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Sturm Blog: A Couple Of Emails

by Bob Sturm / Dallas Stars

Bob Sturm
One thing I wish I would have done more of this season is to print and respond to more emails. Many of you send them, and I read them all, but I may not give you the public response I would like to.

With that in mind, allow me to feature one of the more hardcore emailers I know, Jared, who sits in section 310 every night, and although I would not say I agree with everything he has to say, I thought I would print it all - and respond to a few points down at the end.

The following are 2 emails Jared in 310 sent me in the last 3 days:

Our blueline is not good enough, but consider this....1st round vs Ducks in '08, who was our blueline? Zubov and Boucher were out (Zubov came back in the Guppy series and Phillipe never really came back). It was Fistric, Niskanen, Grossman, Daley, Roby, and Norstrom...essentially the same guys we've got now (though I would consider Norstrom substantially better than Karlis). Not sure what that says about our young guys, but it seems weird to me.

Nisky- a lot of what you say is fair, but I hear a lot of people slamming Nisky and I wonder why when he is far from the worst Dman on this team. There would seem to be better targets.

Now, about a month back I got curious so I did a little comparing of Nisky's stats at age 23 with some of the top end guys around the league. Not the youngsters (I don't think it fair to compare him with say Phaneuf or Doughty who were top 5 picks) but the stud #1 veterans. And I concentrated on the offensive guys because comparing off and def Dmen is like comparing bananas and plantains...kinda look the same but really aren't.

Not suprisingly, the future HOFers (Lidstrom, Zubov, Pronger, Nieds, Blake) blow him away. What's interesting is that his #s are equal to or better than many of the rest...Gonchar, Boyle, JBo, Rafalski, Chara...Chara at age 23 had 3 full seasons behind him and was -62 for his career!!! Rafalski wasn't even in the league (was in Europe, made the NHL at age 26).

The Isles gave up on Chara after that season and traded him and a 1st to Ottawa for Yashin (the pick became Spezza). Ouch. I used to live on the Island and I can tell you what they think of that move. Now, if you can package Nisky in a deal for Shea Weber, fine...but, I'm not so quick to give up on him after running through the comparisons.

I think Nisky's biggest problem this year is mental. He came in this year after leading the blueline in scoring last year (and having a really strong second half IMO) and, with Zubov gone, the team really put the pressure on him to be the replacement. Nobody replaces a Zubov anyway, but that's a lot to put on a then 22 yr old. And it forwards who "squeeze the stick" too much when they are in a slump, he has tried to be too perfect, tried to do too much. Rather than just playing and letting the game come to him. And I don't feel the coaching staff has helped any of our Dmen (forwards not coming back to help on breakouts has been a problem for the entire D corps and I lay that at Crawford).

And yeah, he gets paid to handle that pressure and all that stuff so he should get over it...true. Still....

BTW, trading for a true #1 Dman is as expensive as signing a UFA one, just in a different way. Look at what TO gave up for Phaneuf and what it cost for Pronger both times he was traded recently. Ribs alone, or Neal alone, or Benn alone will not get us what we need. And trading one of them for Robin Regher or Mike Komisserek just isn't worth it. And are you willing to part with all three (or 2 and one of the young D) to get one. It's tough.

Also, Turco comes off the books, but the money isn't's been spent already on the extensions for Roby and Loui. Ott is extra (unless you let Lehts walk) as is Kari and that leaves no money under the current budget for Neal. Nisky is also RFA. Offer sheets are unlikely...IIRC a team that offered one would have to give the Stars their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks as compensation (that was the talk last summer about Kessel). But I do wonder if Neal will be moved ala Kessel before next year if the budget has to stay the same.

OK, that's enough, later and thanks for reading



I don't disagree with a lot of what you say about the Stars budget and the best way to get a #1 defensemen.

I do disagree with your thoughts on Niskanen. Yes, players develop at a different pace, but your 23-year old comps are not totally equal. Rafalski went to 4 years at the University of Wisconsin. Then he went to develop his game further in Finland. He played his first NHL game at the age of 26. That is just not a similar path to a guy (Niskanen) who has played 223 games already. 223 games is basically every game for 3 straight seasons. The Stars have put him out there over and over again to get him to take the next step.

To me, his game really, really concerns me. He seems to lack confidence and composure, and I might argue those are the two biggest characteristics I need my defensemen to possess. NHL Opponents see blood in the water, and if you look a bit worried about taking another hit, they skate faster and hit you harder. It is survival of the fittest, so it is important that you don't let them see you flinch. Easy for me to say from the comfort and safety of the press box, but....

You say, "I wonder why when he is far from the worst Dman on this team. There would seem to be better targets." I think I disagree. If you ask what was expected of everyone, I would look at it this way. Robidas and Grossman have met expectations. Daley has been decent (but could have been better), Fistric has exceeded expectations. Woywitka and Skrastins have been exactly what you paid for. That leaves Niskanen as the guy who was expected to be one thing, and now has been scratched 3 of the last 4 games because the Stars have had enough, I believe. In fact, I cannot help but see the similarities between expectations, production, and frustration these days with him and Fabian Brunnstrom up front. It appears the Stars, after 200+ games are begging Niskanen to give them a reason to pay him this summer. But, I do wonder if we are nearing the end of this experiment of things don't change soon.

I will not argue with you on the money situation. They obviously need to move forward with solutions that will allow them to improve the payroll if they are to compete for the top of the West.



I hope you get to this before the game tomorrow. Here's a topic for the post game...will PHX catch SJ for first in the Pac. Or for that matter, a win tomorrow and PHX is tied for 1st in the entire West. You mentioned after the SJ game that you had questions about the Guppies, but never got a chance to come back to it. I suspect I know most of the points...lack of forward depth beyond the top 6, Nabby fatigue and no backup to give him rest down the stretch, having to trade 1/3 of their D corps last year just to clear space for Heatley, JoeT and his annual disappearing act, and on and on.

So, it would appear that Tipp has the Jack Adams sewed up- How do you feel about the move last summer now? I said at the time that it was at best a lateral move as Crow's post-season record without Sakic/Forsberg/Roy was the same as Tipp-3 series wins. Despite having arguably the best line in hockey for a few years with Naslund/Bertuzzi/Morrison. I would contend Tipp's problems getting results here had more to do with the incompetence of those above him (Armey/Hull/Hicks) than his personal quality. We can never know of course, but IMO the Stars make the POs last year if Richie stays healthy, so to me this year is a step back from the last.

BTW, you guys were talking Mo today and let me tell you how those of us in Sec 310 feel. If the budget stays the same for next year (and I've heard nothing to say it won't) then next year is gonna suck whether they keep Mo or boot him. They are not making the POs next year without a major infusion of cash and that won't happen before July 1. But getting to see Mo continue to climb the NHL record book (however slow he may be at it these days) is one of the few things that makes sitting through it worthwhile. If the Stars boot him, then a lot of long time STH may be headed for their TV sets.

I thought of another point about Tipp and last year's team. About 30 games in, they were 30th out of 30 teams in the league, BMo was lost, Zubov was lost, Avery was gone. And I think a lot of people look at where they finished and forget what happened in the middle.

On the day Richie broke his wrist (the first time), the Stars were 5th in the West and pretty comfortable to keep that spot. Richie got hurt and everything went downhill. But , what a tremendous job to get this team back into contention (not just barely in but middle seed) after where they had started and with your captain out of the lineup. I will always contend that if Richie had stayed healthy then the Stars would have made the POs and Tipp would have won the Adams then. He will certainly deserve it this year.


I suppose now is as good of a time as any to visit about the story of Dave Tippett. Obviously, he has done a world of good to his resume with the unreal job he did in Phoenix.

Most people had no hopes for his success when he took over that very impossible job in the desert. I wished he would have passed on it until a better job came along, but he did not. Coaches coach. That is what they do. Dave Tippett felt like he was perhaps the victim of a regime change here in Dallas, and still should have been behind this bench, but he also knows that coaches are hired with the understanding that at some point, roughly 100% of them will be fired.

I have to believe that he is the front-runner for the Jack Adams, and while Terry Murray and Joe Sacco also deserve a tip of the cap, I might believe that Tip will run away with this trophy.

So, did the Stars make a mistake?

It is way too early to say with any sort of definitive voice - although the evidence shows the team that fired him is playing even worse than when he coached them given the circumstances, and the team that hired him is playing so much better that no one can explain it. A coach that could not get the Stars to keep the puck out of their own net last year has allowed 50 fewer goals than Dallas this season, while playing in the same division.

To weigh the work of Marc Crawford to the work of Dave Tippett is very difficult. It is apples and oranges on many levels. Tippett generally always had full financial resources, and he had 6 years and 500 games to put his imprint on the Stars.

Crawford has had 72 games in a year in which the Stars could not make the necessary alterations to the roster to make it over in a way that could best execute the style and vision of Mr Crawford and Mr Nieuwendyk.

I am amazed at the job of Dave Tippett, and like many people in this city, I do wonder what he might have done here. On the other hand, was he the new voice in the room there? Was he saying just what the Coyotes needed to hear? And would that same message, if delivered in Frisco, have fallen on deaf ears of guys who have heard it all for 500 games here?

The truth is that the Stars have not looked organized or well-coached for parts of this season. While I do not want to give a mulligan for the entire season, I do want to insert some of the realities this new regime has had to work with, and say I would like to see another year and check for progress when they are finally able to address some of the personnel.

If the Coyotes win the Pacific or the whole Western Conference, it will certainly hurt, but I don't think we can automatically assume it would have happened here. 50 fewer goals allowed is not a small amount. And Phoenix has allowed 179 goals, while the Stars have surrendered 229. They have had better goaltending, better defense, and maybe, better coaching.

Congrats to Tip, and let's hope we are having Jack Adams discussions around here next year, too.

Jared, I love the passion, and the great emails. Keep em coming.


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