Back again for another season of Dallas Stars hockey and I am cranked up and counting down to opening night.
I will concede that this is a time of transition for the Stars, and the days of projecting a sure playoff berth and a hopeful run to the Stanley Cup are likely not to be used in the present tense. This is a club trying to figure things out as they go - possibly between eras of excellence.
Having missed the playoffs the last two seasons, it is clear what the goal should be around here. Figure out a way to compete for the Top 8 in the West. And while I spend plenty of time scanning the news to see if there are developments on the story of the sale of the team, any team in hockey should be able to compete for the playoff spot provided that the team has special players.
And this team does. Could they use more? Absolutely. Do they need to return to the days of having a wallet packed with resources? I wish that day was here.
But, it isn't here yet - and the season is going to start on schedule, regardless of the current realities of the business page.
Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow
, Mike Ribeiro
, James Neal, Loui Erikkson, and Jamie Benn
represent a very formidable Top 6. Steve Ott
, Adam Burish
, and others will hopefully provide a very difficult roster to play against.
The backline is where I am skeptical, as we depend on further progress from the kids - some of who are developing well - and some who need to do more.
And then between the pipes.
With the torch passed from Marty Turco, the Stars hope they have a stud who can keep them in games and carry the mail. Let's hope Kari Lehtonen
is what the brass think he is.
The sermon that Joe Nieuwendyk is preaching is a message of competing for the crest on the jersey. 20 warriors not taking a shift off or giving an inch in the corner for the puck. Taking a hit and making a play. Giving more than receiving. Making work ethic and abrasiveness a calling card of Stars Hockey.
If it is a battle plan that is followed, this team can go to the playoffs. If not, this hill is going to be a difficult obstacle to navigate.
82 games are straight ahead. I am eager to see if the boys can handle this challenge. The league is doubting they can. Sometimes, that is all a team needs to rise up - everyone telling them they can't.
Let's get it on.
Email Bob at Sturm1310@aol.com and follow him on twitter at www.twitter.com/bobanddan