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Hey Heika: Will Khudobin re-sign with Stars in offseason?

DallasStars.com's Mike Heika talks offense, goaltending and looks ahead to the 2021 expansion draft in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

I'd like to lead off this interaction with the fans by clarifying something.

Some people interpreted this column as chastising fans for criticizing Rick Bowness, and if you read it that way, I apologize. That was not my intent. What I wanted was maybe a deeper debate on why Bowness is making the decisions he is making and what the overall impact of those decisions might be.

I think the coaching staff was hesitant to lean too hard on Anton Khudobin for fear it might create some tension with Ben Bishop. Some fans pointed out it was the right time to go with Khudobin more, and those fans were right. Khudobin got a big start in St. Louis and that may have started an inner process where the team is addressing any inconsistency Bishop might be dealing with.

They might have done it anyway, but hearing it from outside never hurts, and changes were then made on the ice.

The same goes for the push to get more minutes for Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz. I think the coaching staff is having this discussion internally anyway, but the fact the fans think it's a good idea can have an impact.

In the game against Edmonton Tuesday, Bowness matched Hintz, Gurianov and Jason Dickinson up against Connor McDavid and saw great results. I'm not sure that would have happened a month ago. They are trusting that line defensively, and that could definitely lead to more time on ice for the young scorers. At the same time, the Stars played Andrew Cogliano-Radek Faksa-Blake Comeau against Leon Draisaitl's line, and they also were successful. So those saying more minutes for Hintz and Gurianov should come from playing "FCC" less, do you see how that can be challenging for the coaching staff and how trying to balance things seems like a good compromise?

Bowness wants to roll all four lines and all three defense pairs. Special teams will affect that. Who's hot will affect that. But the Edmonton game was a good example of how the balance can work.

In addition to getting the Stars to a pretty good place in the standings, Bowness and the coaching staff have built a strong feeling in the dressing room. The players are embracing the identity and they believe in each other. Two veterans who are going through massive lifestyle changes in their moves to Dallas -- Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry -- are both playing better because they have adapted well to their roles here. That's important, because there is a real chance both will be important to any playoff success the Stars might have this season.

Credit Bowness with that.

And criticize him when you see fit. That's part of the relationship fans have with the team.

But understand the give and take, as well. Give a reasoned argument for changes you think should be implemented (which many of you do) and my guess is the organization sees these and thinks about them. Say you think the coach should be fired when he has the team winning on a regular basis, and my guess is you hurt the credibility of all fans.

I guess this is a long way to say I really do enjoy the interaction with the fans, I always have. That's why things like "Hey Heika" are fun to me … and hopefully to you, too. 

Now for your questions:

 

Is there a stat that keeps track of who takes the most hits while creating chances? if there's not, I'd like to submit Jason Dickinson as the league leader. Dude will jump in front of a car to make a play. -- @benpatterson33

Mike Heika: No, but that would be a fun one. The ability to take a hit to make a play is impressive, because it shows the body language that you are willing to do anything to help your team win. It also shows the focus a player can have when the game is at its most high speed and chaotic.

Stephane Robidas used to be the master of this art, because he would make breakout passes in the face of a hard forecheck and often times was decked.

Now, there is some downside to doing this regularly, as you don't want to take too many hits over a season or a career. There can be a long-term impact. Robidas' teammates even told him back in the day to let go of the puck sooner or to simply get out of the way.

It's a great trick, to be sure. You just don't want to do it too many times.

Video: DAL@CAR: Dickinson wires home wrist shot

 

Stephen Johns is such a great story this season. He has to be in the running for the Masterson, right? -- @ascottdundon

Heika: I think he is. Stephen Johns' return from a 22-month absence caused by post-traumatic headaches is an amazing story, and I'm not sure we really know all that he had to go through. He embodies the definition of the award, which is displaying the qualities of "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."

A documentary was released recently on how Edmonton's Connor McDavid fought back hard from a knee injury he suffered in April, so that should create a lot of buzz for McDavid as a Masterton candidate. But I definitely think Johns is in the mix, and we'll just have to let the voters decide.

Whether he wins or not, it is still a great story. To see him laughing and hanging around his teammates is the best award you can get.

Video: DAL@NYR: Johns hammers puck home from blue line

 

Has there ever been a Dallas Stars goal scored during the Dr Pepper Minute? -- @BellaDawnM

Heika: Our fantastic research team led by Tom Holy says that it has happened twice -- Oct. 9, 2014 and Feb. 19, 2015. That was the season the promotion started.

 

Is it too early to start looking towards and preparing for the expansion? If not, who could we see it have an affect on come offseason? -- @quinton512

Heika: It's hard, because there are so many changes that could take place. The rules are the same, and the guess is the Stars would want to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. If you're projecting, their biggest issue with forwards might be choosing between Radek Faksa or Jason Dickinson. Expected to be protected would be Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov. That would allow two more forwards to be protected. Joe Pavelski can be exposed, but I'm not sure the Stars want to do that. That said, both Faksa and Dickinson could be under contract, and I'm not sure they want to expose either of those.

That's just an early problem to ponder.

On defense, it's easy to say Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell would be protected. That would potentially leave Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak exposed, but both of those could be potential UFAs in the summer of 2021, and that could help solve that problem.

Goalie would be interesting, because they have to make one available, and Jake Oettinger won't be exposed because of his experience level. That could mean Landon Bow or Colton Point might be the goalie exposed.

The Stars seem to be in really good position. Rules state you have to expose a certain amount of players with NHL experience, but they could actually get through this without losing anyone of major significance.

 

Favorite Tex-Mex place(s) to eat at around Dallas? Margaritas and chips and salsa should also be factored in -- @rewdy214

Heika: I have an unsophisticated palate, so I'll say Jack In The Box tacos.

Seriously, I really don't partake in fine dining much and I don't like hot spicy food, so I'm a bad source.

 

Not to jump too far ahead, but what moves do you see the Stars making in the offseason? Free-agent signings, re-signings, extensions, head coaching change? -- @LacesOutFinkle

Heika: So much of that will be determined down the stretch and in the playoffs. I think it's easy to anticipate that potential UFAs Roman Polak and Andrej Sekera will likely not be re-signed and that defenseman Thomas Harley will be given a chance to play in the NHL next season.

I think you also could look at players like Mattias Janmark and Corey Perry, and say they could be replaced by players like Jason Robertson and Ty Dellandrea (or any number of other young forwards). But what if Sekera or Janmark or Perry is a beast in the playoffs? Does that change how you think?

Likewise, what if one of the big guns doesn't play well? Does that make you ponder a trade?

So much of what NHL teams do in the summer is based on what they did or didn't do in the playoffs, so we need that information before we can make some pretty big decisions.

On the head coach, that's the ultimate wait-and-see. The good thing is that if they choose to pursue a new one, there seem to be good candidates out there.

Video: NSH@DAL: Sekera puts away loose puck in front

 

Hey, Mike! I'm going back to school in the summer and my major will be journalism/broadcasting with a minor in photography. It's been a dream of mine to be a sports writer. Any tips and/or advice? Thanks in advance! -- @BHogg98

Heika: That's great. My advice is learn everything you can and do as much as you can. If you get the chance to work a camera for a sporting event in college, do it. If you get the chance to work on the college radio station (even if it's on the board or behind the scenes) do it. Do every practical thing you can do when the opportunity presents itself. You might surprise yourself and find something you really like.

Also, you have the opportunity these days to go through dress rehearsal. Watch a game on television, keep a stats page open on your computer, and write down notes on a notepad with the intent of writing a game story. Watch the interviews on TV (or on the team website), transcribe the quotes and then go write a story. If it takes 24 hours to write it, fine.

Do it again the next time and try to cut it to 12 hours, then to four, then to one.

You have all the information that we have, so take advantage of that.

Also, sharpen your skills in front of the camera, as well. Record a standup on your phone like you see on FOX Sports Southwest or ESPN. Or do a podcast with your friend where you talk about your favorite sports team.

It is not easy to get a job in journalism or broadcasting, but they are out there. You have to start with small pay to begin with, but you really can make a living if you keep at it.

The great thing is technology allows you to practice what you want to do, so practice, practice, practice.

 

It seems we always have defensemen that can score. Why do you think that is, and how likely is it that Dobby stays? -- @HerriageReuben

Heika: Every team is looking for puck-moving defensemen because they help facilitate the flow of the puck and allow you to play in the offensive end of the ice. Those defensemen are typically the ones who can score.

This organization also has an interesting history. Those who have been with the Stars understand how much Sergei Zubov meant to the team and how the Stars always were competitive as long as he was playing. Jim Nill spent a ton of time in Detroit with Nick Lidstrom, and everyone there knew the team would be competitive as long as Lidstrom was playing.

That means everyone has been searching for the next Sergei Zubov or Nick Lidstrom. Hall-of-Famers like that are hard to find, but if you get close, you can make your franchise competitive for years to come. The Stars believe that in their core, and that's why you have players like John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen here.

I'm mixed on Anton Khudobin.

Video: EDM@DAL: Klingberg buries Benn one-timer for PPG

 

Do you see Dobby back to Dallas, and at which price you think he would cost? -- @hockey_inside99

Heika: I know the Stars would like him back because they want to give Jake Oettinger another year in the minors. I think the best plan for Khudodin would be to sign a one-year deal with a big raise ($4 million maybe), and then he would not be exposed to the expansion draft and can reconsider next summer.

But I also believe this might be the one summer that Khudobin has a chance to get a longer-term deal. He's 34, he'll be coming off a great season, and he might get a chance to sign for three years or more.

Because of that, he will probably be tempted to sign elsewhere. We shall see.

Video: EDM@DAL: Khudobin stops McDavid in overtime

 

Favorite game of the year so far besides the Winter Classic? -- @klatoo304

Heika: I really liked that game in St. Louis where Rick Bowness did not coach on the bench because he was ill. That was a perfect example of how this team handles adversity and how Bowness has faith in everyone to do their job. That was the second night of a back-to-back, the Stars got down 2-0, they could have easily fallen apart, and they ended up being the better team against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

I will say that I truly believe the Stars could beat any team in a seven-game series, and it's because of games like that one in St. Louis. The question is whether they can live on the good side of that razor-thin line for four seven-game series?

Video: DAL@STL: Hintz beats Binnington for overtime winner

 

What is your favorite team to watch us play against? Do you have a favorite player? -- @HockeyFanChloe

Heika: I like rivalry games, so I used to like the games against Edmonton and Colorado, and even Anaheim and San Jose when they were in the Pacific -- just because they seemed to have some extra spice to them. I like games against Nashville now, and I think Colorado has a chance to become a big rival going forward.

I always say my favorite player is Craig Ludwig, because he embodied the old-school game

Actually, the older I get the more I realize watching and covering Mike Modano was a fantastic experience, and I was lucky to be there for a big part of his career.

 

How far do you think we'll get in the playoffs if we don't solve our 5-on-5 scoring? -- @stargrey

Heika: It's my biggest concern. The good thing is they seem to have the answers in house. Benn and Seguin each had 13 points in 15 games in February. Just score at that rate for the rest of the season and playoffs (whether it's on the power play or not), and you'll be fine. Joe Pavelski and John Klingberg are starting to see scoring increases, as well. Gurianov and Hintz can score goals. The Stars last season played their best hockey at the end of the year. That's what this team needs to do.

Now, they could lose in the first or second round and play great and that would be frustrating. But that just goes to show if they want to make it to the Western Conference finals through the path they probably will have to take, they definitely need to be able to score some big goals.

I think they can, I just don't know if they will.

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, and listen to his podcast.

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