I think he's definitely finding the right energy with the players. He has their respect already, because of his ideas and because he was a player, and he is fostering a very positive vibe right now. Can he keep that going if there are hiccups? We'll see. But the 3-0-1 preseason start and general confidence around the team have to be seen as really nice first steps.
That's a really good question. I believe the Stars were involved in both the John Tavares and Erik Karlsson talks because they were told that the players were interested in Dallas. Now, should we take that as a good sign that both believe the Stars are a good organization and a desirable destination or should we be concerned that neither deal could get done?
I think Tavares was going to Toronto no matter what, and I think the Stars likely had the better offer for Ottawa. But the timeline of the negotiations didn't work out. I think Jim Nill made his best offer right off the bat and Ottawa didn't know what to do with it. Then, when Dallas didn't want to sweeten the offer, Ottawa went elsewhere. But what does all of that mean for how the Stars are being built? Well, there are only so many superstars available and every organization and deal is different, so the Stars aren't going to just be able to jump to the next best player.
I think they are open to a trade and I think Nill is plugged in on just about every available player, so it's definitely a possibility. The Stars currently have about $4 million in cap space for this season and could shed about $10 million more next season (with UFAs leaving and still adding Tyler Seguin's raise), so Dallas has the ability to be in on pretty much any deal it feels would work. I believe they want to trust the younger players, but they also very much want to win now.
My guess is if they are looking like a playoff team, they will be in a lot of conversations to add a player as the season goes along. At the very least, they are positioned to land a big free agent next summer.
I really like what he has done so far in the preseason, but the contracts say he will likely go back to the AHL to start the season, and then be a potential call-up if there is an injury. That's a pretty good place to be after being scratched in the AHL playoffs last season.
If everyone is healthy, I'm going with:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Blake Comeau - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Gemel Smith - Jason Dickinson - Devin Shore
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns
Marc Methot - Julius Honka
I think everyone is excited about the possibility of improving themselves in a new system. The depth-scoring players have worked hard in the offseason and are hungry for an opportunity, and the battle will be intense. There could be some really big improvement in players like Spezza, Shore and Dickinson -- and there could be wild cards in players like Nichushkin, Hintz and Gurianov. Mix in steady contributors in Janmark, Faksa, Pitlick and Comeau, and I really think forward depth could be an advantage this season.
Honka is going to be a regular, I believe. He was given top minutes in Tulsa and struggled with that role Saturday, but I think he will be fine on the third pairing. Roope looked great on Monday, but the contracts still favor him starting in the AHL. We'll see if he forces them to make a tough decision before opening night with his performance in his remaining preseason games.
Like I said above, he has had some challenges, but I think his skillset will work great with this style of play. He needs to stop thinking so much and just trust his instincts, but I think he will.
No, I don't think so. Derek Laxdal is going to reflect the work of the head coach in the NHL. That's kind of his job. My guess is his approach last year was a lot like Ken Hitchcock's, and his approach this year will be more like Jim Montgomery's. In addition, the younger players he has will likely be more mature and closer to the NHL, so I think the ability to rely on them will be stronger. The other interesting part of Laxdal's job is that by getting his team deep into the playoffs, he's getting experience for the entire organization. That means extra practice time, as well as playing in pressure situations for everybody. The Stars trust that Laxdal knows how to win, and that winning is good for everybody.
This is a favorite question of the fans, and I will say this: While no steps have been taken in even thinking about a design for a third jersey, the team would consider starting discussion if they get put into one of the outdoor games in the future. There are current discussions in which an outdoor game would include Dallas (which has never been a part of an outdoor game), so if that happens, the talk on a third jersey will get started.
Julius Honka definitely won't lose his spot, but you are right in saying Esa Lindell is a very good power-play performer. They will probably each get some time with the second unit, and then whoever is performing better will stick. In my expected lineup, Heiskanen will be on that unit, so developing chemistry with him will be important.
He's been fine. That's not a ringing endorsement, but there is some patience there because of his size and talent. Playing with Janmark and Spezza could really ignite his game, so the guess is coaches and management will take their time and gently push for more as Nichushkin transitions from the KHL. He has such a great support group around him that I think he will eventually get to his potential this season.
I don't think so. If Elie or Smith are forced to go through waivers, I would guess they would make it and the Stars would not lose them. If they really think a younger player has outperformed Ritchie, the guess is Ritchie would be a healthy scratch and not sent through waivers.
Everything is in place for Spezza to have a really nice season. The guess is that's probably close to the 15 goals and 35 assists for 50 points he had in 2016-17. We'll see if he can hit that.
Both Stephen Johns and Tyler Seguin are being held out of preseason games with injuries or general soreness that has not been disclosed. The guess is both are ready for the season opener and might even play in one of the remaining preseason games. Martin Hanzal is rehabbing, and his target after spinal fusion surgery is still late November or early December.
It's a very legitimate concern. In college, Jim Montgomery generally had three to four practices to get ready for an opponent, and that was often times the same opponent for two consecutive games. He was able to scout and devise game plans based on matchups. He likely won't be able to do that in the NHL, where veteran coaches often say a team simply has to play its game and impose its will on an opponent.
Camp has been a whirlwind with a lot of information being processed, so we're not really sure how Montgomery will address opponents and an NHL schedule. On the good side, October is well-spaced with lots of home practice, so he will be able to transition slowly. But he definitely has some challenges ahead of him that will force him to be ready by late November.
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.