, and then I assumed he was going to retire so I haven’t really been thinking about him that much this season. But watching his highlight reels and listening to people talk about him has brought back a lot of memories. Watching him skate and seeing his odd goal celebration really takes me back to a time when I thought we were going to the Finals every year.

I’m not as wide-eyed and optimistic as I used to be, but I think we might have a few guys coming up in the ranks, namely Loui Eriksson, that I hope will be able to step into Jere’s skates.

Jere is the last of the players from the ’99 Stanley Cup team so the page is finally really turning for the Dallas Stars. It’s tough and sad and scary, but it’s exciting, too.

I already miss him, though. Actually, I miss him again.

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All this talk about which team Cliff Lee is going to sign with has gotten me all worked up again about long-term deals. The talk is that he wants more than six years and the Yankees are offering him six seven. The Rangers don’t want to offer even that much, but it’s still all up in the air.

Ever since Rick DiPietro signed his 15-year contract with the New York Islanders, I’ve wondered what in the world a player would want with a contract that long, let alone the team.

The list of cons from the team’s point of view is already much longer than the pros. The pro is that you don’t lose a guy that you feel is a great player. The con is that when you inevitably want to lose him, you can’t. Either his contract is still so young that nobody wants to take on all those years of the cap hit, or the player is in his last throes and is not good enough for someone else to take over the cap hit.

In my opinion, though, the player should be even less interested in a deal like that. I guess the thing they want is to be guaranteed a paycheck for 12 years, but it seems risky.

Maybe DiPietro knew that he’d spend most of his career on the IR. Otherwise I haven’t been able to explain why he’d chain himself to the Islanders.

The current trick is to pay the player almost all of his money in the first half of the contract and only owe him a few hundred thousand at the end of it. But the cap hit is averaged out over the life of the contract. Sure, a $5-million cap hit seems like a steal in the first 2 years, but when the team is struggling in the 10th year and you’re playing on the 4th line, or you’re in the pressbox, it’s not going to seem like a steal anymore.

No team spends 12 years at the top. Certainly not in a cap league. And certainly not if they give players those crazy deals. If you’re a player and you sign a sweet 12-year, high-dollar deal when things are going great, you should brace yourself for some awful years, because you’re sticking around no matter what.

Conversely, plenty of teams could spend 12 years at the bottom.

If you sign a deal with a team that seems destined for greatness (or just achieved some), things might be good for a year or two.

But what if the team starts to struggle and they can’t rebuild because your contract is hanging around their neck for the next 8 years? Fans will hate you. Media will hound and criticize you. Your GM will shop you every year, hoping for a team for whom you’ll waive your no-trade clause, just to get you, the anchor, off their books.

What if the team starts to struggle and they fire the coach you love and hire, say, Ken Hitchcock? Or Marc Crawford? You just have to take it.

What if the team signs some idiot that you can’t stand being around?

What if the GM makes bad deal after bad deal and even though you’ve given up on ever winning anything with your God-forsaken team, your stats suffer because you’re dragging AHLers and slackers up and down the ice?

What if ownership changes and they stop doing anything?

Too bad. You’re stuck. Nice contract you got there. I guess the money is worth the risk of never winning anything.

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I’m trying not be so incredulous all the time.

The Stars won again. (!?!?!?!) (Sorry.)

This time it was on a sneaky shot from the high slot in overtime from the adorable Stéphane Robidas. In the post-game show when he came by to talk to Severin and that other guy (that kept calling it the NFL), Robi said it was sort of a set play. Brad Richards came into the zone and went straight for the net and just about all the Wild players followed him. That left Robi out there at the top to fire in the winner.

Karlis Skrastins got the opening goal and Steve Ott added one in the 2nd period. Then they kind of lollygagged long enough to let the Wild tie it.

Let me just say, Steve Ott and Trevor Daley have really been stepping up their games lately. Otter has everybody pissed at him and still scores. And for the opposition, there is just no telling where Trevor Daley is going to be. He is all over the place. The guy that’s covering him surely has trouble predicting where he’s going to go, and he can skate so fast that he seems to just magically pop up somewhere else.

Adam Burish got them back in the lead in the third, but it didn’t last. With just a few minutes left in the game, the Wild tied the game to send it to overtime.

I’m still very leery of overtime, a feeling I admit is left over from last season. This season they’ve been actually winning a lot of those, so I probably shouldn’t just assume the game is lost if they have to go into OT. I should enjoy OT like I used to, when there was a chance we could win it. Because an OT win is a thrilling one, no matter what time of year it is.

I’m not going to predict how long this streak will last, because I’ll blame myself when it ends. But it sure is fun while it’s lasting.

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(Name that movie.)

I know I keep saying it, but this is crazy!

I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a Capitals fan. But they are leading the Eastern Conference and they do have a couple of high-powered offensive guys so it’s a really good win for the Stars.

The Stars started out kind of flat-footed, and Razor spent the first half of the game talking about how great the Capitals are at everything. It’s possible he says that about every team that catches the Stars sluggish in the first period of a game, but it seems a little over the top to me. I might be overly-sensitive since I’m so not a Capitals fan. Dallas has started many a game that way so it’s not really any great feat to look good against them in the first half of the game.

But, like they’ve been doing, the Stars overcame their start and began to push back in the 2nd period. Unlike a lot of games like that, they didn’t give up any goals while they got their legs under them. So when the power play finally spent some time in the offensive zone, Mike Ribeiro was able to finally get the first goal of the game.

Ribeiro is really looking good these days. He’s fighting hard for pucks and making good moves and just climbing all over the puck. Last night he could have had three just in that shift, if the puck hadn’t been bouncing like a ball.

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For me, that doesn’t mean I’m leaning toward optimism so much as it means I might have put the foot back down that was extended over the ledge.

The four-game winning streak the Stars are on now is kind of weird. It’s hard to believe. Not that it’s not possible, it’s just weird.

The game against the Carolina Hurricanes was fairly definitive. I haven’t been following the Hurricanes that closely, but I think it was a legitimate win. The Stars played well. They didn’t back into the win at all.

The game was very entertaining. Lots of back and forth, lots of almosts, lots of bouncing pucks and cool defensive plays. Ribeiro and Daley were all over the ice. I thought Ribs had a pretty good game.

Right before Neal scored in the first, the ‘Canes tried many times to clear the puck and the Stars kept keeping it in. Woywitka caught the puck at the point as it ran around the glass to keep it in. Neal scored soon after that. Not only were the Stars keeping the puck in the ‘Canes’ zone, they also kept the ‘Canes out of their own zone.

They were responsible and aggressive. The forwards helped the defense and the defense played well. And Kari did a fine job of not messing any of it up. Usually he is covering for people but this time he didn’t have to too much.

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