Friday, August 19, 2011

A Look at a Future Defense

(Picture made from images from:, ,,,,,

The number one complaint amongst our fan base for roughly three years now has been the size a physicality of our blue line. It’s true, since the departure of Mattias Norstrom the only player that can be considered anywhere close to being a shut down defenseman is Nick Grossman. Now, there is much more to being a shut down defenseman than size alone. It takes patience, positioning, the fortitude to block shots, the ability to make that crucial first pass on a break out, and the aroma of being the last person the opposing team wants to piss off.

A defense core also needs its share of offensive upside to be considered elite. The acquisition of Alex Goligoski marks the first elite offensive defenseman the Stars have had on the roster since our friend and cigarette-smoking addict, Sergei Zubov left us. The Stars have built what is arguably the best defensive prospect group in the NHL. It’s full of young kids who have proven themselves at all different levels of Junior, International and Collegiate hockey.

Let’s take a look at what the Stars D-core will potentially look like in 3-4 years:

Jamie Oleksiak (6’7, 243 LB Defenseman who has been compared to the likes of Chara and Myers).

Troy Vance (6’6, 200 LB Defenseman who just turned 18. He is a hard-hitting player, possesses a great shot and is an above average skater for his age. He is also a 5th round pick like Jamie Benn, we’ll see if this 5th round luck pays off soon).

Alex Goligoski (5’11, 180 LB Offensive Defenseman. Assuming new ownership signs him long term. GoGo managed to tally 15 points in 23 games with Stars making it look like giving up Neal and Nisky wasn’t such a one-sided trade after all).

Phillip Larsen (6’1 183 LB Offensive defenseman considered by many to be one of the top 5 prospects in the Stars system. Larsen tallied 3 assists in his brief appearance on the Stars roster last season).

John Klingberg (6’0, 158 LB Two-way defenseman heading to the top league in Finland this upcoming year. He has proven to be a solid defender at different levels of Swedish hockey leagues).

Brenden Dillon (6’3, 207 LB Undrafted defenseman pushing to the NHL at a Benn like fashion. Dillon has shown flashes of brilliance at both ends of the ice).

From the looks of it, the Stars will have a very talented defense core in front of one of the starting goalies Mario wrote about in the previous post.

Let’s take a peak at the size of this group and do some quick math. This potential starting defense core will have an average size of 6’1, 195.2 LB. But something to keep in mind is that Oleksiak and Vance, the two biggest prospects are only 18-years-old. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest these two end up putting on 10 more pounds. I also think that the Stars will want Klingberg to put on at least 15 more pounds before he gets a shot in the NHL.
So we are looking at a huge blue line compared to other teams around the NHL. We’re talking an average of 200 LB! Now I know some people will say “Michael, there are only 3 players on this list that are over 200 pounds.” Which is true, but can’t we use a subject a lot of us grew up hating for something that is pleasant to the eyes? I suggest we do.

Get ready fans, we’re on the cusp of seeing the defense core we have been dreaming of for a very long time.

-Michael Haake

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Future is bright for Stars Goalies

The Dallas Stars have had a lot of success with their goalie prospects since they moved to Dallas, Manny Fernandez, Dan Ellis, Mike Smith, Tobias Stephan and Marty Turco. Each goalie has had/is having success in the NHL or in Europe in their careers, and at one point in each of their career it was looking like they were the future for the Stars. Although four of the five goalies didn't last to long with the Stars franchise because Turco being one of the five turned out to be their future, there was no need for the other four. They were used as trade bait or let go in the off-season. Going into the 2011-2012 NHL season the Stars have without a doubt one of the best goalie prospects in the NHL.

Fernandez, Ellis, Smith, Turco & Stephan

Stars have 5 goalies in their system right now, Lehtonen, Raycroft, Bachman, Beskorowany and Jack Campbell. Excluding Raycroft, all four goalies have the potential to be the franchise goalie for the Stars. I think it's safe to say that the future is looking very bright for the Stars goaltending situation.

Lehtonen, Bachman, Beskorowany & Campbell

Kari Lehtonen currently is the number one goalie for the franchise and has a full season under his belt in the Stars organization. They weren't the best numbers, but considering it was his first full season since 2006-2007 and went without a serious injury playing 60+ games is a huge step forward for his career. Kari stole a lot of games for the team in the first half of the season, he was the main reason why the Stars were on top of the Pacific Division for approximately 50 straight days. Stars had an impressive 30-15-5 record after the All-Star break. Then the rest was down hill, Kari wasn't 100% and was being over played even with a capable back up goalie like Raycroft behind the bench. Many blame Crawford for over playing the Finish goalie which resulted in a poor second half for Kari. While some might think that Kari just isn't fit enough to play 60+ games.

Richard Bachman at the age of 24 is currently the closest out of the three prospects from being the next Stars starter if things don't work out well for Kari. Bachman recently just finished his first year pro with the Texas Stars. Bachman was one of the top goalies in the league, he finished in the top 5 in almost every stat (save percentage, goals against average, shutouts, wins and minutes) and arguably was the top rookie goalie in the league. He brought his Stars to the playoffs with 92 points. Even though they did lose in the first round Bachman proved to the Stars franchise he's ready for the next step in his career. Bachman has succeeded in every league he played in so far and has tremendous talent and will steal games. At 5'10 Bachman is the shortest goalie in the organization, but that's not stopping him.

"He's maybe not the biggest in stature, but I think he's got a lot of spunk to him. He battles, competes hard for the rebounds and loose pucks." Morrow said in a interview last December posted on the Bachman was signed to a one year deal contract worth $550,000 just last June. Stars expect him to continue where he left off last season as a dominate starter in the AHL in his sophomore season. If he fails to do so Beskorowany will be right there to take over the starting job.

Tyler Beskorowany (21) is right behind Bachs to get that much closer to getting into the NHL with the Stars organization in a couple of years. Beskorowany was drafted in the 2008 draft, 59th overall. Besko like Bachman also spent his first full year in the AHL this year, but for Tyler it was a surprise. Besko got the back up job after Krahn had an injury that gave Besko the chance to be the back up for the Texas Stars, he took it and ran away with it by posting solid numbers in his first few games. Before being the permanent back up with Texas Besko was one of the top goalies in the ECHL posting a .928 save percentage in 20 games for the Idaho Steelheads. Tyler at 6'4 played 18 games with Texas and showed lots of potential and promise. He went 7-8-1 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average in his rookie year. Going into the 2011-2012 Besko's goal is to end the season as the starter for the Texas Stars.

Photo from Robert J Keith on Flickr

"It's definitely to split time with Bachs there this year and maybe even stealing that starting position from him" Besko said

GM Joe Nieuwendyk see's potential in Besko, "Tyler is a very promising player for the future of our organization".

Last but not least, he has the higher ceiling out of Bachs and Besko Jack Campbell. Even though some fans might still feel that they much rather have Fowler, Campbell has the potential to be one of the best goalies in the league. Campbell played his first year in the CHL last year, and his numbers were very poor. Although it wasn't the same Spitfire team that won two straight memorial cups, he showed promise in the second half and in the playoffs. The team was very weak on defense. Campbell posted a 24-14-4 record, a .884 save percentage and a 3.80 goals against average. In the playoffs he went on to play 18 games and had a .887 save percentage and a 3.74 goals against average. I can't say much about how he was performing as I didn't see him play in the OHL but I had the chance to watch him in the World Juniors. He posted a stunning .941 save percentage and a impressive 1.71 goals against average. His performance lead him to winning the best goalie of the tournament and being named on the All-Star team. Next year Campbell will play just his second year in the WHL with the Spitfires, and is looking to put last years performance behind him. There is a chance he'll see some time with the Texas Stars if one of Besko or Bachs get's injured or called up to the big club.

Photo by Robert J Keith on Flickr

Just recently the Stars had a piece on their website about Jack Campbell, and I took this piece from it "Obviously, it was a bit of a rough start. Coming from camp and having real high expectations of myself and my team. And you know what? It kind of taught me that you've got to basically live in the moment - you can get too caught up where you want to be because it's not always going to end up how you write it down. At the same time, I learned a lot in that rough start. After that, I thought I settled down."

Now that you've read about all four goalies that could very well be the Stars future, i'd love to see who you feel will be the franchise/future goalie for the Stars franchise.

(Please vote on the poll which is located on the sidebar on your right) ===>

It will be a tough decision for the Stars organization to pick out of the four they want to stick with. Personally, I see Kari staying in the the Stars franchise for at least another 3-4 years. After that it all depends on which of the three (Bachs,Besko and Campbell) stepped up to take the starting job. It will also depend on how Kari has played for the last 4 years. The Stars goaltending future is the hardest to predict, because all four could be the Stars future. If I were to try and predict who will be our future, it will come down to Beskorowany and Campbell. I don't see Kari being our future, he is already 27 and I still worry about his history with injuries. For Bachman, I believe Stars organization thinks more highley of Beskorowany and Campbell than Bachman, not to mention GM Joe Nieuwendyk recently said they wanna get big after drafting players with size in the 2011 draft. So you gotta think that Bachman's size comes into question. It also wouldn't surprise me to see Beskorowany out play Bachman this year in the AHL and Bachs will end up being traded or he'll be let go in the off season. I personally like Bachman and I feel that he can become a reliable number one in the future. Just not sure if it will happen with the Stars. As for Beskorowany and Campbell, it wouldn't surprise me to see both goalies on the Dallas Stars roster in a few years from now together competing for the number one job (something similar to the Halak, Price situation a couple of years ago).

I'll end it off by saying good bye to one of the most feared NHL players in the NHL these past few season and a great player off and on the ice.

Rest in Peace Rick Rypien, you will be missed.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it! Go Stars Go!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011