Deep in the Heart of Texas

Deep_in_the_Heart_of_Texas

I had a chance to watch the Dallas Stars play the New York Rangers this afternoon. The Stars were coming off a loss last night to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Stars outshot the Sabres 40-24 with Tyler Seguin registering TEN shots on goal (THAT is pushing the river Taylor Hall Fans) and Seguin also had another 5 missed shots and a ton blocked.

Less than 20 hours later the Stars were back at it at MSG and managed to walk away with a 3-2 win in OT.

Seguin is back on top as the leading scorer in the NHL with 60 points in 54 games played. He’s on pace for a 91 point season despite having some pretty bad puck luck lately and is still on pace for a 44 goal season despite that. I still think he’ll flirt with 50.

Seguin has also fired 222 SOG, second in the NHL to the perennial leader Alex Ovechkin but 30 ahead of 3rd place Rick Nash.

As good as Seguin has been, the player I couldn’t stop watching was 22-year-old Swedish defenseman John Klingberg. The kid has poise far beyond his years and, believe me, he’s going to be the next great Swedish D.

Klingberg spent the early part of the season in the AHL but, in the 40 games he has played in the NHL this season, he has 10G 18A +10. Extrapolated over a full 82 game season, that’s 20 goals and 57 points.

Superstar here folks.

But not surprisingly, the Dallas D is the weakest part of the team with 22-year-old Klingberg and 23-year-old Jyrki Jokipakka being called on to play major minutes.The Stars have another young Swede, Patrik Nemeth (6’3″ 225) with a great deal of promise but he’s been injured (leg laceration) for all but 5 games this season so their future is assured but in watching their D this afternoon, it was obvious that Jordie Benn, while being a decent puck mover, is too easy to knock off the puck and an upgrade is in order.

The other big issue for Dallas is their goaltending where their #1 is Kari Lehtonen who has an uninspiring .905 save percentage and backup Anders Lindback is at .875.

I’m sure Stars GM Jim Nill is aware of these issues and will move to address them either at the trade deadline or in the offseason and, the thing is, he is going to have the cap space to do pretty much anything he wants.

Shawn Horcoff ($5.5M), Erik Cole ($4.5M) and Rich Peverley ($3.25M) are all on expiring contracts giving Nill more than $13M to address team needs.

It’s also worth noting that Valeri Nichushkin has been on IR for most of this season and his return could be a major boost to the already potent Stars offence and, of course, they also have a top 3rd prospect pool according to Hockey’s Future:

TEAM BREAKDOWN:
Strengths: The goaltending and defense positions remain two big areas of strength for the Stars. Jack Campbell remains an intriguing goaltending prospect, while Philippe Desrosiers is having another strong year in the QMJHL. The ridiculous amount of defensive prospects the Stars have was only bolstered by the addition of Julius Honka, who is arguably the best prospect now in the system. They have defensemen of various styles and sizes, and overall have an incredibly diverse and talented defensive group.Weaknesses: Dallas has versatility and depth, but few top-end talents. They also do not have the best group at wing, with Brett Ritchie and Jason Dickinson being probably the two strongest players in those positions. There is depth there, but overall not a lot of quality potential.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jack Campbell, G; 2. Julius Honka, D; 3. Brett Ritchie, RW; 4. Jason Dickinson, LW; 5. Jamie Oleksiak, D.

I think you can pretty much overlook their lack of forward depth when your team already includes Seguin, Benn, Spezza, Hemsky and what is likely the best 3rd line in hockey with Garbutt, Eakin and Roussel and you have a ton of defensive prospects you can turn into forwards at the right time.

Brett Ritchie is already up playing with the Stars and, please note, the HF guys missed  Nichushkin (despite him being only 19) when talking about their prospect pool because he’s already played 83 NHL games.

And, one final note for the Taylor Hall fanboys who insist, despite all the evidence, that Seguin isn’t playing centre, Seguin took 14 face-offs in today’s game (and won 79% of them) and took 13 Last night (and won 62% of them).

This is going to be a very good team for a very long time.

 

 

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