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Hey Heika: What will Stars do when Stephen Johns re-enters lineup? senior staff writer Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Howdy folks, let's get right to another edition of Hey Heika. Some questions are duplicates, and some I don't have the answers to right now, so I will check and hopefully answers those on Twitter. But we have a good mix today, so let's go.

As always, you can submit questions on Twitter by using the hashtag #HeyHeika or by emailing me.


What happens when Johns comes back and Dallas has 8 defensemen? Again... -- @JQMoney

A lot depends on the health of Marc Methot and Connor Carrick, but I definitely think the Stars will keep all eight defensemen and send a forward back to the AHL. The injuries on the blueline and the waiver situation for the D-men mean that keeping eight really is not a problem.

If everyone is healthy, I could see:





Do you think the biggest problem with the Stars' inconsistent play so far this season is a mental or culture issue? The team has missed the playoffs in 8 of the last 10 years. -- @bkarnes288

I would agree with you if there weren't so many changes during that span. Even in the Jim Nill era, we have three different coaches in six years and a large swap-out of leaders. I think they have been searching for an identity, and the hope is they will find one with this mix of players under Jim Montgomery.

They definitely have to prove themselves, and they know that, so at least they are aware of the challenge.


With Rads out for another, how can Monty get Benn and Segs going? -- @JakeDeere_

I would try Val Nichushkin up on the top line for a couple of games. They worked well together five years ago, so why not give them an extended tryout?

Video: WPG@DAL: Benn buries his second PPG of the game


Looks like Val still can't elevate and is right on pace for what he did in the 14-15 season (through 8 games) with us before he was sent down...2014-15 Dallas 8GP 0G 1A 1P 2PIM What are they really expecting to change with this guy? -- @Don_KeyPuncher

The Stars are hoping he is a smarter player and will be able to adapt to NHL play more quickly, but Nichushkin has been struggling with offensive consistency. He does many puck possession things well, but he has to be able to take the next step offensively if he is going to be a big part of this team. He's played well in spurts with Alexander Radulov, and I'm not sure if that's the only way he will be successful.

Like I said above, I would try him with the top line for a couple of games just to see what happens.


Where is your favorite place to travel during the season? -- @PolaroidVisions

We're in a few of those places on this trip. I love Montreal for the culture, I love Toronto for the hockey buzz. My favorite trip changes every year (sometimes California in January is pretty nice), but I still think my favorite trip is getting three or four days in New York City. It's even better around Christmas.


What is the key to keeping Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin consistently scoring without mini droughts? -- @naftalirosey

I think the Stars are hitting on it a lot in recent interviews, and that's skating. The entire team needs to skate so that they can hand energy from one line to the next, and Benn and Seguin seem at their best when they are flying up and down the ice and just reacting. That's when their natural talent comes out. I also think when the Stars are skating, they draw more power plays, and the power plays feed the offensive energy of Benn and Seguin.

Right now, that duo needs to get moving more in every facet of the game.

Video: TOR@DAL: Seguin beats Andersen five-hole on breakaway


Why does it appear that Alexander Radulov is the ONLY player that gives 100% every second on the ice? -- @JASVK

I know this team gets criticized for lack of emotion, but I think there are sparkplugs out there. I think Mattias Janmark, Tyler Pitlick, Radek Faksa and Devin Shore are among the forwards who try to create energy and buzz all of the time. The problem is a lot of their skating or buzz is on the perimeter and doesn't get the puck to the net. Then you have a team with a lot of offensive zone time, but not a lot of real scoring chances. That's one of the criticism of the depth scoring, that they are skating hard, but not with enough purpose or skill to finish their chances.

I'll also come to the defense of Tyler Seguin here, as he seems pretty committed to two-way play every game.


Rinky Dinking is one of the highlights of my week. Have y'all thought about doing a player segment? I know the boys are busy, but I think it'd be neat if they had some time. -- @rashid_benoit

I will forward to the powers that be and see if this is an option.


How difficult is it for players to adjust to new system vs old? Getting paid millions to play a game for a living is it acceptable to have so many bad starts? (why do we seem to have so many bad starts, why does energy not seem equal to opposition most nights?) -- @Nobody36363498

1. I think three vastly different systems in three years is a challenge. I also think Jim Montgomery's system requires some finesse in decision-making, and that might take some time to acquire.

2. I think the money question goes out the window when you realize every team is making about the same amount. I think the questions of preparation, pride and leadership are all valid.


With the exception of opening night against Arizona, and even through the pre-season, Alexander Radulov is consistently at or near the top of the list in average shift time per game. Is that by design or does he just hate to come off the ice? -- @AnalyticsStars

Every player has areas that need improvement and Radulov's are minimalizing penalties and shift length awareness. My belief is he wants to win very much, and he feels he can make the play that helps the team win, and that's why he stays out so long. That's not uncommon with superstars. When you have a player of Radulov's skill and energy, you make some exceptions, but the Stars definitely want him to take fewer penalties and keep his shifts shorter.

Video: ANA@DAL: Radulov wrists one past Gibson for a PPG


What seems to be the team's biggest concern right now? Consistency? Confidence? Or players coming in and out of the lineup on a regular basis (scracthes and injuries) -- @Lucky_Krypto

All of that, while trying to learn a new system, develop chemistry, and battle the demon of not winning on the road. This is a challenging time for the Stars, but good teams overcome challenges. That's simply the way it is in the NHL.


Is there a hockey version of baseball's Kangaroo Court? -- @hellspearx17

Yes, players can get fined for all manner of transgressions. Typically, the regular fines are being late for meetings or buses, but they also probably have some fines for breaking hockey code. That could be an interesting story in the future.


Why does Monty keep switching up the lines and not stick to a normal pattern that the boys can get use to and build chemistry together? -- @brittpatt1

He explained Wednesday that the injuries and lack of chemistry have sent him to the lab too many times. I think this quote explains a lot, because it shows what he is looking for. It's also a reason he might like Justin Dowling on the top line at times. Montgomery was asked if he thinks about lines in pairs with a third option, the same way Ken Hitchcock did, and he said no.

"I'm not a guy who so much thinks about pairs," Montgomery said. "As I get to know the players, I get a feel for them. You've either got to be a puck possession player, a puck pressure player, or you're a scorer. On a line, a scorer needs to go with a puck possession guy and that third guy ideally is a puck pressure guy that does all the details right and creates turnovers that allows the other two to do their magic."

Because he is looking for specific types on a line, I think that causes more shuffling overall trying to find just the right combo


What do the other coaches - Nelson/Barnes/Bowness - on Montgomery's staff do? What are their responsibilities? Any specific areas? -- @HenriMuroke

It's a good combination of talents, and they really seem to like each other and work well together.

Rick Bowness coaches the defensemen and the penalty kill. Todd Nelson coaches the forwards and the power play. Stu Barnes does pre-scouting in 5-on-5 play and helps Jim Montgomery put together the game plan. Jeff Reese handles goaltending and Kelly Forbes and Sean Andrake handle video.

Forbes also pre-scouts faceoffs and helps the Stars there, while Vernon Fiddler and Stan Tugulukov help with practices and conditioning.

Montgomery very much wants open dialogue, so Bowness might tell the power play what he sees from a penalty killing standpoint and Nelson might tell the penalty kill what he sees from a power play standpoint. It seems like a good mix so far.


Q1: How interested are the Stars in trading for a Nylander-level player this season? Q2: Has the Stars org's opinion of Honka changed now that he's a bit more #FreeHonka? Thanks! -- @fergusontribe

To get a high-level scorer, the Stars will have to clear some salary cap space (they have about $1.9 million) and would have to be prepared to give up some young players, prospects or draft picks. To make the incoming salary work, some salary would have to go to the other team.

How interested are they? Well, my guess is that will depend a lot on the results. This team is built to win now, and if it looks like it's on the bubble and needs a push, the interest will go up. But it will have to be the right situation, because this won't be an easy trade to make.

As for Question 2: They have always believed in Honka, but they have some interesting decisions to make on defense.

Video: LAK@DAL: Honka blocks shot with his skate


Saw the Honka-Heiskanen pairing last night in Montreal. Is that a pairing we'll see a lot of going forward? -- @jtraviss09

They are trying a lot of things right now. I think they fear the size of that duo if it gets caught in its own end, so I don't see that as a long-term pairing. But honestly, there are a lot of options out there to consider.


Any rumblings or updates about the Stars potentially getting into an outdoor game. Also, Toronto and Arizona have recently dived into having esports events; any rumblings about the team having plans to do something similar? -- @CodyMarcom

I believe they are always in talks with the NHL about an outdoor game. I'm not sure on Esports, but I believe Dallas as a city has a lot of ties to Esports, so I could see something happening there.


Who are top 3-5 fighters on the Stars, technique/skill wise? -- @chancem

I think Jamie Benn is the most feared for his ability to snap, and his ability to get punches in. I would say Brett Ritchie might be second on the team, and Gemel Smith is underrated. Stephen Johns also has been a big brawler, but I wonder if the recent problems might take him out of the fight game going forward.

One other player who is showing more anger on the ice is Radek Faksa. He might be someone to watch for a bout here or there going forward.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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