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Over The Boards

Stars' staying power, Blues' goalies among questions

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly mail

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the March 23 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Are the Dallas Stars going to be real contenders for the Stanley Cup for the next few seasons, or is this season a fluke? -- @Wholemilk83

General manager Jim Nill has built the Stars to be contenders for a while, not a flash in the pan. They have the right core of young, elite players in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg. I think Valeri Nichushkin is going to be a big story next season. I think he'll have a breakout season. He's too big and talented to be a flop. They have good veteran leadership in Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya. I really like Cody Eakin, Mattias Janmark and Alex Goligoski (if they bring him back) as contributing players who don't have that star quality but are essential to Dallas' success. Stephen Johns could, and maybe should, turn into a top-four defenseman, if not top-two. He was the key asset Nill acquired in the trade that also brought Sharp to Dallas. Johns was, not Sharp. They have other young players coming up too, including Julius Honka and Esa Lindell. The question is the goaltending (it's a legit question), but it's good enough to keep the Stars as contenders for several more seasons. I can't in good conscience say it will get them over the hump, though.

Right now, who do you think takes the final wild card spot, Detroit Red Wings or Philadelphia Flyers? Or maybe another team slips in? -- @AlexGrablauskas

I've been a believer in the Flyers for the past several weeks. Their meltdown late in the third period Tuesday notwithstanding, they've been playing a strong, cohesive game of late. They now better hope they don't miss by one point. Talk about a long offseason if that happens.

I've been down on the Red Wings since they couldn't build on a good win in the Stadium Series game at Coors Field. They're 4-6-0 in 10 games since the win against the Colorado Avalanche. They have nine games left, with the next three at home, but they haven't exactly been lighting it up at Joe Louis Arena; they're 18-12-6 at home this season. They also have to play the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota Wild before closing the season against the Flyers, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.

At this point, I'd have to say the Flyers get in and the Red Wings' playoff streak ends at 24 seasons. But lurking is the slumping New York Islanders, who don't have their No. 1 goalie in Jaroslav Halak. But the Islanders have two games in hand on the Red Wings and one on the Flyers. Win those and they'll be fine.

Video: PHI@CBJ: Giroux finishes Schenn's feed

What's wrong with Braden Holtby and will he fix it in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs? -- @P_Smith003

I wouldn't worry about Holtby. In fact, if I were a fan of the Washington Capitals, I'd have full faith in Holtby and goalie coach Mitch Korn at all times. They are great together. I think Holtby is going to be just fine when the games start to matter again. Right now, the games don't matter nearly as much to the Capitals as they do to some of the teams they're playing.

Is Dave Cameron's job at risk? What about Bryan Murray's? Several good pieces [in Ottawa], could the team be good soon with a new bench boss and a move or two? -- @pwjustin

I, like you, saw Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's comments from Tuesday. Reading between the lines, it seems Murray is safe but Cameron is not. Fair or unfair, that's what happens when you have the type of season the Senators are having. Frankly, I think it's unfair. Just last season, Cameron found the right combinations and pushed all the right buttons to get the Senators into the playoffs when they looked as if they had no business being there for more than half a season. He didn't all of a sudden become a bad coach. I don't think Cameron should be in jeopardy of losing his job, but I do think the Senators need to spend the offseason diving deep into some analysis to figure out why they are allowing so many scoring chances and shots on goal, and why they aren't possessing the puck enough. They need to make that adjustment for next season. It could come with coaching and roster changes. If Cameron can't fix it, then we can talk about a coaching change. But hearing Melnyk on Tuesday, I'm now wondering if Cameron is even going to get that chance.

Who will win the Atlantic Division? -- @StefaniJanvier

I want to say the Florida Panthers, but the caveat here is they have to win one of their next two games, preferably in regulation, for me to be secure with this pick. They play at the Bruins on Thursday and at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. After that, the Panthers have seven games left, all against teams out of the playoff race, including two each against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. That really should be four wins right there, at worst three. They're still in control, but they have to start playing better than they have been. Roberto Luongo has to be better than he has been, too.

Video: DET@FLA: Luongo blocks tip-in, deflects next shot

If the Red Wings miss the playoffs, why? And who would be more likely to go: A) Ken Holland or B) Jeff Blashill?

If they miss it'll be because they haven't had consistent scoring, in large part because their power play has not been good and their goaltending has dropped off significantly. Neither Holland nor Blashill are in jeopardy, nor should they be.

If the New York Islanders lose in the first round or don't make the playoffs, will Jack Capuano keep his job? -- @ryanmcdade33

If they don't make it, I think he's fair game. If they make it and get swept, he's fair game. If they make it and lose in a tough seven-game series without Halak in net, I think Capuano would and probably should get the benefit of the doubt. But the Islanders will have new owners this summer, and all bets are off when new owners come in.

Who gets the start in goal in the playoffs for the St. Louis Blues? And can they finally make it past the first round? -- @matt_winthrop

Man, I have no idea who will start Game 1 for the Blues, just as I have no idea who would start Game 2, win or lose Game 1. It's that up in the air for Ken Hitchcock when it comes to Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. For a long time I've thought Hitchcock and the Blues had to choose, that they couldn't keep going with this 1A and 1B scenario. I have long felt they needed to choose Allen because he's the future. But Elliott just continues to play well and make the decision hard for Hitchcock. So, yeah, I have no clue. I'll guess Allen just for giggles, but really it's just that, a total guess.

As for the second part of your question, they definitely can make it out of the first round, but they'd do themselves a massive favor by finishing first in the Central Division. The last thing St. Louis wants is a first-round matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, even if the Blackhawks appear to be struggling right now. I'm not sure how much their current struggles matter. I'm actually fairly certain they don't matter at all. St. Louis should want to play the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild or Colorado Avalanche. That is obvious.

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