Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big, Strong Hockey Mailbag

This looks better at where Lane put cool pictures around what I fact, if I were you, I would read it all here ...

But, if you are stubborn. Here it is:

For the first time in Stars blog history, I will attempt to live blog the game, while answering your email. I call it a live blog because it is live during the Canucks-Stars game, but not live in the sense that you can watch it as I write it. Someday, we will have that technology at Dallas….

9:02 - Ralph and Razor prepare us for the game with a look at Alex Burrows and Steve Ott. They are similar in the sense that they are hated by opponents. They are different in the sense that Burrows won’t usually back up his words with his fists. In fact, he won’t take his gloves off very often. He runs around and hits guys and then Jarkko’s up when it is time to pay the piper.

9:06 - First game for Luongo against the Stars this season, eh? I guess I didn’t recall that. Good job, Razor. Let’s answer some email:

I’m a huge fan of the kids playing on the front end right now, and I like the mix of forwards on this team when healthy, they may be the best since the cup run even without Morrow, but without Zubov and Nordstrom the back end is missing something. I understand that Zubov is a Hall of Fame class defensemen that cannot be replaced, or easily substituted for, but the lack of a stud on the blue line has already this season, and will in the future, hurt us. My question is where do the Stars go from here? Stanley Cup teams almost always have a minute eating, puck moving, defensively shutdown (if not physically imposing in the case of Zubov, Lidstrom, or Niedermayer) Blue liner carry them through the playoffs. I don’t feel that any of the young D-Men fit this description, and they obviously don’t grow on trees, (another look at Zubie’s career numbers show the value of this type player, as do those of the aforementioned) but you almost have got to have one to sip from the grail. So, my question, how do you see the Stars addressing this in the future? Even if Zubov comes back to a similar level, his age and sudden injury history forces this question to be addressed. Chris Capshaw

Well, Chris, I would say that the most likely plan is to get back in the free agency mix this summer. They wanted to get Wade Redden last summer, and that got a bit too pricey. We can certainly debate (and I have) if they should have gotten a bit more aggressive after that went down, but they elected to keep the powder dry. With Lehtinen’s 4.1, Zubov’s 5.3, and Sydor’s 2.5 million all going off the books, the Stars will be getting some room to spend. Of course, there are things to be done, including trying to keep all 3 of those guys at a discount, but that is where the decisions will be from. I think they have some young defensemen who can be really, really good (have I mentioned Grossman and Fistric yet?), but I might agree a true #1 or #2 might be a purchase worth making.


All Caps is very unsettling. At last word, we are still looking at the first game of the playoffs as the first liberal estimate. Many in the know say that letting him play at all is likely foolish – because players returning from that injury are never able to resemble their old selves at first – but we all know Brenden will be pushing the issue.

9:14 - Morrison with a nice tip in chance on the power play that looks rather frisky early on. Hey, that was Loui on the Power Play early on! But, nothing doing on the early man advantage. Canucks score after the PP ends, but the refs seem oddly confused. Did it go in? We better call Toronto. Razor suggests Turco made the save on Demitra with his lucky charms. Review shows no goal? Or no way of knowing if it was a goal? Still 0-0.

Hey Bob, I am by no means throwing in the Towel on this years season, but i can't help but wonder about what next season could bring us. I'm curious if we are like the '98 stars, in that we are just one big piece, and then maybe a tweak here and there away from getting us over the top. But i'm confused as to what that big piece should be. Should it be a Scorer, or a defenseman like Florida's Bouwmeester? Or are we even going to have enough cap room to compete with other teams for one of those types of players? Enjoy your listening to your show, and reading your blogs. David Grant

Well, like I said, if I am spending this summer, I get a top defensemen. I think that would make all the difference in the world. I would have Zubov, Robidas, my new guy, and then Daley, 2, 28, and 5 to choose from. Sydor might not be back unless I decide to trade a younger guy to make things fit. I also must get a backup goaltender I trust. Big issue there.

9:20 - Marty takes a poke check penalty. If I were to guess, 80% of all of Marty’s penalties happen on the road. Also, if I were to guess, Ed Belfour used to kill off all of the penalties he took. Marty doesn’t seem to have that same ability. But, a sweet save on Bernier in the first 30 seconds. Then, Sedin (Daniel) scores off of Robidas, 1-0. Robidas is starting to really stack up the own-goals, yes?

Bob, Thanks for your coverage of the Stars. I'm a huge fan of all sports, but I lean towards hockey. If it is ok I'm not going to talk about the power play. I had another question. The Stars have their fair share of young talent, but how would the NHL handle the situation of marketing their sport if Crosby, Ovechkin, or Toews played on a team that was located in an area that is not hockey country. Like Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, or even LA? Would they get the TV coverage that Pittsburgh and Washington is getting this year nationally? I do understand why the Canadian teams, Northeast teams, and Detroit get the coverage they get.Thanks, Paul

I think tv has taken much of this stuff out of the equation. I mean Gretzky in Los Angeles seemed to get all the coverage in the world. I don’t think the key is climate or hockey heritage. The key in the modern day NHL is winning. If you win in Chicago, they come. If you don’t, they don’t. If you win in Dallas, they come. If you don’t win in Boston, they don’t come. Washington was not a hockey market of note before Ovechkin. Now, Caps tickets are worth something again. The Penguins were going to move when they were lousy 5 years ago. Win.

9:26 - Ott just filled in Pavol Demitra. This could anger the Canucks. Stay tuned, as the gabbing appears to be flowing between the benches. And did I just see Chris Conner put the reversal on Sami Salo? Good gosh, man, he is 5’6!
Hey Bob, I was just wondering what you think will happen with the Ribeiro and Ott paring when Morrow comes back. Thanks, Jack Mallick

Let’s hope our season lives to see the answer to that question. But, personally, I
would cheer for Ott to go back to Modano’s wing. Perhaps with James Neal if one of them could play right wing. I would like that abrasive line. This team always has more left wings than right wings. Always.

9:32 - Stars Power Play is here again. 3, 26, 63, 18, and 9. Nothing. Now, 11, 22, 63, 3, and 21. That is not a misprint. Landon Wilson is on the power play. This team did not even think of getting a shot on goal. The lack of confidence on this 6-60 power play is very obvious.

9:35 - I don’t mean to get carried away, but the blocker save Turco just had on Shane O’Brien may have saved the game. Is it bad that O’Brien has played 222 NHL games, and I can’t swear I have any memories of any of them? Mattias Ohlund just tried to send Conner to the hospital and missed. Sami Salo is avenged.
Hey Sports Know All - Got 1 question Do the stars have their first round pick this year. I know we traded 2 of them but I think we have served that now. Am I correct? Thanks

Yes. They still have it. Thank goodness, the Nagy trade has been paid for, as has the Norstrom trade. All #1’s are here moving forward.

9:40 - Begin got run by Hordichuk, here comes a big PP #3. Please score. There it is! Robidas from distance got a deflection from tight as James Neal is back in the scoring column for the fifth time in the month of March (all road goals) and his 23rd this year. Nice! 1-1, with 3 minutes to go in the first. The Stars will be very pleased to get to the room at 1-1.

9:44 - Stinking Burrows nearly undresses Robidas and is bailed out by Turco. Let’s get this final minute over with. Robidas has been given credit for the Neal goal in the arena so far. We will see.

1-1 after 1. Time for a bowl of cereal. I am feeling some Golden Grahams right now.

9:48 - Ralph promised Mats Sundin in the first intermission, but now after a long look at scores from around the NHL and the standings, I am guessing we have been stood up by the large Swede. By the way, is that dude playing tonight? Sure was a ton of hoopla for Mats to join them, and their record with him is outstanding, but I guess I was expecting a bit more in the 1st.

10:03 - Wow, footage of Brad Richards in practice! Nice! Not sure how useful a guy can be without use of his top wrist, but I am willing to find out. After the goal, the Golden Grahams, and now this, my optimism is building on my couch. They did not offer an estimated time of return, but I am currently hoping for the 2nd period tonight. Actually, a birdie told me that maybe Saturday could be the day. Shhhhh.

10:09 - Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Brenden Morrison on the same line together. That is 105 years of human playing together. Good to have Jere back for the first time since that big hit from Rob Blake in San Jose 2 weeks ago. Incidentally, I love the Canucks Blue sweaters. Their best look ever, in my humble estimation.

10:14 - Ryan Kessler just sliced the 3/6 pairing and ripped off the sweetest backhander of the year for a 2-1 lead. 21st of the year for Kessler, and that was sick. Robidas is not going to win the Norris tonight. And Sundin gets an assist, so I should apologize for calling him out.

No offense to Dave Tippett, he’s done a wonderful job for many years, but regarding the Stars power(less) play: didn’t he come to Dallas from LA as their power play mastermind? I understand fully the scope of the injuries the Stars have suffered this year, but everyone’s got injuries. It just baffles me. Seems like a lot of shots miss the net completely also. I’ve got to think that with even an average power play, the Stars would have 4-5 more wins. Thanks Bob. GO STARS! Todd Eash

Well, a couple items here. First, I know everyone has injuries, but 10, 56, and 91 would all be on the power play if they were healthy. That is 60% of the #1 unit. That is not an excuse, that is a reason. Second, you are only as good as your players in this league. He can be the power play mastermind in once city, but in the next city, the guys might be better or worse. Trust me, the Capitals are not running better plays since they drafted Ovechkin. They just have a guy who runs the plays better.

10:21 - Time to kill off a Chris Conner penalty. Oops. I really am sorry I called Sundin out as he just scored from 1 foot away. Not sure what 2/28 were doing on that play, but I don’t think there is any PK in the world that says “leave Sundin open in the blue ice”. 3-1, Canucks. Oh, boy.

10:23 - Morrison just missed from the ladies tees as I think Luongo made a nifty save. Better shift from those 3 (11-9-26), but a counter from Bernier almost made it 4-1. The Stars defenders look rattled. Time to push back, boys.

Sports Sturm, Is there an advantage to having left handed hockey players?
Hmmm. I suppose it is easier for the rest of us to find right handed sticks. Other than that, I am not too sure.

10:31 - Game has quieted down again. Vancouver looks like they have a lot more push right now. The Stars need a spark. Let’s hit somebody and see what happened. This could be a job for #29.

Sturminator, With everything that has happened this year to the team, who do you think has been their MVP? The arguments could be made for Ribeiro, Eriksson, and Turco, however, my vote goes to Steve Ott. After he broke his hand and came back, he clearly made this team go. Yeah Ribs is the puck magician, Eriksson is a league leader in goals, and Turco is Turco, but Ott has clearly been the best player on the team. Timely goals, solid defense, and a superpest. I would also venture to say that Grossman is in the running as one of the most improved players, and that Tippett should be a finalist for the Jack Adams with the job he did, especially after the Avery thing. Also, where do you stand on the fighting issue? I like it when there's a fight, but it's a 'real' fight, one that is because of emotion and not 2 guys asking each other if they want to go. You look back on it, and when 2 teams start going every shift, like Buffalo-Ottawa a couple of years ago, you see the players afte! rward saying "We became a team tonight." because of the real need to stick up for each other. Last thing: In the playoffs, who would you rather face? Detroit or San Jose? I look at it this way: We've owned Detroit with the exception of one game, but we know we can beat the Sharks in the playoffs. Especially when they went toe to toe when the Stars had all those guys out (your AHL comment). I would rather play the Sharks, especially if Morrow can make it back for the playoffs. Does that mean I think they will make the playoffs? No. I know they will. They are too good not to, despite Anaheim, Nashville, St. Louis and Minnesota's push to get in. Chris Connor deserves every goal he scores. Solid player that kid. I like him. Adam Eisen - Cleveland, OH

I totally agree on Ott. Totally. He has taken a big step forward. No question he is the MVP of this team in my mind, but don’t tell Ribs. And my stance on fighting? I love it. I think the NHL would be brain dead to get rid of it. Fighting is part of the life-blood of the sport, and I am tired of everyone telling me I am a caveman if I like fighting. You know what? I like cavemen, too, so you might have to sue me.

10:35 - The Stars 4th Power Play starts with Marty Turco having to make another acrobatic save. Sigh. Stars get plenty of chances from in tight, but nothing is there. Again, 21 can only join the power play with the 2nd unit, because why would you want a goal scorer on your power play, right? Sorry. When the Stars are down 2 goals in a West Coast game, my sarcasm can really get some work in. Still 3-1, Vancouver, and this game might be a tough one to get points in the 3rd period.

2 periods in the books, and the Stars are down 3-1.

Hey Bob, I was just wondering, since the off season is somewhat close, who do you think the Stars will resign, attempt to offer or even go for in the off season? Also, do you think Zubov and Lehtinen will return next season? If so will they take a large paycut or, what? Thanks, Kwame

Lots of questions about the summer, but let me tackle the Lehtinen/Zubov issue briefly, because they have quite a bit in common; Like, they are both going to get their number retired here. They both are having their bodies break down after all of these miles. They both are free agents who don’t want to play anywhere else (I don’t believe). They both will give it another shot next year (I think) and it would have to be in Dallas at a strong discount. Combined they make about $9.5 million, and I would think you could get both on 1 year deals for about $4 million combined in 2009-10. Zubov would be worth more if all things were equal, but what sort of bargaining leverage could he have given his lack of health in these last 2 seasons?

10:40 - Nik Grossman is the 2nd period guest, and I cannot hear anything Razor is talking to him about because of the red mark on Grossman’s forehead. He must wear that helmet really tight. Because that looks extremely painful. Also, the Canadian air is making Razor’s lips look like he applied lipstick before the interview. A nice red – Mrs. Doubtfire would be proud.

10:47 - Mike Heika seems to have a lot of sweater vests.

Hey Bob , was just wondering what u think the Stars main concerns are for the off season and who they should resign ? I know the season is not over cause i believe they will make the playoffs but do you reckon many changes are needed ? In my view i dont and i think injuries have been the main reason for the Stars sub-pars performances at times. Any thoughts? Cheers Peter Dunbar, Belfast, N.Ireland p.s. Otters been brill and Neal for the Calder

Seriously? A dude emailed me from Belfast on St Patrick’s Day? That is awesome. I think that your point is well made about the injuries suggest that all you need in the off-season is a lot of health. Well, not the only thing, but I think you could make the case that adding Morrow, Zubov, and Richards this summer is a nice haul. Still need a goalie and a defensemen, but I like your idea. Neal is awesome, but the Calder is likely to look elsewhere.

10:54 - Ralph just told us that the Wild won tonight. Not good. They are now even with the Stars at 74 points.

Speaking of Ralph:

Sturminator, I heard y'all talking with Ralph the other day about his past, including his winnings on 'Press Your Luck', and I wonder if you know about the upcoming bio show that is to be broadcast on the NHL Network. I just happened to watch NHL Network tonight, and on one of their commercial breaks, I saw a promo for their upcoming show of "Voices" featuring our very own Ralph Strangis. Not real sure how in depth it'll be but it will be on at 6:30pm Central on Thursday...just in case you don't know about it and want to Tivo. I'm pretty sure you already knew about this, since y'all are close with Ralph, but just in case I figured I'd let you know about the promo. Thanks for BaD Radio and thanks for still talking hockey. It helps to hear y'all talk about it since I don't get much Stars coverage down here on the gulf coast. /Mike (Houston, TX)

I am there.

10:57 - Tippett tries new lines. 21 is with 9 and 11; 26 is with 63 and 29. Modano tries to go 5-hole on Bobby-Lou, but save made.

11:00 - Ott suckers Demitra into a penalty. If the Stars are going to get something tonight, it is “go” time. PP – 26, 29, 63, 9, 3 – Loui and his 32 goals sit by Tobias Stephen and Rick Wilson. Neal gets a stick in the mouth, and we are going to get a 5-3 for 46 seconds.

11:01 - Ugh. Nothing. Robidas with a few long range chances, but that golden chance gave the Stars nothing. No shots to speak of. And 13:30 to go…

11:07 - Goal! Where did that come from. Ribeiro finds Conner and sends him on a 2 on 1 with Ott. Nice feed to 29, and Otter tips it 5-hole. 3-2. Is there hope with 12:00 to play? Ribs has points in 8 straight, so if you weren’t sure if he was good…..Razor just picked up the MVP discussion and got behind Ott. We covered that 40 minutes ago.

Bob, I think you are right, and it seems tough to know which Dallas Stars team is going to show up on any given night. The last game with the Sharks was a great all round effort. The last Kings game not so good. Whether they make the playoffs or not I am really impressed with Steve Ott's game this year. Maybe he should continue down this path next year and give up the fight game (not totally) and focus more on building on the play making and scoring that he has developed this year. I'm not saying for him to stop the crash and bang but just be aware that with the talent his has developed he is much more valuable on the ice than in the box. What do you think?Ross From Canada

I think you are spot on, Ross. Absolutely right.

11:13 - Pressure is now on. Stars have the Nucks on the run, and Neal just about tied it with 7:15 to play. Can they get a very valuable point or two?

11:15 - TV timeout. Here is a huge email: I mean huge as in big.

You know what dude, (and I'm sure you'd agree with me) I'm real real sick of hearing random people and so called "stars fans" alike flappin' their jaws about the Stars. In the hopes of seeing this email and your response in the next mail bag, I'll make it short and sweet and to the point. The three things I hear the most are 1.) Marty sucks, if he wants to be a third defenseman then get him a skater's set of gear and a regular hockey stick and let him be a defenseman. If not tell him to stay in front of his net and actually stop a puck every now and then. 2.) The Stars are a decent regular season team, but can't do s*** in the playoffs. They get their @$$ kicked every year because when it actually matters they don't know how to play. 3.) And (this is the one that really gets under my skin) Ribeiro sucks, he's a puck hog, he can't shoot worth a d***, he's a non-competitor who whines and cries like a little baby when someone hits him, he's afraid to hit people, he belongs in the minors, we should trade him and get someone in here who will help this team win. I hear those things on a regular basis Bob. Now I can't give all kinds of sports statistics and numbers and stuff to prove all three of those statements WRONG!!!! (which is what I'm hoping you'll do and hopefully it will shut people up for a while) but I can say this. In response to the first statement, Marty is hands-down the best puck handler in the league. The way that he can knock those pucks down off the boards, juke a few forecheckers with a pump fake, and then break it out to his defenseman is an amazing skill that frustrates the other teams forecheckers sets up the Stars breakout and forecheck. (that's why they're even better in the second period when the benches are further away.) Every once in a while a puck is going to get away from him, bounce the wrong way, and end up in the back of our net. But you take the good with the bad. Marty's good out-weights his bad. Imagine how much time other teams would have in our zone if not for Marty. In response to the second statement, SCREW Y'ALL dude seriously. Yea, the were out in the first round for a lot of years, but they probably deserved a better fate in most of those series. And it's not like they're the only team that has not won the Stanley Cup every year in a row. Even teams like Detroit over the past decade or so have lost in the playoffs. And last year when Turco made like 60 saves in one game ought to prove something, as if 3 shutouts in last years playoffs wasn't enough. They had a chance against Detroit as well. Game two was only 2-1. The Stars could've had a powerplay goal go in in that game and took some momentum and won it, all the sudden it's a different series. My point is, shut up about the Stars in the playoffs, so many others things than just the skill of the team factor into why they didn't advance. In response to the third statement, KEEP ON HATING. I'm pretty sure Ribs had the highest shooting percentage in all of the NHL last year, there's to you're "he can't shoot." I've seen Ribeiro throw some hits bigger than Chara ever though about throwing, he just picks his spots. And I mean hitting is not his role. Guys like Mo and Gretzky weren't out there throwing 5 or 6 bodychecks a game. It's rare when Ribby gets hit, he positions his body to well. When he gets hit it's normally a cheep shot like that one Dustin Brown threw on him earlier in the season, so that might be a reason for him being upset and complaining when something does happen to him because it's dirty. And seriously, why would you trade the guy that's led your team in games played and points for three seasons in a row. Ribeiro has been invaluable to the Stars since he came here. His offensive play making is off the charts, he's a two way player, and he's got something that 99% of the NHL players don't have, style.. No one has a stride as pretty as his, except for Modano. I could go on and on but I've already made a liar out myself when I said i would make this short. The Stars ARE going to make the playoffs. I hope we draw Detroit first because I KNOW that we can beat those guys. Richards, Morrow, Jere, and Brunnstrom WILL be back. Marty will be standing on his head as usual. And for Dallas it will be Our Time. Thanks for having my back, Bob

I printed his entire email because I wanted you to find the comedy in his initial statement,“I'll make it short and sweet and to the point.” How great is that? Then he wrote 833 words! I love it.

11:18 - Rats! Goal, Canucks. A broken stick betrayed Grossman at the offensive blueline and the Canucks put a sweet 4 man tic-tac-toe together ending in a Bernier goal with a confused Fistric standing by. 4-2. Boy, that was sweet, and it also likely is the dagger for the Canucks franchise record 10th straight home win. 4 minutes to go.

11:23 - The Canucks commit another penalty as Ohlund puts a stick in Eriksson’s face. 3 minutes, must score twice. Turco pulled!?! OK. Desperate times…6 man PP – 63, 29, 26, 18, 5, 3 – And Ott missed a golden rebound chance, but Luongo got a piece. Timeout, Stars.

11:27 - Power Play ends (1-7 on the Power Play), and so does any chance to win. The Stars played with plenty of passion late, but the deficit was too much. Now, they need a result badly in Calgary or this playoff run will be in major jeopardy.

Canucks 4, Stars 2 – tough night at the office.

On February 3rd, Bryan sent me this one:

Hey Bob, Love the blog and LLLOOOOVVVVVEEEE the recent resurgence of our stars. I have to say I did have a feeling the skid wouldn't last and this team would find their identity. Was hoping that I could convince you to do another mailbag soon but if not maybe you could just answer these questions for me. 1. When do you think Zubov will be able to re-enter the lineup? 2. Any shot that Morrow makes it back by playoff time assuming that the stars are in it? Thanks a lot, looking forward to some playoff hockey in two months!! Bryan Altman

I only printed this one to apologize to Bryan and anyone else who missed the mailbag parts of this blog. Forgive me. I will do better. Let’s also hope the Stars do better tomorrow night in Alberta. And there you have it. 5,000 words later. The longest blog entry ever combined a mailbag and a Stars game.


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