Why do you think the team thrived while their best player (Hintz) was injured and then went back to struggling when he came back? Hope you're having a great Friday! -- @b****eshaw
Mike Heika: I think the Stars were trending in a weaker direction even before Roope Hintz and John Klingberg returned, but getting them into the lineup did present some challenges that likely created problems that added to the 0-3-1 slump. That's just sort of how hockey goes. One, the player returning missed seven games, so he has to get back to a place where the game flows naturally. Two, the players who replaced him who might be getting bigger minutes (Jason Dickinson in the case of Hintz and Jamie Oleksiak in the case of Klingberg) then has to adjust to a change in the flow and rhythm of the game. So, yes, that can take time.
A hockey season is long, and different things work well at different times. You really can have games where you are better with your depth players doing more, because those depth players can be really good and can embrace the opportunity they are presented. But, in the long run, you want your best players on the ice, and you want them in the right rhythm, so you go through whatever hiccups to get to that place by the end of the season.
I am enjoying Friday. The weather is great, I love the Christmas vibe, and I get to chat with you guys.
Do you think this year's team has the players on the ice right now to make a deep run into the playoffs? -- @RyanMcQueary
Heika: This is a trick question, because of the dynamic of the NHL playoffs. I actually think the pieces are in place for the Stars to be a very good team. When you start with the two great goaltenders, you can usually compete with any team. When you add the young talent that is improving in players like Heiskanen, Hintz, Dickinson and Gurianov, you have the ability to play a fast game. When you add the high-end talent and ponder that they still have good years remaining, it sure seems like the time is now for this team.
However, the division-centric playoff system means the Stars could have to play Colorado and/or St. Louis in the first/second round of the playoffs. That's a really tough assignment. If the Avalanche are healthy and flying, Dallas could have a great team and lose in the first round. If the Blues are playing their best, they also could take the Stars out very early.
So, I do believe they have the potential to be a very good team. The problem is so do a lot of other teams.
Video: Which teammates would Stars pick to join a band?
I get it. We likely won't see Taylor Hall in Dallas. But assuming the Stars shop around come trade deadline, who would be a fit for the team with our salary cap being in the state it is? -- @LacesOutFinkle
Heika: These thoughts are all my own and I don't really have any insight to what the front office might be thinking. If Stephen Johns returns to play and looks good, I think the Stars might just hold firm on this group and hope for the best. If he cannot play, I think they could use the tool of long-term IR to open up some cap space to make a fairly significant trade.
As much as they are having scoring problems, I don't think the Stars would be looking at adding a forward. I think they would target a defenseman from a team that won't make the playoffs.
After studying some of the options, many seemed to be injured right now, so I'll have to circle back around to see what that pool looks like. I also think we will get a more clear picture on whether some teams are sellers as we get near the trade deadline and would be willing to move a key piece. But for some reason, I think they would love to get a top four defenseman to add to Heiskanen, Klingberg and Lindell.
When a coach gets fired and has years remaining on contract, does that team still pay him if he takes a new coaching job? Or are they off the hook? -- @RDS_25
Heika: It becomes a sort of negotiation between the team that is paying the coach and the team that wants him. On many occasions, the new team pays less than the coach was making at the old job, so then the old team has to make up the difference. That said, the old team has the ability to not release the old coach from the contract, so that's where the negotiation comes in (we'll pay this if you'll pay that).
Coaching contracts are guaranteed, so the coach gets his money one way or another.
What are your thoughts of Pavelski playing on the wing on power play majority of the time instead of spending more time in the net front? I get that sometimes it's because pucks aren't going towards the net, but that's also another issue that needs to be addressed. -- @CRomero94
Heika: I'm a fan of the old school way of doing things, so I would love a top unit that plays 1:30 and has most of the same players in the same jobs. Pavelski in front of the net, Seguin in the circle, Klingberg and Heiskanen at the points. I do think the chance for success comes with repetition and familiarity among teammates. There is the theory that can get stale, and I've seen that happen, but I've also seen it succeed. Alex Ovechkin fires over and over from the same spot. Same with Brent Burns. If you have a high-end skill, why not use it and force the opposition to stop it?
The Stars want two balanced units that play about 60 seconds each, and that can work too. But I would love it if they went with their best five and let them play for five or 10 games together.
All of this said, the Stars are 22nd in power-play opportunities, and I think any strategy would work better if they got out there more and got into a better rhythm.
Video: WPG@DAL: Pavelski pots quick shot for overtime winner
Do you see the Taylor Hall deal happening? Even if it's just a rental, adding a player of his offensive caliber could push the Stars over the hump for a run. -- @CannabisDetail
Heika: No. I think the cost would be too high. I might be wrong, but the Stars added their forward depth in the summer with Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry and more minutes for Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov and Jason Dickinson.
Any team would benefit from having a Taylor Hall, but I just don't know that he would be a good fit with this forward group.
Am I the only one that thinks the Stars need to add more size to their roster to compete with the Central? -- @Dauer53
Heika: Yeah, I think you're on an island on that one, Dan. While I agree that to beat St. Louis, more size would be helpful, it probably needs to be size that can play with the puck - and it doesn't seem like there are any Colton Parayko's or Alex Pietrangelo's out there available. Plus, you also have the strange challenge of you need to be bigger to beat the Blues but faster to beat the Avalanche.
I think the hope is that the Stars are building a bigger, faster team for the future with key pieces in Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, Jason Dickinson and maybe Thomas Harley next season. That's how they are going to get both size and speed into the lineup.
Who do you think will be place on waivers if Johns returns? Also, do you think we will move for a D-men or forward at the deadline if we move? -- @hockey_inside99
Heika: The guess is that Taylor Fedun would be the player that would slide down, but we're a long way from that decision and injuries can always change things. I believe if Stephen Johns is not a regular by early February, they would look at acquiring a defenseman.
During the season, do the guys have a certain diet/nutrition guideline they have to follow or can they eat whatever they like? -- @AlouraBeck
Heika: The Stars have two excellent conditioning coaches in Brad Jellis and J.J. McQueen, and both help with diet and nutrition. Jellis works with the NHL players and McQueen with the AHL players and prospects. Both try to educate and make suggestions, but the player is ultimately responsible for his own nutrition.
Most players are taught at a young age how important it is to invest in their fitness, so diet becomes a huge part of their life. Yes, they can eat whatever they like, but they generally make wise choices.
Could scratching top players (like Radulov last night) become a consistent thing if they aren't scoring? -- @benpatterson33
Heika: I would say no. Otherwise, they would have to scratch most of the forwards at one point or another.
Alexander Radulov's scratch, I believe, was due to the fact that he made mistakes that hurt the team. He is second in the NHL in minor penalties with 15, and those penalties are either handing the opposition the chance to score key goals or gain momentum.
Mix that with the fact he can be unpredictable in terms of structure, and they just wanted to send a message that all of those details are important to winning.
Radulov plays a high-energy, high-event game, and the Stars have been pretty patient in allowing mistakes. However, they would like him to make an effort to be a little smarter and a little more disciplined at times.
We are almost halfway through the season and Seguin has yet to score a power-play goal. Are our PP woes directly related to him not staying in the face-off circle for his one-timer? Why doesn't Monty keep him there? -- @JustinSchmidt24
Heika: I would like to see that more. I think the coaching staff believes balance and versatility will be harder to defend throughout a long season.
Has the team practiced less, more or about the same under Monty compared to when they were coached under Ruff or Hitch? -- @corydtweets
Heika: They are practicing less. The league as a whole believes that rest can be just as important as practice, so the Stars stress days off and smart travel.
If you look at the Stars' bad stretch at the beginning of the season, it came with 10 games in 17 days in seven different cities. The success streak then came with 15 games in 36 days. That rest time was reflected in the energy of the performance.
During the recent fall, it was again in a condensed schedule with travel.
I go back to the playoffs last year, and the Stars had two two-day breaks in the Nashville series and were able to play that high-energy game with short shifts and aggressive defending. In the seven-game St. Louis series with one day between each game, the Stars seemed to wear down.
So, yes, it is part of the plan for this coaching staff to rest players as much as possible. I've been working on a story on that.
Is Radulov healthy scratched again for Saturday's game? -- @Sharkizer88
Heika: I would guess no. As much as they were good without him, they believe he is a big part of future success. I think the message was sent and now they want to see what the impact of the message will be.
I've really liked Gurianov's progression and believe he's on the cusp of stardom. Is it a case of managing his minutes for confidence and learning, or is Monty not confident in him as a top six option yet? Thoughts on Chris Kreider as TDL acquisition? -- @cbarnard82
Heika: Part of this is the fact the coaching staff wants balance throughout the lineup, part of this is the fact the younger players seem to adhere to the 40-second shift rule, but part of it is learning to trust the younger players. Roope Hintz has pushed up to 16:13 in ice time this year after getting 14:03 last season. Gurianov is at 12:53, so the guess is he will eventually get more ice time. Right now, there is a fierce battle for top six minutes with Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Mattias Janmark, Jason Dickinson and Gurianov - and most nights, coaches are simply looking for the combination that helps the team win.
Kreider has size and speed, so he would be worth a look. The problem is that he has been inconsistent offensively this year in New York, and the Stars have plenty of that type. Maybe a change of venue would help. If they go D, I don't think they can also get a forward, so we'll see what they decide closer to the trade deadline.
Video: WPG@DAL: Gurianov buries wrist shot in the 2nd period
Are the Stars built to be a high-scoring team or to shut teams down defensively? I hear all this talk about our defense, but we have great skaters who should be able to score quick -- @BrandonMcCown2
Heika: This is often frustrating for fans, but they want to do it all. They want to be big, they want to be fast, they want to be a shut-down defensive team, but do it was aggressive skating and forechecking. They want to counter-attack with speed and make the most of their scoring chances in transition. When it works _ as it did in the 11-0-1 run, it makes sense. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of energy, and they are still a work in progress.
It's asking for a lot, but they truly do want to do it all. Their identity is as an aggressive, attacking, defensive team, but they also believe they have the skill to convert offensive chances in transition.
Will Monty ever tweak his system to better utilize offensive players? Hitch was here with an extreme defensive system and Seguin still scored 40 goals. -- @TJettman
Heika: One of the differences between Jim Montgomery and Ken Hitchcock is that Ken Hitchcock believed in the old NHL mantra of riding your superstars. He and Lindy Ruff both relied heavily on the best players, and that was one reason Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin had such big numbers. Jim Montgomery believes in balance and depth, and as such, Benn has seen his minutes reduced from 19:49 under Hitchcock to 16:49 this season. Seguin has gone from 20:55 under Hitchcock to 19:02 this season.
So, I'm not sure what the answer is. In theory, Benn and Seguin are getting good scoring chances, and science says they will revert back to their shooting percentages of two seasons ago. But we are more than 100 games into this, so maybe they don't know how to convert the types of scoring chances they are getting in this current style of hockey. If the team wins, everyone will be fine with the reduced production.
If it doesn't win and is paying top players to just be a part of the big group, then there will be some pretty intense discussions on how this is all fitting together.
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 DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.