Dear Santa Clause (aka: Mr. Hicks and Mr. Armstong),
As this sport very much relates to a holiday – the regular season being New Year’s through Thanksgiving and the playoffs being Christmas – here is my Christmas wish list for the off-season (in essay form!).
The Dallas Stars have now compiled three straight first-round exits after solid, promising regular-season campaigns. It is time for a change…we need some new blood…more specifically, we need some real SCORERS! I feel terrible for what I am about to say, but it is time to move away from the likes of Antti Miettinen, Jussi Jokinen, Ladislav Nagy, and Patrik Stefan. Plain and simple, games 5, 6, and 7 of the series with Vancouver exhibited a major difference in the physical realm, compared to that of the prior games. Getting hit by Eric Lindros, Loui Eriksson, Joel Lundqvist, and Steve Ott makes you aware of your surroundings quite a bit more than Nagy, Miettinen, and Jokinen. Please do not misunderstand, I am not placing the entire blame on them…but we need a change in the system. We cannot continue to rely solely upon Mike Modano and Brendan Morrow, and expect them to do everything, all the time. Watching Miettinen and Jokinen make this team, and seeing their creativeness with the puck has been wonderful at times. But those guys, and others like them, are not getting it done in the playoffs…nor do I believe they will ever be a force in the playoffs. We need a new direction, with all four lines able to contribute goals, every game. This will also free up Mike to explode offensively, not being relied upon to have to score. If the Stars can acquire that scoring touch and it envelopes every line, then with our current defense and all-star goalie, we will win another cup or two before Mikey Mo hangs ‘em up!
Dallas’ un-restricted free agents include Stu Barnes, Nagy, Lindros, Darryl Sydor, Matthew Barnaby, Krys Barch, Stefan, and Jon Klemm. Without question, Nagy and Stefan are gone. Barnaby is likely retiring due to concussion problems; regardless, I do not believe he stays. Barnes and Sydor are absolute keeps! Klemm is also a keeper...but a likely trade casualty. Barch stays for sure…he is our future enforcer…and maybe our first real enforcer since Hatch! Last but not least, what do we do with Big-E? I told my buddies several times before the playoffs that Lindros was gone no matter what. I was strongly hoping that he would not get healthy and clog up the ice. But as fate (and desperation) would have it, he was inserted into the lineup for the last three games…and I was forced to amend my position! This guy was wearing #88, but it was not the man we watched during the regular season. This was the Eric Lindros everyone described as a playoff monster…the point per playoff game Lindros. Though he did not find his scoring touch, he was a force to be reckoned…even laying out Burrows in game 7 for a little retribution! For the record…as long as he is healthy and wants to play…he stays!
The Stars’ restricted free agents include Miettinen, Jokinen, Lundqvist, and Mike Ribeiro. Obviously, Ribeiro is signed asap…without him we don’t even make the playoffs this year. I have never seen a player on this team with as much “puck luck.” He can stick-handle in a phone booth…it is almost as if he has super-strength, super glue on his blade! Lundqvist is my vote for the Stars rookie of the year…he stole that spot from Eriksson with his superb and veteran-like performance in the playoffs! He not only re-signs, but he then purchases a home in the Metroplex. With the mentoring of Barnes and Jeff Halpern, Lundqvist became a solid checker and even scored a few goals along the way! I called this, by the way (my friends can attest)…he was my pick to make the team out of training camp but there was simply no room. Then the injuries started mounting and he was finally called up. He proceeded to make the most of it, capping his rookie season as one of the best players in the series. As for Jokinen and Miettinen, I think it is time for them to move on. I really respect them and have enjoyed watching them, but they need new homes.
With Sydor and Klemm re-signed, our defense stays the same…Sergei Zubov, Sydor, Philippe Boucher, Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas, Mattias Norstrom, Klemm, Nolan Baumgartner, and Niklas Grossman. They are obviously deep in talented d-men, so I would imagine at least three of the last six plug into trade scenarios. Other trade bait could include Miettinen, Jokinen, and possibly goalies Dan Ellis and Tobias Stephan.
Now for the fun part! The Stars have approximately 37 million dollars tied up in next year’s salary cap. The cap looks to be raised to approximately 48 million dollars, giving Dallas approximately 11 million dollars to play with. This is more than enough money and trade stock to pickup two top-notch scorers and an extra tough guy. Drum role please…free agent #1 – Ryan Smyth…free agent #2 – Bill Guerin…and free agent #3 – Aaron Downey!!! Stars fans and goalies have hated Ryan Smyth forever! Of course I do not really mean hate…I mean loathe, despise – okay, okay…hate is strong enough! Now that the Oilers have dumped him in the east, his goal-scoring and presence in front of the net is welcome (with open arms) to move to Dallas at any time. Billy G. never wanted to leave and, just like Bret Hull, he showed us this year why the organization should not have given up on him! And good old Aaron Downey…this guy is ultimate teammate! He even took a pay-cut after the lockout to stay in Dallas. The fans will never forget the one-punch TKO administered to Hurricanes tough guy Jesse Boulerice! I believe the Stars would benefit with Downey’s extra weight (and punch!) from time to time. He would be there to back up Otter and Morrow, and be a mentor to young Barch.
With the lines of my choosing, these moves would make the lineup as follows…
Morrow, Modano, Lehtinen
Smyth, Ribeiro, Guerin
Ott, Lindros/Hagman, Erikkson
Lundqvist, Halpern, Barnes
Backups would be Downey, Barch, Lessard, Klemm, Baumgartner, and Grossman.
With these players and Turco in net, the Stars do not just advance past the first round next year…THEY WIN AT LEAST TWO MORE CUPS!
This is my Christmas wish list – please make your decisions quickly!
From a faithful and loyal STARS fan (and season-ticket holder!)...
PS. Is it next season yet?