July 05 2012 01:03PM
The Dallas Stars have been in a weird state of limbo for four years now. They've been one of those tweener mediocre teams since their last playoff berth after a decade of sustained success. Those teams generally have two directions they can go to get their franchises back on track. They can either tank and rack up the lottery picks or rebuild on the fly.
I used to lean towards the tankers. The closest thing I ever came to witnessing a full rebuild firsthand was the Stars dropping into the bottom five to draft Ric Jackman in 1996, and he had absolutely nothing to do with the immediate transformation of the franchise the following year. Needless to say, my thoughts on the topic weren't fully vetted.
I'm not going to spend the energy trying to convince you one way or the other on the broader topic of tanking vs. trying. I'm more interested in the trying to retool on the fly side of the equation. Joe Nieuwendyk and the Stars have been ruthlessly implementing change in Texas since the season ended. He has his detractors, but he's done yeoman's work with the Stars roster the past two weeks and for the organization as a whole since the Finals ended. The Stars are laying out a blueprint for rebuilding on the fly that is going largely unnoticed.
July 05 2012 07:39AM
The Minnesota Wild were not a good team last year. They were 29th in goal differential and 30th in shot differential. They had two more points than the New York Islanders, one more than the Toronto Maple Leafs and three less than the Winnipeg Jets. And this is hardly a new state of affairs: they missed the playoffs the last four seasons, averaging just 85 points in that time.
But that's all over, right?
July 04 2012 04:30PM
Imagine, if you will, a professional hockey league where every season, one of the league's leading scorers came available as a free agent, looking for two-year contract at $2M per year, and could make your team 3-4 wins better. Also imagine that every year, some of the league's other leading scorers got locked up to long contracts and proceeded to turn in net negative seasons despite not being injured. Unthinkable? Well, this describes the NHL goaltending market!
July 04 2012 12:18PM
A day or two after Olli Jokinen signed with the Winnipeg Jets, I saw a lot of chatter about this last 15-games or so amongst fans and pundits on twitter. The big Fin had something of a comeback season last year, scoring 61-points (second on the team) but there's no question he had a dreadful final quarter - starting March 13, he managed just three points in the last 13 games and was a cumulative -14.
That being the Flames "stretch drive" for the playoffs, there was a lot of speculation about Jokinen's health and character to explain his horrible downturn in results. The truth is, however, one doesn't need to turn to health or character issues to sort things out - Jokinen merely hit a dry patch.
July 03 2012 12:18PM
Last week, I delved into the always-controversial realm of shot quality, looking at how tight the link between scoring chances and shot differential is. In the comments there and in some subsequent conversations, I was reminded that the current understanding of shot quality is often oversimplified and misrepresented.