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Hey Heika: Could a trade help get Stars out of early jam?'s Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

With an eye toward civic duty, we here at offer the service of answering your tough Stars questions on a regular basis.

The team is not practicing Monday in Washington, D.C., but there's plenty to talk about after an 0-3-0 start. What's on your mind before Dallas takes on the Capitals Tuesday? We study it here in another edition of Hey Heika.


What's with the juggling act? Why can't we settle on lines? -- @BGR316

Mike Heika: It's a fine line, and one that every coach walks.

On the good side, Jim Montgomery seems to find some lines and stick with them -- he was determined to use Cogliano-Faksa-Comeau throughout preseason and really wanted that line to play together. However, Comeau got hurt. Injuries to Comeau and Jason Dickinson are one reason he's shuffling so much right now.

On the bad side, he and the coaching staff seem to come up with a pregame plan and then he moves away from the plan very quickly at times. Against St. Louis, he wanted Radek Faksa to center Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That lasted for a few shifts. He has tried putting Benn, Seguin and Radulov together. He has tried putting them on three different lines. He changes things up frequently and often in the middle of games.

He believes he can read games and can best put his lines to use when the changes are needed during a game. He also believes that if everybody plays with everybody, then everybody can have chemistry together.

I'm old school in that I like to see a line stick together more, but Jim Montgomery ran this system last season and got the most out of the team, so as long as it works for him, my guess is he will keep juggling.


What do the players think of large quantities of line shuffling? -- @JLinkTX

Heika: They say they got used to it last season and don't mind it. While there is a chance they are never going to question the coach, the players I talk to genuinely believe it helped in the playoffs.


At 0-3-0, should the Stars be thinking about any early trades to fix whatever it is that's going on? -- @spookboi11

Heika: No, they need more time to see where they are at. The decision to move Martin Hanzal to LTIR opens up the possibility of trades -- and Jim Nill could always make a salary for salary deal if he really felt the need to change things up. But when they drew this up in the off-season, they were confident in the plan, so I think they need to stick with it.

Unless something disastrous happens, my guess is they wouldn't even consider a move until after Halloween.


I am a big Benn fan and don't think he as bad as people say, but I get their concern. Benn just seems to lay up on a lot of plays and doesn't show the hustle you see out of guys like Cogs, Gardner, and Janny. Why do you think that is? -- @bfreed33

Heika: Lots of questions on the captain this week.

This is a tough one for some fans. Unless Jamie Benn wants a trade, he will not be traded. He has a full no-move clause and has six years (including this one) remaining on his contract at $9.5 million cap hit. He is one of the key building blocks of this team, and the Stars believe he can be one of the best left wings in the NHL.

Benn put in a ton of work in the off-season, and the belief is that work will pay off in better skating and more scoring opportunities this season, so they are going to be patient and put him in the best position to succeed. He's 30 and should be in the prime of his career.

As for not looking like he's hustling, Benn has always played a patient "lurking" game. He's been good in his career at surprising players and taking pucks away, and he's looking for open spots on the ice in the offensive zone. Now, in the past, he was also good at going "beast mode" at times and getting in people's face, and we haven't seen that as much in the past two seasons. That's a concern.

But if you watched him work in the summer, you know he's motivated and hungry. It's just a matter now of transferring that to games this season.


Why is Klingberg going with the Radulov gap look? -- @ascottdundon

Heika: He said his bridge doesn't fit and is falling out when he plays, so he just decided to go this way for games. He wears it when he is off the ice.


Everyone knows Benn, Kling, Rads, and Seguin are elite hockey players. Why is it so difficult for them to execute together when other Stars lines seem to work so well? Mantha, Bertuzzi, and Larkin, for example. -- @starsfan02

Heika: I actually think when they have played together over the past three years, they are among the best lines in hockey. It's just that the rest of the team has struggled when those three are loaded on one line. So, now, we're shuffling all over the place and finding that establishing that chemistry is tough even when they get back together.

If they played together for a month or so, I think you would see similar chemistry (or close to it) to the times when they were at their peak.


Who is the goofiest person on the team? -- @laabshier

Heika: I think John Klingberg still is the goofiest. He likes to have fun and play it up for the cameras. He likes to laugh during practice and in the locker room. Anton Khudobin also is a guy who can be goofy at times, as is Roman Polak. But I think Klingberg is the leader there.


Since Jim Montgomery arrived, he's talked about changing the culture "on and off" the ice. He's also talked about the team learning what it means to be a good teammate (specifically referencing Benn). We know what he's tried to change on the ice. Any insight into what he means off it? -- @mbherzog

Heika: The term he uses with the media is "being an everyday professional." That means being on time, being dedicated to the process, being there for your younger players (or even older players). It's a lot like the Bill Belichick line of "do your job." He's big on that philosophy. As much as Montgomery is a player's coach who understands the young mind, he also is an old soul. He was raised in a very old school hockey environment in Montreal, and all of the stuff that was preached back then is important to him.

What Montgomery would like is for the Stars to embrace a culture of responsibility and accountability that begins with the players setting the bar higher than anyone else. He would like the team to be pushing for more.


What are your thoughts on Oleksiak so far this season? Does he look like he keeps a steady spot on the roster this season? From the cheap seats it looks like he's trying to earn a spot with Polak out. -- @davealvarado78

Heika: I actually see Jamie Oleksiak as the fifth defenseman, ahead of Roman Polak, Taylor Fedun or anyone else who comes up from the AHL. I think he learned a lot in Pittsburgh and has returned as a more mature and calmer defenseman. I liked his game in the playoffs before he was hurt last year, and I like his game so far this season.


What do you think the Stars' biggest weakness is? -- @DakotaGreenaway

Heika: It's sort of a combined weakness that leads to them not scoring very many goals. They don't possess the puck enough and establish offensive zone time, so they don't get as many scoring chances as the opposition. That also means they don't draw penalties, because they don't force the opposition to defend as much. They also don't finish very well on the chances they do get. Dallas was 20th in shots on goal last season at 30.7 per game, 29th in power plays drawn at 214 and 27th in shooting percentage at 8.3 percent.

For the skill they seem to have, this is not a very good offensive team.

The Stars addressed those issues in the off-season, but both the preseason and early seasons results say that still is their chief weakness.


Every shot Pavelski makes, he seems to whiff. Was he worth the signing? -- @Scorpio1998

Heika: Joe Pavelski played with the same teammates for more than a decade in San Jose, so he's going to have to adapt to his new linemates and new system. He has looked awkward at times in the early going, but that's a player who needs some time to adjust.

We'll see in the long run if giving him a three-year contract at age 35 was a wise move, but I think you have to allow for Pavelski to not only find the places on the ice where he can be successful, but also to establish some chemistry with John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen, who will be sending pucks to areas where Pavelski can shoot or tip the puck.


I have a question! Favorite go-to snack that you know you shouldn't have?! Love ya, Stars! -- @CoushattaLaRue

Heika: I love chocolate, and I love the Nestle Aero bar. They are tough to find in the U.S., but they are readily available in Canada. Try one if you can find one.


Out-of-left-field question: Would LTIR be used for a Brian Boyle-type player this early in the season? Seems like we could still use a little muscle/grit in my opinion (especially with Polak/Comeau being out for a bit). -- @LacesOutFinkle

Heika: I just think the Stars believe they might be best served adding a bigger contract later in the season. I think last year taught a lot of teams that the key is to be playing your best hockey at the end of the year.

While you can't get too far behind, I still think the plan is to get better each month and then go steaming into the playoffs with your best team.

The Stars added Mats Zuccarello late last season, and I think their plan this year is to fill their biggest need in January or February with a high dollar player who will become a UFA in the summer. So I think they are saving whatever LTIR they might have for later in the year.


With Heiskanen being a future Top 5 league defenseman and Roope looking like a potential 30-goal scorer, do you forsee a serious cap crunch taking place in the next 2-3 seasons? -- @Chris_Armey

Heika: Actually, Jim Nill has the Stars in a pretty good place. Heiskanen's contract could be tight, but Cogliano, Comeau and Oleksiak each become UFAs at that time and that could clear about $8 million off the books.

Both Radulov ($7 million) and Pavelski ($6.25 million) are UFAs the year Klingberg needs a new deal, so that should work out. It won't be easy, but every team deals with it.

The Hintz contract could be a big one next summer, as the Stars might have to say goodbye to a few players they really like.


What's the deal with okra? -- @ArtofJason

Heika: Having grown up in Michigan, I was never really given much Okra as a child. However, my wife is from Texas and her family loves it. I think it's OK when breaded and fried, but isn't that the way with everything?


Should we be worried now? -- @behale8

Heika: I'm always worried, so you certainly can be. I do think last season taught us that teams can come back with a strong second half, and that you really only need to make the playoffs and be playing your best hockey at the end of the season.

That said, 15 teams are going to miss the postseason, and you don't want to get too far behind.


OK, Mike, now that the talk is over as in preseason hype, do you see this team as being capable of scoring goals in bunches, and will they, in your opinion, be a 100-point team? Or is it just another season of the same old Stars of all talk and no stick? -- @BlaiseBekavac

Heika: I really think you have to wait this one out. On paper, the pieces are there to make this team better. You can argue that Hintz, Dickinson and Janmark should all have better years, that Pavelski is an improvement over Spezza, and that Sekera/Oleksiak is an upgrade on defense. Add in the addition of John Stevens and the year of experience for the coaching staff, and the Stars should be a much better team.

The first three games are worrisome, but the logic of this team being better still makes sense.

Some submissions have been edited for brevity and clarity. Have a question for a future Hey Heika mailbag? Tweet it to @MikeHeika and use #HeyHeika.

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.

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