The Dallas Stars did some major revamping so far this off season. From GM, to coach, to nice new green-based uniforms. But changes to the guys in suits and some fancy new threads on the ice won’t bring the once Dallas faithful back to the AAC, at least not for long.

There are definite holes to be filled in the actual lineup if the fellas wish to show that all the hoopla so far isn’t just for show (well okay the uniforms are for show). The Stars can’t go in to the 2013-14 season with the same lineup as last year and expect to improve. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

There are options out there this summer – from free agents to trade targets – and Jim Nill and co. have been working the phones already to try to find the best of those options. With a nice chunk of money to play with, the Stars are in a position where they can afford to be the team that takes on the more salary in any deal – as well as outbid other teams for any free agent they feel is a good fit.

 


Vincent Lecavalier – The recently bought out 33 year old Vinny Lecavalier would be a good temporary fix for he Stars down the middle. Despite seemingly falling off the map the last few seasons, he can still put up decent numbers (32 points in 39 games this passed season). He’s a big body and uses his size well creating space and fighting for pucks. Would go well centering either scoring line as well as the power play. Moving to a new team after all of his 14 seasons being spent in Tampa Bay could give him something to prove.

The Stars are one of several teams said to be interested, and have already had talks with the Lecavalier camp.

 


Daniel Briere – Also bought out this passed week, Briere is another who is on the downside of his career but can still be effective. Playing for Lindy Ruff in Buffalo for four seasons is a nice tie with the Stars new coach. He had his career best offensive output under Ruff (95 points in 06-07) and although those numbers are likely out of reach for the 35 year old Briere, he’s only two years removed from scoring 68 points in 77 games with the Flyers. His playoff resume is far more impressive than what some may realize too. In a day and age where even a point per game is tough to achieve (especially in the playoffs), Briere has 109 points in 108 games over his career.

To sum up his career – never count the little guy out.

 

Sam Gagner – I may be a little biased towards Sam as his father Dave was a favorite of mine when I was a kid (I still have my Dave Gagner North Stars home jersey from 1989 to prove it), but Gagner Jr. is on the rise. He may never be a number one center or an All-Star like his dad, but like Dave he may just need to throw on that Stars jersey to truly break out. Dave was a high draft pick by the Rangers in 1983 and was never really given a shot in New York. It wasn’t until a trade to the North Stars a few years later that his career took off.

Sam himself was a high draft pick and although he’s been a regular with the Oilers from age 18, the now 23 year old and already six year veteran is being overshadowed a little in Edmonton by the newer exciting youngsters. His size means Edmonton goes with two small centers on their scoring lines and although they like Sam, it’s a bit of an issue. The Oilers are bent on making the playoffs next year so a defenseman or a veteran forward who could help them achieve that could help pry him away. They’d likely need to have a plan in place to replace his spot on the second line too before they dealt him.

Like his dad, he’s a leader and a hard worker – as evident by his off season dedication to strength and conditioning last summer. Don’t let anybody fool you in to believing that any recent rise in his numbers has to do with team mates, it’s all Sam.

 

Sean Couturier/Brayden Schenn – The two budding stars coming over to the Flyers two summers ago via trade (Couturier in the form of a draft pick) give youth and depth to the lineup and help secure the future in Philadelphia. But as we all know, patience is not Paul Holmgren’s middle name. That’s not to say he’s in a rush to deal either of the young centers, but he’s not shy when it comes to pulling the trigger if he believes there’s a deal that can help put his team over the top. In this case, over the top would mean getting back to the playoffs.

Both players will demand big raises after next season and as Philly continually flirts with the cap, that could pose an issue. Receiving one of the two in a deal could mean taking on one of Philly’s unwanted contract as well (depending on what’s sent back in return), but youth and skill is what the Stars need and having one of these two at center could mean stability down the middle for a long time. The only real issue here is that neither are all that proven.

 

Tyler Seguin – Would the Bruins already part with their “consolation prize” in the Taylor vs Tyler Sweepstakes? Most would say not a chance, but most don’t have a say. It’s already being reported that the Bruins would like to get in on the first round action of what’s labeled as the best draft since 2003. The Bruins are also a team that entered the off season with decisions to be made. Those decisions involve money, and Seguin makes a fair bit himself already at $5.75 million per starting next season.  With 121 points in his first 203 regular season NHL games (keep in mind being sheltered for a good portion of those), his numbers could rise if given the opportunity.

Seguin is naturally a center and being just 21, he’s exactly what the Stars covet. He won’t come cheap though.

 

Jeff Skinner – The Hurricanes are another team that’s not far off the cap and still needs to round out the roster. They’re currently looking for a solid top four defenseman and the Stars could possibly fool them by sending over Trevor Daley or Alex Goligoski disguised as one instead…….

Okay in all seriousness, Daley himself has a very manageable contract and is a serviceable defenseman with a great set of wheels. The Hurricanes could very well see the value in that. The Stars would have to add for sure, as Skinner is just 21 years old and with three seasons under his belt already, he averages 57 points per 82 game season when pro rated. His $5.7 million cap hit for the next six seasons is something the Stars could absorb. The two sides have talked and striking a deal of some kind is not something I would completely rule out.

 

Valtteri Filppula – Filppula looks to be hitting the open market July 5, and those looking to guess where he’ll land could make worse guesses than the Stars. Obviously the connection here is with GM Jim Nill, who spent nearly 20 years in the Red Wings organization as assistant GM before being hired by the Stars this spring. He knows Filppula well and vice versa.

The 29 year old center enjoyed a breakout year with the Wings in 2011-12, scoring 23 goals and adding 43 assists in 81 games. The belief is that given more opportunity he could achieve those numbers again. He’s highly skilled and shows creativity in the offensive zone, and has learned the typical puck-possession and two-way style the Wings demand. There will likely be a handful of teams knocking on Filppula’s door once free agency hits, and should the Stars be in that group Nill could be the key.

 

Stephen Weiss – Maybe not the sexy pickup, but Weiss could come at little cost as far as trade (for his rights) and could fill in as a second line center quite nicely. The 30 year old has put up some decent numbers in Florida over the years, averaging around 25 goals and 55 points over the three seasons before the lockout. He managed only 17 games this shortened season as a wrist injury cut his season even shorter. It’s been confirmed that the Stars, as well as the Leafs and Wings have all shown interest in Weiss, and it would require a draft pick in order to obtain his negotiating rights before he hits the open market July 5.

Weiss isn’t big, at 5 “11 190 pounds, but he plays a nice two way game and can move up and down the ice well.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

The popular belief is that the blueprint to success is drafting that elite player atop the prospect heap to lead the charge. Without a doubt the Pittsburgh Penguins are the main root of the belief – and rightfully so. Drafting Marc-Andre Fleury; Evgeni Malkin; Sidney Crosby; and Jordan Staal from 2002 to 2006 certainly bodes well for the argument. The Blackhawks’ rise to the elite class of the league since drafting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (drafted 3rd in 2006 and 1st 2007 respectively) helps as well.

But is that the only way to do it? Are the Stars doomed unless they can somehow sneak in to the top five at this year’s draft and grab that elite talent? It would certainly help, no doubt, but there’s a very solid argument out there that says they can make out just fine without.

With four Stanley Cups and two more Cup Final appearances since 1995, the Detroit Red Wings can be compared to almost any dynasty from the past when taking all circumstances in to account. They’ve been as good as it gets in this day and age, being led recently by players like Niklas Lidstrom (drafted 53rd in 1989), Pavel Datsyuk (drafted 171st in 1998), and Henrik Zetterberg (drafted 210th in 1999).

If you want to argue that three of their cups were raised in the days of free spending, they do still have 2008 and once again proved to be a very relevant team this year. There are also more current examples of teams reaching the pinnacle of hockey without hitching their wagons to a fleet of thoroughbreds taken early in the draft. As current as one of this year’s finalists and the last two Stanley Cup champs.

Looking at the the last two Stanley Cup champions and the key cogs to their respective runs:

 

2012 Los Angeles Kings

  • Dustin Brown – drafted 14th in 2003
  • Anze Kopitar – drafted 11th in 2005
  • Jonathan Quick – drafted 72nd in 2005
  • Drew Doughty – drafted 2nd in 2008
  • Justin Williams – via trade in 2009
  • Mike Richards – via trade in 2011*
  • Jeff Carter – via trade in 2012

*2009 5th overall pick Brayden Schenn was the main piece the Kings sent to Philadelphia for Mike Richards.

2011 Boston Bruins

  • Tim Thomas – via free agency 2002
  • Patrice Bergeron – drafted 45th in 2003
  • David Krejci – drafted 63rd in 2004
  • Zdeno Chara – via free agency in 2006
  • Milan Lucic – drafted 50th in 2006
  • Brad Marchand – drafted 71st in 2006
  • Nathan Horton – via trade in 2010

 

Those lists are not exactly filled with high draft picks – but a mixture of smart draft picks, proper development, and key additions either by trade or free agency. Drew Doughty is the lone example there of a top five draft pick making an impact.

The Bruins’ roster is virtually the same as it was in 2011, with Tuukka Rask between the pipes instead of Thomas being the only difference of note. Rask himself was acquired via trade from the Maple Leafs in 2006. The Bruins recently disposed of the talent laden Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight and will face the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final beginning Wednesday. Rock solid proof that mining your talent with high picks in the draft is not the only route to success.

Could the Stars be helped by adding a player like Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin to their group of forwards at the draft? You bet your ass. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. Can they build a winner by Jim Nill and co. making smart acquisitions and developing their own prospects properly? You can bet your ass on that too. Whether it happens or not is the only question.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments are appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

The Stars swapped veteran goal scoring wingers with the Canadiens today, shipping Michael Ryder out and bringing Erik Cole in.

Ryder was signed as a UFA on July 1, 2011. He exploded for a career high last season with 35 goals, finding chemistry with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson for most of the season. The first time in five years he hit the 30 goal mark – the previous being 30 goals in 2006-07 during his first stint with the Habs. He’s been quietly putting together another good offensive season so far with 6 goals and 14 points in the Stars’ 19 games.

The only issue was what to do with him. He’s scheduled to become a UFA in the summer and likely wants something longer than just another two year contract. With the current gradual youth movement going on in Dallas, they likely weren’t willing to go beyond that – something like the Sheldon Souray situation. It’s also possible Ryder just wasn’t interested in re-signing in Dallas at all.

Enter Erik Cole. It may seem like the deal doesn’t make sense. Trade one veteran for an older one (Cole being 34, Ryder turning 33 on March 31)? It likely has something to do with the fact that Cole is already locked in for those two years – no more. So essentially the just re-signed a veteran winger for two more seasons at $4 million per.

Cole has been a streaky scorer over the years, much like Ryder. They’ve put up pretty similar numbers over their careers and also like Ryder, he hit a career high 35 goals last season. However, he’s struggled to put up numbers in his 19 games so far, finding the twine just 3 times and chipping in another 3 assists. But he brings more speed and size, and plays more of a power game  as opposed to the perimeter sniper that Ryder is. Hopefully a change of scenery gets him going again offensively to make this “re-signing” worth it. It’s no secret that nobody was enjoying his presence in Montreal this season, Cole included.

It should be noted that Cole is friends with Ray Whitney and Mark Recchi – all winning the Stanley Cup together in Carolina. That possibly played a role in things.

I think it’s clear the Stars are prepared to go forward with at least some older guys in the lineup, as opposed to a complete rebuild. Which is fine, but personally I preferred a deadline deal for some youth. Something like the Riberio for Eakin deal.

The Stars also sent a 3rd round pick Montreal’s way.

 

Thanks for reading. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

 

There are three ways to acquire assets: via free agency, via draft, and via trade. Some teams attract the big name free agents – the Dallas Stars aren’t that team. Some have had the fortune (if you want to call it that) of drafting high enough to add high end talent to their lineup to build around immediately – the Dallas Stars haven’t been that team.

They’ve remained in or around the middle of the pack for some time now and although they’ve been able to add some nice pieces, the high end talent in the prospect pool runs a little thin after the top three or so, especially at the forward position.

So how do they go about adding to the future core of this team?

Regardless of how you want to rate the current prospect pool, and it does have its gems, the fact is there are some veterans on the current roster that are not and should not be in the team’s long term plans. They could be flipped in to younger talent.

 

Brenden Morrow – Years of sacrificing his body has caught up to him, and he’s just not the same. Even if that’s the case, his reputation still follows him so you can bet there would be teams interested in adding a warrior like that for a long playoff run. He’s scheduled to be a UFA at the end of the season and at age 34, he’s likely not in for another long term contract. What he has left in the tank to offer this team over say the next couple years should he be re-signed, may not match the value of what he could bring in return via trade. Is it finally time to part ways? Morrow has a NTC so he has a say in that too.

Michael Ryder – A good signing by Joe prior to last season, Ryder has brought his goal scoring prowess to the Stars and has rounded out the top six nicely. He’s worked well with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, but has yet to really find his game this season playing mostly with new center Derek Roy. He’ll be 33 at the end of March and like Morrow, is scheduled to become a UFA. He still has his shot and would definitely help round out someone else’s top six, or even just add some scoring depth like he did so well with Boston when they won it in 2011.

Jaromir Jagr – I know I know, trade Jagr? Well, let’s be realistic here. If this team isn’t in a playoff position come deadline, what do they need him for? He likely attracts the most offers out of anyone. He’s only signed on for this season and at age 41, will he even want to come back ? He’s still in phenomenal shape and by all accounts can still play, not to mention the experience  and work ethic he’s brought is invaluable and should leave an ever lasting impression on the youngsters. I’m certainly not opposed to keeping him around and re-signing him if he wants to return, but that’s something that he and management will have to discuss ahead of time.

Ray Whitney – Like Jagr, his experience and work ethic is appreciated and he can still play the game. He was also brought in to round out the top six and help with the power play. The 40 year old is currently on IR with a broken bone in his foot, but has been productive in his eight games so far notching two goals and six points. It’s unlikely he goes anywhere as he is signed for another year and there really isn’t any top six talent pounding on the door to take his spot.

Stephane Robidas – He’s given his heart and soul to this  franchise for the better part of his career, but he’ll be 36 on March 3 and could attract takers come deadline. Defensemen are always a sought after commodity for any playoff team and Robidas should be that. Like Whitney, he still has another year left on his contract and that means he wouldn’t be just a rental for any potential trade partner. That also means management will have to decide if he has a place on this team come next season or if it’s time to turn the page. His return likely wouldn’t be substantial so barring this team really derailing, it could be more worth it to keep him around at least for the rest of the season then re-evaluating in the off season.

 

This is not a knee-jerk reaction to just blowing a 3-1 third period lead to Calgary. I’m certainly not suggesting we fold our tent or completely decimate the roster of its veterans and void any potential miracle run. This is about evaluating and being one step ahead of the game – turning assets in to assets rather than letting them diminish or disappear in to thin air.

The likes of Jamie Benn; Jack Campbell; Jamie Oleksiak; and Cody Eakin, will need others like them to be on board if the Stars are going to compete with teams currently ahead of them in the young talent department. And those “others” have to be acquired somehow. For the Stars, turning older assets in to younger ones (Mike Ribeiro for Cody Eakin for example) could very well be its saving grace.

Whether this team is barely in or barely out come trade deadline on April 3, Joe and co. absolutely have to do their diligence and weigh out what a player can still bring versus what he can bring via trade. The only real problem is, this team hasn’t played a playoff game in five years and trading away veterans if a playoff position seems attainable won’t go over well with anyone.

Tough decisions will need to be made, regardless.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments always appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

 

When my older brother and I were kids our dad took us to an NHL All-Star practice. Admittedly, almost as exciting as the practice itself was not having to go to school that day as the practice was in the afternoon. It was 1989 and the game was being held in Edmonton that year.

I look at the roster to see all the names on the both the Campbell Conference and Wales Conference rosters and I’m absolutely astounded at the star power that was on the ice all at once – and we were right there to witness it. A young Brett Hull playing in his first All-Star game; Wayne Gretzky; Mario Lemieux; Steve Yzerman; Mark Messier; Pat Lafontaine; Ray Bourque; and our very own Dino Ciccarelli just to name a few. We were fairly young but I remember we were in complete awe, and all these years later I’m very thankful to my dad for the experience.

And now we have Jaromir Jagr – a player who sits 8th on the all-time points list throwing on the black and gold for likely just this one season – and a shortened season at that. With the 48 game schedule, that gives Stars fans just 24 chances to witness live one of the greatest players to play the game in what could possibly be his very last go-round. Of course that’s not counting any possible missed games, or any added games should the Stars make the playoffs.

Obviously we know he isn’t in his prime – as so many feel the need to point out. He’s not the kid with the wicked mullet putting up a point and a half per game anymore, but that’s not what anybody in the organization was expecting when he was signed. As we saw last season though with Philadelphia in his return to the NHL after a three year hiatus, the man can still play. He can still protect the puck probably better than anyone, he can still deke a goalie out of his shorts, and he can still make plays that will make you say “Whoa!”.

With his 19 goals and 54 points in 73 regular season games, he would have placed 5th on the Stars in points and 4th in goals. He also added 8 points in 11 playoff games. And coming to a team that will depend on him even more than what the Flyers did, it’s possible those numbers go up. He’s a definite upgrade to the top six and should help a power play that was 25th in the league last year at a woeful 13.3%. He was dominating the league playing for his hometown Kladno during the lockout scoring 24 goals and 57 points in 34 games – so I expect he’s fully ready to go and in great shape as usual.

Jaromir Jagr is what you call a generational player, and when it’s all said and done his name will be placed among the greatest who have ever played this game. He’s a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer and players like him just don’t come around too often. To put it in to perspective, this franchise is now 46 years old and has produced just one player who can even be placed in the same conversation as Jagr – and I don’t need to tell you who that is. As players like that retire from this game, we wish we could see them play just one more time.

So get out there and take advantage Stars fans. Take your kids if you got em too, so that 20+ years from now they can look back and say that they saw one of the greatest players to ever lace em up – and they saw him in a Stars uniform. It will mean something, trust me.

 

Thanks for reading. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

To help keep my Stars family occupied, I challenge you with a little Stars trivia. A nice blend of questions from the franchise’s 26 years in Minnesota and the 19 since the move down south.

The first to answer every question correct will receive a mention on Twitter or whatever other form of social media they prefer, which is sure to bring jealousy and envy that could last anywhere from mere seconds to an entire lifetime. And really, you can’t put a value on that.

Enjoy

 

1.This player holds not only the franchise record, but the NHL record for most goals by a rookie in one playoff season.

2.Name the two Stars players to lead the playoffs in points.

3.Name the two Stars players to win the Calder trophy as the league’s rookie of the year.

4.This player was the first in franchise history to reach the 30 goal plateau in a season.

5.This player was the first in franchise history to reach the 40 goal plateau in a season.

6.Name the three players in franchise history to reach the 50 goal plateau in a season.

7.Who holds the franchise record for most goals in one game and how many did he score?

8.Which Stars player scored the very last goal at the old Met Center in Minnesota?

9.Which Stars player scored the very first goal at Reunion Arena in Dallas?

10.This player scored the only game seven OT playoff winner in franchise history.

11.Name the franchise’s three first overall draft choices.

12.Who scored the game winning goal against Colorado in game seven of the 2000 Western Conference final?

13.This goalie played just 18:46 for the team in a 1996 game when both Andy Moog and Darcy Wakaluk were out.

14.This goalie played the other 40 minutes in that same 1996 game.

15.This player was the first ever draft choice by the “Dallas Stars”.

16.This player is the most recent in Stars’ history to finish a season with a goal total somewhere between 40 and 49.

17.Which player was sacrificed to San Jose for a pair of depth defensemen when captain Mark Tinordi went down with a broken leg?

18.Who owns the franchise rookie points record?

19.Though never actually suiting up, this NHL legend belonged to the Stars for exactly one day before being traded to the Quebec Nordiques.

20.This player, after a Gretzky-like move behind the net, got the puck out to the point for Sergei Zubov to assist on Joe Nieuwendyk’s game four OT winner as the Stars swept the Oilers in round one back in 1999. 

 

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this first edition of Stars Trivia. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

There’s a common desire among parents. That is to see their children have a better life than what they themselves had. One with less struggle, and more opportunity.

Frantisek Musil was born in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia on December 17 1964. This was a time when the country was under heavy Soviet influence – where western democracy had been eliminated and the KSC (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) held absolute power. As for hockey, the players were more soldiers in an army and the possibility of pursuing a career outside of their homeland (more specifically North America) was non-existent.

Going back to the late 1970s, fellow Czech and major hockey star in the nation Peter Stastny stood up to the corruption that was rampant surrounding the national team. He was told to keep his mouth shut and his hockey career was threatened. When authorities suspected he may defect, the KGB showed up at his place and overturned every inch in search of evidence. When he eventually did make his escape along with younger brother Anton to play with the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques in August of 1980, there were consequences for the Stastny family who remained behind. The family name was disgraced and older brother Marian’s hockey career was punished – until he himself fled to play in Quebec a year later. So there was understandably great fear in anyone who was under pressure to leave.

In 1983, then North Stars GM Lou Nanne watched a young Musil play in the World Junior Championships and was impressed with what he saw. Being that they couldn’t just hop on a plane to join their NHL club like they do nowadays, using a draft pick on such players was risky business.  By then the Stastny brothers had put the Quebec Nordiques on the map – with Peter especially tearing up the NHL – so he took a chance and drafted Musil with the 38th pick in the draft that year.

The North Stars’ GM would spend the next few years trying to convince Musil to defect – which would of course prove to be very difficult. It gave a whole new meaning to the term “stay-at-home defenseman”.

Then in 1986, after numerous failed attempts by Nanne (including forking over $25,000 upfront to the same Czech contact that helped usher the Stastny brothers out from behind the Iron Curtain), Musil’s agent Rich Winter had finally convinced him to defect. Nanne immediately flew to Yugoslavia where Musil was going to be vacationing, and headed to the American Consulate. After some shaky moments, Nanne called home to have both an immediate h1 visa and a contract produced to show Musil had work in America so a passport could be done up. First flying to London, they realized that Musil only had a visa for the States and not for England. So close to being home free, Nanne explained the situation to immigration and they let him through.

Finally after three years, many phone calls and some slick maneuvering, Musil was on his way to Minnesota.

Months later when Nanne went over to Czechoslovakia to watch his son Marty play for the U.S. in the World Junior Championships, he ran in to Miro Schubert – the top Czech hockey official at that time. While Schubert wasn’t pleased with Nanne for “stealing” one of his players, things were smoothed over and it was only about a year later that a deal was struck between the NHL and Czechoslovakia that a player’s rights could be bought to bring him over. This of course was a major turning point in the hockey world.

Frantisek Musil would play 797 regular season games and 42 playoff games over a 14 year NHL career that took him to Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton after his four plus seasons in Minnesota.

But it was while with the Flames that Musil would add to his legacy.  On April 9, 1993, son David would be born.

When Frantisek’s playing days were over in 2001, he was hired by the Oilers as a European scout. The family would move home to what is now the Czech Republic – where there would be no fear of consequence thanks to the fall of communism in 1989. And the agreement signed between the nation and the NHL after Musil defected 15 years previous meant that David, who took up hockey like his father, was free to play not only in the family’s homeland but in North America as well. He would take advantage of that freedom in 2009 as he headed for Vancouver to play for the Giants of the WHL. Having  that dual citizenship, he played for the Czech Republic in the 2009 and 2011 World Junior Championships.

A young standout defenseman just like his father was, David was drafted by the Oilers 31st overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Being born in as well as playing his junior hockey in Canada, he’s already well accustomed to the North American style of game. There are no armed guards watching over; no secret rendezvous points; no fear of what might happen to family or friends; and no political boundaries to escape for David or any other player across seas dreaming of a career in North America.

David’s NHL career lies in the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, not in those of a communist regime. Along with the Stastny brothers, Frantisek Musil played a major role in opening the door for European players coming over to North America. And assuming he shared that common parental desire of wanting a better life for your kid, it’s fair to say he’s a happy man.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments more than welcome. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

 

Close your eyes and picture the city of Dallas at night, what do you see? I’m betting many of you pictured the green lights outlining downtown’s Bank Of America Plaza – the tallest structure in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Like green stars aligning in perfect constellation to form an imposing, towering force. I think you know where I’m going with that.

How important is a team uniform? Some may argue not very, but I would argue against that. Of course winning is always number one – but a team’s uniform is as important as one’s family shield and becomes the color of the very blood that pumps through the veins of every die hard fan. My blood has been green; gold; and various degrees of black for darn near 30 years now and I’m not about to go for a transfusion.

Almost instantly after the Stars current RBK uniforms were introduced in 2007, the groans began. In going for a simple; modern yet classic look – they traded in eye-popping and unique for dull and boring. While both home and away uniforms lack color, having a simple wordmark across the chest in favor of a symbol has only added to the blandness.

Since Tom Gaglardi was introduced as the team’s new owner one year ago, uniform talk has only accelerated. Going by what Mr.Gaglardi has said in interviews, it seems a new look is immanent indeed. But how new are we talking here? Many different rumors about colors have been thrown around – from a more throwback North Stars-type look, to a complete color overhaul with colors like navy blue; red; and silver being thrown around.

A big decision lies in the hands of the powers that be and in the end, Mr. Gaglardi. Lots to consider here, and I would put the following at the forefront:

Tradition

There’s been template alterations over the years, and we saw the North Stars “N” converted to the current ST/\RS symbol back in 1991. We saw a slight change in the shade of green; yellow has turned to gold; and we’ve even seen the dominant color go from green to black. Through the alterations, there isn’t one uniform or symbol in franchise history that doesn’t have both green and yellow/gold – whether the jersey itself is dominated by green or dominated by black – the scheme is involved in every single uniform since the birth of the franchise back in 1967. We’re not as entrenched in history as the original six teams for the obvious fact that we haven’t been around as long, but we’re “The Next Six” and make no mistake, this franchise has a long standing identity in the hockey world and a stranglehold on a great color scheme to work with. To those who wish to argue, refer to the jersey plaque above and then get back to me.

Uniqueness

Since the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina back in 1997, the only teams to even use green in their full-time uniforms at all have been Vancouver (green and blue) and Minnesota (green and red). Blue is currently used in 15 of the 30 NHL franchises color schemes, while red also makes its mark on exactly half of the entire league. The only color combination the league has ever seen that was remotely close to the one synonymous with the Stars was that used by the short lived California Seals. Do we want to blend in, or would we rather standout?

If it aint broke

Does the traditional color scheme truly need an overhaul? Or is it just something to do for the sake of it? I can see if the Stars were a team like say the Phoenix Coyotes, who once sported one of the worst looking uniforms in the history of hockey itself. In a case like that, there’s a definite need to do something drastic. But the fact is, there is no need for anything drastic where the Stars colors are concerned.  If you go back to the greener star template they introduced in their Cup winning season of 1999, as well as the sets they wore as the North Stars back in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, this franchise has sported some of the most popular uniforms in NHL history. When you can make even fans of other teams go out and purchase your jersey, that’s when you know you have a winner.

Give em what they want

When the North Stars switched to predominantly black uniforms in 1991 after 24 seasons of kelly green, it was at a time when black uniforms were a popular trend in sports. The market was ready for it, as evident by the through-the-roof sales of the Los Angeles Kings black and silver. It seemed as time went on though, fans were ready to see a greener, brighter version. When the star patterned third was brought out in the Cup winning season of 1999, they were an absolute hit and even became the permanent road uniform for the playoffs. The following season saw a home version of the uniform added and the new permanent look was a homerun.

But alas, Reebok took over and the template for that jersey was apparently “impossible”, so Stars brass came up with the boring color-less uniforms we’ve been complaining about for the last five seasons. It seems the more the team has gotten away from a traditionally colored, brighter looking Stars uniform (Mooterus included), the more fans yearn to see that reversed. If you’ve scoured the net at all the past couple years, it seems to be what most Stars fans are wanting to see – a brighter, greener, traditionally colored uniform.  And other than winning, nothing builds a better relationship with fans better than saying to them, “You matter.”

Classic/throwback is in

Let’s take a lesson from the Buffalo Sabres – who traded in their traditional blue and yellow for the black, red, and grey uniforms we saw in the 1999 Cup Final (GOAL!). Eventually they heeded their fans cries and to a degree of 99%, have recently returned to their classic, timeless look – which for my money is one of the nicest looking uniforms in the league. The Philadelphia Flyers have returned to a brighter throwback looking orange, and the Edmonton Oilers have recently returned to their classic looking Grezky-era blue and orange silks after about a decade of a darker blue mixed with copper and red. Both are wildly popular and are among the top sellers league wide. The Stars dropped the ball in 2007, but the iron is still hot and they can certainly strike hard with it now.

This franchise has seen the late Bill Goldsworthy do the “Goldy Shuffle” after every goal; miracle runs to the Cup Final in both 1981 and 1991; Steve Payne score the franchise’s only game 7 overtime playoff goal; Brett Hull fire the puck passed Dominik Hasek in triple overtime for our lone Stanley Cup victory; and its greatest player ever skating around the ice in tears with the Cup raised above his head; and it all happened in different variations of green and gold.

This is indeed a turning point for this franchise’s identity. Do we group ourselves in with those teams who have traditionally kept the same basic color scheme forever and have forged definite identities in the hockey world? Or do we go the route of a team like the Vancouver Canucks – a team who truly has zero identity as they’ve swapped out colors more often than Elizabeth Taylor swapped husbands? The answer is clear to me – go with what you have right in the palm of your hands that has proved to be a winner in the past.

A bird in the hand, as they say. A green and gold bird that stands out from all the rest.

 

I’ve included a few of my favorite mock-ups. There could be  tweaks some would prefer here and there, but overall they show how much we have to work with. Personally I prefer an overall retro looking uni with our current ST/\RS symbol on the chest and green helmets, but any of these would be great improvements and are at least great jump-offs.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading. Comments are more than appreciated. Please check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

What a whirlwind couple of weeks it’s been so far for the Dallas Stars. In the trade department, the first move was trading Mike Ribeiro for Cody Eakin and a pick at the draft, then fan favorite Steve Ott was dealt to the Sabres for Derek Roy on Monday. Joe and Tom have also dipped in to the free agent pool in the last couple days – signing both Ray Whitney and Aaron Rome Sunday, and now adding Jaromir Jagr to the mix.

Jagr spent last season with the Flyers after a a three year NHL hiatus. His 54 points in 77 games isn’t exactly Jagr-esque, but he showed he can still play and he received nothing but rave reviews from the Flyers about his work ethic and commitment. Those attributes, along with his skill and cache he still carries are exactly what the Stars need right now to return to relevancy. That relevancy has been missing for a few years now, not only league wide but at home in Dallas as attendance has been hitting lows that the franchise hasn’t seen since 1990 in Minnesota.

The 40 year old Kladno, Czech Republic native currently sits eight on the NHL’s all-time points list (70 behind Mario Lemieux) and is first among all Europeans born players. He’s not the 100+ point player he use to be, there’s a little more grey in the facial hair and his mullet has long since clogged someone’s drain, but he is an upgrade and he rounds out the new look top six quite nicely. Being that his $4.55 million dollar contract is only for one year, it along with fellow geriatric Ray Whitney’s two year contract won’t hamper the team financially down the road.

Having guys like Whitney and now Jagr around will also create a much better environment for the youngsters, which is a positive that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Quote of the day from Twitter goes to Tony Jaremko, @Stars_Insider – “Does Jagr know that if he comes play in the south, the mullet is widely accepted?”

Thanks for reading. Comments very much appreciated. Find me on Twitter at travcurrie

 

When a player is rumored to be on the trading block for as long as Steve Ott has, there’s only two possible outcomes – they either fizzle out like Jose Canseco’s sex life, or they come to fruition. In Ott’s case, it’s the latter.

The Stars have been looking for a top six scoring forward for a while now and with Mike Ribeiro being shipped to Washington at the draft, it was brutally obvious that a scoring center had to be brought in one way or another. Turns out it was via trade with the Buffalo Sabres early Monday evening.

Not since Dino Ciccarelli has the franchise had a guy who was able to get under the skin of the opposing team the way Ott did, and like Ciccarelli, Ott became a fan favorite. Over the last nine years, Steve Ott has chirped, scrapped, and at times scored his way in to the hearts of the fan base. The NHL’s biggest pest on the ice and one of the most genuine guys off of it, The “TerminOttor” will be truly missed in Dallas. His trade value was at it’s peak, so in order to bring in that much needed skill upfront, something had to give.

Derek Roy, 29, brings that skill. His offensive numbers last season (44 points in 80 games) were down from the previous five seasons where he racked up 318 points in 350 games, but he seemed to be on the outs in Buffalo and will be given every chance to succeed in Dallas in hopes that he’ll return to form.

Trading character for skill is never an automatic win though, I’ll caution that. Steve Ott brought so much to the Stars: physicality; leadership; versatility; character; and popularity among teammates and fans – none of which can be summed up by simple stats on a hockey card. This was a bold move that could pay dividends if Roy finds his scoring touch again. Roy makes $4 million this coming season and is set to become a UFA. The Stars will likely assess things down the road before talking contract with Roy.

Also sent to Buffalo was defenseman Adam Pardy, who had three assists and was a -5 in 36 games for the Stars last season. The Stars create another $950,000 in cap space because of the move as well – so look for more acquisitions to be made as Joe Nieuwendyk and Tom Gagliardi look to realign the Stars this off season.

Gonna miss you Otter. All the best in Buffalo.

Thanks for reading. Comments very much appreciated. Find me on Twitter at travcurrie

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