Dallas Stars Interested in John Tortorella

It’s been an offseason of move making and shaking things up for the Dallas Stars. It started with the firing of General Manager Joe Niewendyk and hiring of new GM, former Detroit Red Wings Assistant GM Jim Nill. Since then, Nill has been making things happen, shaking up the front office, firing head coach Glen Gulutzan, and signing 39-year-old defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a two year deal after acquiring him from Ottawa over the weekend.

His biggest move of the offseason is yet to come though, as Nill is still on the hunt for the next Stars head coach. One very intriguing name that has been coming up in the past few days is John Tortorella, former head coach of the New York Rangers, and previously of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tortorella won the 2004 Stanley Cup while coaching the Lightning.

Tortorella was fired by the Rangers after an underachieving year that saw New York settle for sixth place in the Eastern Conference and a second round elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The head coach is known for being exceptionally aggressive and fiery towards his players and especially towards the media. He holds nothing back, and is highly critical of his teams when he feels they aren’t performing like they should. This is exactly the type of coach the Dallas Stars need to bring in to turn this franchise around.

Think back to the last time the Stars legitimately had a hard nosed coach. With Ken Hitchcock at the helm the Stars made it to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals, winning the Cup in 1999.

Tortorella could bring that fire and motivation back to the bench, where a very young team could use a little tough love.

So you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about, here are the Top 10 moments of Tortorella popping off.

If Jim Nill is serious about bringing winning hockey back to Dallas, he needs to go out and get John Tortorella.

Go Stars.

Stars Streaking Towards Home Ice Advantage

This time a month ago the Stars were struggling to stay in the race for a playoff spot, more or less a top spot in the Western Conference.

Now, they’re 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, earning 19 out of 20 possible points.

They’ve shot to the top of the relatively weak Pacific Division and currently sit in 3rd in the conference. On top of everything, the streak has come without captain Brendan Morrow (until this past Saturday) and started without young sensation Jamie Benn.

During the streak, the Stars have averaged 3.3 goals a game, while allowing only 1.6, thanks in large part to the spectacular play of Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman.

Now, this streak hasn’t been against some of the strongest teams, with only five of the ten being against current playoff bound teams (but they did beat Vancouver twice during the stretch), but that shouldn’t take anything away from what they have done.

Now, with 13 games to play, the Stars need to focus on finishing strong. Eleven games will be against teams that are currently in, or fighting for, a playoff spot.

This Week’s Preview

3/13 @ Minnesota

3/14 @ Winnipeg

3/16 vs. Chicago

The Stars go on a quick road trip Tuesday and Wednesday before heading home to face off against Chicago on Friday. I don’t see any reason for Dallas to continue their hot streak, but they’ll have to make up for an injury to Sheldon Souray. The defenseman is doubtful Tuesday, and will be reevaluated Wednesday.

However, the Stars have been fighting through injuries all year.

Here’s to hoping the Stars can finish strong.

Go Stars.

The Stars Have a New Owner

Earlier this morning, a bankruptcy court in Delaware approved the sale of the Dallas Stars to Tom Gaglardi, a Vancouver business man.

Gaglardi is the president of Northland Properties Corporation, which owns restaurants and hotels in Canada.

He’ll be taking over a team that currently sits atop the Pacific Division at 11-6, despite projections that they would be bottom dwellers this year.

According to ESPN, the Stars lost $37.1 million last year and over $90 million the past three seasons.

They’re expected to lose $31 million this season.

Hopefully, Gaglardi will be able to capitalize on the current successes of the team, and get them back to what they were in the late 90s, early 2000s.

Go Stars.

 

Stars Off to Streaking Start

The Stars are broke.

They lost their best player from a year ago, Brad Richards, to free agency.

They have a rookie coach, Glen Gulutzan, who’s only coaching experience has come in the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

Don’t tell them that though, because the Stars became the first team in the NHL to 10 wins this season with a 5-2 drumming of the Carolina Hurricane on Sunday.

Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson lead the team with 15 points each, effectively replacing the offensive power provided by Richards in 2010.  Meanwhile, newcomer defenseman Sheldon Souray leads the team in +/- at +10.

Besides Souray, who has been an incredible force early on this season, defensemen Niklas Grossman and Stephane Robidas have been steady, but players like Alex Goligoski have struggled so far.

Fortunately, goalie Kari Lehtonen has been a brick wall, with a 2.14 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, starting in all 10 wins this season.

The one smudge on an otherwise brilliant beginning are the two losses to division rival Los Angeles.

The Stars lost two games to the Kings in five days, 1-0 and 5-3. However, other bad losses have the Kings sitting fourth in the division, while the Stars are sitting atop the division with a three point lead over San Jose.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the Stars can keep up this momentum as the season progresses. As long as they stay healthy, I don’t see any reason for them to slow down.

Next on the schedule is 9-3-0 Washington, who many have projected to win the Stanley Cup this year. It will be the Stars first real test of the season, since playing back to back games against ’09 Cup winner Chicago to start the year.

We’ll regroup on the other side.

Go Stars.

Mike Modano Retires as a Star and an Icon

In 1988, an 18 year old from Livonia, Michigan became the second ever American born player taken as the first overall pick in the NHL draft.

Tomorrow, Mike Modano will officially announce his retirement.

Somewhere in between being drafted and his retirement, he became an unlikely icon.

It’s not that Modano wasn’t talented enough to be a sports icon in Dallas. After all, he’s the highest scoring American-born player ever, along with several other records. Here’s a rundown:

NHL Records

Goals by an American born player (561)

Points by an American born player (1,374)

Playoff points by an American born player (145)

Games played by an American born player (1,499)

There’s no doubt about his skill. He’s proven that time and time again.

Instead, what makes him an icon is how he made a city fall in love, not only with him, or the Stars, but with the sport.

When the Minnesota North Stars moved from Bloomington, Minnesota to Dallas, Texas in 1993 more changed than just the team name and the weather. They were moving to a football city where the Dallas Cowboys were in the middle of winning three Super Bowls in four years. Hardly anyone even knew what hockey was.

Modano, at that point a budding superstar, was charged with being the face of the franchise. He made appearances, did interviews and just generally showed up places. Some say when he was out, he would explain the rules of the game to those who asked.

He almost singlehandedly got a football city interested in a northern sport. I remember watching him when I was growing up, not having a clue about hockey, and recognizing that he was not only faster than everyone else on the ice, he was just straight up better.

In a time where I was obsessed with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Mike Modano captured my attention.

It also helped their cause that they were winning. In a city obsessed with success, teams like the 90s Mavericks and 80s Rangers were frowned upon.

But when the Cowboys stopped winning Super Bowls, the Mavericks were abysmal, and the Rangers couldn’t get past the Yankees, Mike Modano was leading the Stars deep into the playoffs. When he and Brett Hull led Dallas to the Stanley Cup Championship in 1999, I was in sports heaven, and so was Dallas.

The newest team in the city had become the second Dallas franchise to win a championship.

Modano’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. He was the superstar bridge between Emmitt and Dirk, but we shouldn’t reduce him to being just a temporary icon. He’s had a lasting impact.

Look around the metroplex today, and you’ll see more youth hockey leagues than ever before. Several colleges in Texas now have ice hockey teams, and more and more Dallas kids are going on to play in junior leagues and other Canadian leagues.

There’s no doubt that Modano is behind this movement.

So, to the man that made a city fall in love with a sport, I say thank you.

Go Mike.

 

Chuck Greenberg, Mark Cuban Both Interested in Stars

Vancouver business-man Tom Gaglardi’s exclusive negotiating period with the Dallas Stars has ended, and a few familiar names have joined the race to own the latest beleaguered DFW sports team.

Chuck Greenberg, owner of the Texas Rangers for all of seven months before stepping down, has been approved as a potential buyer for the Dallas Stars. The man known as the savior of baseball in Arlington is now taking his talents to the rink, where he could very well lead another team out of the depths and into the playoffs.

It’s clear that Chuck is capable of owning a team. He showed that in his short tenure with the Rangers. However, if he were to own the Dallas Stars, he wouldn’t have to tip-toe around a legend to get things done. We all know that Nolan Ryan had a large part in Chuck leaving the Rangers, and time will tell if that was a smart move, but now Chuck has another opportunity to do what he clearly wants so badly; own a team.

Cuban is working towards an AAC monopoly.

The other big name to throw his hat into the ownership ring is Mark Cuban, who has reportedly also been approved to buy the Stars.

To most, Cuban would seem like the obvious choice to own the Stars, but I hesitate to jump fully on his bandwagon. Part of what makes Cuban such a great owner in the NBA is his passion for the game. He doesn’t only love the Mavs, he loves basketball.

Here’s what I believe is Cuban’s main motivation to own a second Dallas franchise: if Cubes owned the Stars he would own 100% of the American Airlines Center.

Now, I trust that Cuban would bring someone in, or partner with someone who was hockey savvy, but I think most fans would be sorely disappointed in Cuban’s lack of involvement with the team. I, personally, think Cuban would be better off buying the Dodgers.

Now, if both Greenberg and Cuban do have major interest in the Stars, it would provide an interesting twist to the sale.

Especially since all signs point towards another bankruptcy auction.

So far the bankruptcy showdown stands 1-0 in favor of Greenberg, but if it goes to that with the Stars who knows what will happen.

Regardless of who ends up owning the team, the Stars will be in a better place.

Offseason Update: Stars Still Need an Owner

While the Dallas Stars’ ownership situation remains in limbo, fans can take some relief in knowing that other issues are being solved.

For one, the Stars have hired a new head coach, and while it wasn’t any of the names I mentioned here (link to older Stars blog), I can see why Glen Gulutzan seemed like the right hire.

First off, he’s cheap. A guy with no NHL playing or coaching experience doesn’t have much room to negotiate for a big contract. I think it’s safe to assume this was a huge factor for Joe Niewendyk and crew in selecting a head coach, due to the lack of ownership stability.

Secondly, he knows the system. Gulutzan has been the head coach of the Texas Stars, Dallas’ AHL team, for the last two years. He guided the Stars to the Calder Cup finals in his first season, and last year took the team back to the Division finals before bowing out.

The main question looming for Gulutzan is can he earn the respect of his players? With that, only time will tell.

I think it won’t be a problem though, because he’s clearly earned the respect of former player and major influence Niewendyk.

Another positive so far in this Stars offseason has to be the way they handled the draft. They got a mammoth defenseman with the 14th overall pick, and continued to pick size and strength for the rest of the draft. This is key, because Dallas had such an undersized defensive unit last season.

The one major dig that I have on the Stars though, is their inability to keep Brad Richards. Of course, this is directly related to the ownership situation. Richards came out and said he would be hesitant to sign with a team that has so many front office questions. This raises the question, if we knew this was going to happen, why not trade him when the opportunity was there?

Now, I understood, and supported, not trading him before the trade deadline last season. However, now that the ownership situation has not been resolved and the Stars will not even offer him a contract, it seems like Dallas has missed a golden opportunity.

The Stars had the chance to get two good, young prospects from the New York Rangers, but they turned down the deal. Instead, the Stars held on to Richards with the hope of making the playoffs.

Now, Dallas will see their best player walk away, leaving his former team empty handed.

As for ownership, I can only hope that it gets resolved quickly. Vancouver business man Tom Gaglardi has been the frontrunner for several months now to buy the team. Several months could become even longer though, as Dallasites know firsthand that Tom Hicks tends to drag his heels when things don’t go his way.

I think that eventually, Gaglardi will be the new owner of the Dallas Stars, and as long as he doesn’t bring those Vancouver riots down with him, I’m all for having a Canadian owner. Maybe that’s a stereotype. I don’t really care.

Go Stars.

Stars Fire Marc Crawford, Add to Offseason Laundry List

The Stars season is over, and earlier today they fired head coach Marc Crawford after two years of sparing us to death with his hair and mediocre hockey. Now, it’s up to Joe Niewendyk to find Crawford’s replacement, adding to the list of things the Stars have on the offseason agenda. Here’s a rundown of everything the Stars need to accomplish this summer.

1. Resolve the Ownership Debacle

Tom Hicks is the biggest problem with this team right now, and Stars fans are wondering when their knight in shining armor will come and save them from the same man who put the Texas Rangers in such a bad financial way (not to mention FC Liverpool, the man is an international joke).

Hicks has been shopping the Stars for close to a year now, and while he’s had a few nibbles, there have been no serious discussions about a sale. One name that continues to pop up in these rumors is Mark Cuban. I’m torn on whether or not I want him owning the Stars, but that’s a blog for another day. Regardless of who it is, a new owner, and financial stability, is essential if the Stars want to accomplish anything else on their list this summer.

The Stars will be kicking themselves for not trading Richards if they can't sign him to a long term deal

2. Sign Brad Richards to a long term deal

The best player on the team, and arguably one of the best in the NHL, is a free agent this summer, and it is imperative that the Stars sign him to a long-term deal. He already voiced his interest in the New York Rangers before the trade deadline, when the Stars were incredibly close to dealing him for a handful of useful parts.

If the Stars let him slip away, they’ll really regret not trading him earlier this year. After all, the Stars demands were so high, the Rangers were scared away. Also, I feel Niewendyk didn’t lower what he wanted for Richards because he felt that trading Richards meant sacrificing making the playoffs this year. Well look what happened. No playoffs, and now there’s a potential for no Richards and nothing in return.

3. Find a new coach

The Stars have to be kicking themselves for getting rid of Dave Tippett now that he’s taken Phoenix to the playoffs two years in a row. However, that’s neither here nor there.

Now that Crawford is out, Dallas needs to find a new coach. Some coaches that are available are Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller and Ken Hitchcock, all of whom have ties to the Stars organization.

Carbonneau was a player on the Stars from 1995 to 2000, and was a member of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 1999. He coached the Montreal Canadiens from 2005-2009, finishing with a record of 124-83-23.

Kirk Muller joined the Stars as a player midway through the 1999-2000 season and played with Dallas until he retired in 2003. He finished his stint with the Stars with 18 goals and 49 assists. He served as an assistant coach under Carbonneau with the Canadiens, and he is currently still an assistant coach for Montreal.

Every single Stars fan should recognize the name Ken Hitchcock. Arguably the most successful coach in Stars history, Hitchcock was the head coach from 1995-2002. He went 277-154-60-12 (Wins-losses-ties-OT losses). He led the Stars to their only Stanley Cup Championship.

The only thing I can think of that would be strange about hiring Hitch, would be the fact that current GM Joe Niewendyk was a player under Hitchcock. I don’t know how that situation would play out. Same goes for Carbonneau and Muller, who both played with Niewendyk in Dallas.

Regardless, these have to be the three front runners to replace Crawford as head coach.

4. Bolster the Defense

Assuming the Stars can hold onto Richards (and that’s assuming a lot), the major holes that need to be filled are on defense. After Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas, the Stars are incredibly thin when it comes to defensemen. More often than not, goalies Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft were placed in difficult situations that either led to goals or ridiculous saves thanks to the lack of defensive ability the Stars showed.

A number of top end defensemen are due to become free agents this year, including Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan, Ed Jovanoski, James Wisnewski, Andrei Markov, Christian Erhoff, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. If the Stars can land one of these guys, that will go a long way to shoring up the holes on defense.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, everything the Stars do relies on the ownership situation, and if it doesn’t get any better by next season, don’t expect the Stars to.

Why the Stars will Miss the Playoffs

After a heartbreaking loss to Anaheim on Wednesday kept the Stars on the wrong side of the 8th spot in the Western Conference, it dawned on me that this team could very well (and probably will) miss the playoffs.

But first, a question.

If this was any other Dallas team, how would we be reacting to a collapse like this?

The Stars went from third place in the conference on February 1st, 9 points ahead of the 9th spot in the conference, all the way to 9th in the conference, 1 point behind the 8th and final seed in the playoff race.  In this time span they’ve gone 8-10-5 and compiled only 21 (out of a possible 46) points.

They now sit one point behind Anaheim for the last spot in the playoffs with 9 games to go. 7 of those games are on the road, 5 of which are against teams currently sitting in a playoff spot.

I’d have more hope if these games were at home, but they’re not, and the Stars are 17-14-2 on the road this year.

In all likelihood this means that the road ends in the regular season this year.

I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed. After all, the Stars weren’t expected to be in the race at all this year.

But I can tell you for sure, if Brad Richards doesn’t resign, it will have been a huge missed opportunity to get a lot of talent in here, and for what?

Not a whole lot.

Anywho, we’ll see how the last two weeks play out, but I don’t think it’s going to end well for our boys.

Stars Picking up Speed at the Right Time

I’d like to take a second and thank Joe Nieuwendyk for doing two things.

First for trading for defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has come in and had an immediate impact on both ends of the ice.

Second, for not trading Brad Richards and effectively ending this season.

Granted, the latter is a very risky move.

Because Richards becomes a free agent on July 1, the Stars passed up an opportunity to get something in return for the superstar in order to try to win this year. I

t’s pretty apparent at this point that if the ownership situation is still up in the air when Richards’s contract is up, it is highly unlikely that he will sign a long-term contract with Dallas.

But that is neither here nor there, for now.

Instead let’s focus on the Stars three game winning streak. A streak that has kept their playoff hopes alive, after a horrendous stretch from January 21 to February 22 saw them lose 11 of 13 games and plummet from 3rd in the Western Conference to tied for 9th.

Currently the Stars sit in 6th place with 74 points, tied with Chicago (7th) and Los Angeles (8th).

The Stars know they need to keep winning, and last night shows that their heads are finally in the right place.

With the Stars leading the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 late in the 3rd period, it looked like the Stars had their third consecutive win locked up.

But two late goals by Phoenix, the second coming with just 37 seconds left in the game, tied the game. It looked as if Phoenix was going to pull out at least one point and potentially expand their points lead over the Stars.

The Stars could have rolled over. They could have just played for overtime and hoped to pull out the win.

Instead, Mike Ribeiro made a push towards the net with 13 seconds left and drew a hooking penalty.

The Stars won the ensuing faceoff, and with 4.8 seconds left Loui Eriksson feeds Jamie Benn with a beautiful pass, and Benn planted it in the back of the net to reclaim the lead, and seal the win.

Now, with 19 games to play (10 against division rivals), the Stars have their sights set on righting the ship and making a run in the playoffs.

With Brad Richards set to return on Friday the Stars will again be at full strength, and we saw how that went at the beginning of the year.

Let’s hope for more of the same.

Go Stars.