2/26/18 – Kick The Window Open

Christmas is here for those of you who like receiving dirty Denny’s plates wrapped in slightly yellowing Dallas Morning News pages from 1996. The NHL Trade Deadline is here on this dreary Monday. It’s the last chance for most people to crank out their 500 word hit pieces detailing any potential trade involving the Toronto Maple Leafs whether real or a figment of the imagination an adult living in their mother’s basement.

I officially feel like a member of the mainstream media now.

The Dallas Stars seem unlikely to do anything with the moratorium rapidly approaching. Should they? Shouldn’t they? Will Jim Nill be fired if they don’t do anything and fail? Will he be fired if they do something and fail? Will be he fired if they get through two rounds and fail? Is the meaning of life written in barely legible sharpie on the back of a bathroom door of a dirty Texaco on 45 in the-middle-of-nowhere-Texas?

Who knows the answers to any of these questions? Twitter and comment sections of various websites will tell you they do in many colorful ways. It seems like these scenarios always evoke the same predictable responses from people. I’m no different. I just used to have a platform to yell from and marginally still do.

I was a spoiled hardish-luck 14 year old when the Stars won the Stanley Cup. In the 18 years since…let me stop this sentence right there. 18 years. I have a student in my class who was born in 2003. Two-thousand-and-three. I have former students graduating from high school who, had they cared, wouldn’t have witnessed a Texas Stanley Cup.

When you’re younger I think you focus on prospects and the hope of the future and wanting the franchise to bide their time until the Right Move presents itself. The attachment can be so strong that you live and die with what they have going on to the point that you feel like you’re part of it.

32 year old me doesn’t receive a paycheck from the Stars. I have two months to get my students ready for the Algebra STAAR exam so they can graduate high school in three years. 32 year old me has hockey as an escape from the realities of real life because real life, often, sucks.

I want to see good fun hockey played by good players that leads to winning games and ultimately another Stanley Cup. When a window is there I want to see the team I follow gun it and go for it as long as it doesn’t hurt the current roster.

When Sean proposed this question I didn’t even have to think about it. Miro Heiskanen is a non-starter, but nothing else on that list makes me bat an eye. I’m as big of a Julius Honka fan as you will find. Roope Hintz will make Martin Hanzal more likely to be out the door I presume. Jason Dickinson could provide value now and in the future. I want to see the Stars pick up a big piece that is ready right now to help lead thing team to success.

You have to give pieces up to get something good. Remind me what the Stars gave up to acquire Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Most people will have to look it up outside of Loui Eriksson. These deals have a higher likelihood of looking ugly when you aim low.  Trading for half a season of Kris Russell is more likely to look bad than picking up a star like Seguin or Spezza.

A player like Max Pacioretty fits the bill. Modern Bobby Orr Erik Karlsson does it too, obviously to a larger extent for a higher price. Most deadline acquisitions fit needs, but they don’t really move the needle. Move the needle today and go for a championship. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out, but personally I would rather know I gave Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin a hell of a chance to win the next two seasons than to look back in three years as they’re in or nearing their decline wondering “what if”.

Hey, click these:

The Dallas Stars Need to Trade for Max Pacioretty, and Here’s Why
2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s
2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines

The Dallas Stars Need to Trade for Max Pacioretty, and Here’s Why

Ah. Feels good to be doing this again.

As of Friday afternoon on the 23rd of February, the Dallas Stars sit in third place in the Central Division, locked in a season-long battle for a few highly competitive playoff spots. Since the beginning of December the Stars have been one of the more consistently impressive teams in the NHL, and have become a stingy, shutdown force while managing to climb into the top-third of the league in goal-scoring. The goaltending has been solid, spectacular at times, and a muddled defense with plenty of questions has molded into one impressive group led by a Norris Trophy favorite.

In short, they’ve become a Ken Hitchcock team very quickly.

After last season’s incredible disappointment and the quick re-tooling over the summer (the additions of Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal have largely been inconsequential, but that’s another matter for another day) expectations for the 2017-18 season were uneven. Should the Stars be considered a Cup favorite? Would just making the playoffs be enough?

Obviously, anything short of the postseason is a disappointment. But with a first-round series looming against Winnipeg, St. Louis or even Vegas, the Stars — and Jim Nill specifically — need to weigh whether just getting into the show this year will be good enough; whether the Stars are prepared for what will surely be a very tough matchup as soon as the postseason begins.

As impressive as the Stars have been at times this season there are some very obvious holes in the roster. The organization has some young players on the cusp of reaching the NHL – Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov – who all have potential to fill out what is an overall offensively-lacking group behind the top line. The Stars have some really gritty forwards that are hard on the forecheck and provide energy, but struggle to find the net.

Brett Ritchie, Devin Shore and Remi Elie have all spent significant time in the top six this season and none have managed to provide the offense needed, leading to Hitchcock having to break up his magical top line from time to time to spark the scoring again.

When looking at the needs for the rest of the season, and ahead to next year, it’s clear an addition is still needed — specifically a scoring winger. The Stars have grit, they are able to overwhelm the opposition when they’re playing their game with a physicality, speed and aggression that is just plain fun to watch when working the right way. That’s the element the Stars were missing against the Blues two years ago to offset their high-flying scoring.

But now, in an interesting twist, the Stars need more offense.

Enter — The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.

What the Stars needed has been clear nearly all season. As the deadline has neared, at first the thought was Rick Nash was a good choice due to his connection with Hitchcock and the fact that he’s Rick Freakin’ Nash. Then Mats Zuccarello was intriguing, then Michael Grabner – apparently the entire New York Rangers forward group could be attractive to Dallas.

Stars fans have been eager to see what Dallas will do; would Jim Nill go all-in this season in a crowded Western Conference race and shoot for the moon? That would certainly be exciting.

However, logic needs to be applied here.

Jim Nill famously keeps his plans quiet. There are no leaks from the Stars organization under this GM – something that was definitely not always true. The Stars GM has caught literally everyone by surprise at times with some very big trades. However, you get the sense that when Nill (and also owner Tom Gaglardi) insists that the Stars are not interested in a rental player, and certainly not one that would cost a first-round draft pick, that he’s being dead serious.

They are right in that rental players rarely work out – after all, it’s a contending team hoping this one last piece over a few months can help put them over the top for a Cup. But only one team wins the Cup each year, so the numbers say you’re likely going to be disappointed by gambling away your first-rounder for a second-round exit.

What about a ‘hockey trade,’ though? A trade that benefits the Stars not just this season, but for the next season as well? This is important because there is a competitive window that is open right now that might be closing very soon.

Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin are both UFAs after next season – there is a 0% chance both return in 2019. The Stars best players are right in their prime; Jamie Benn, Alex Radulov, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, Ben Bishop – the core of the team are all in that perfect spot of experience and age.

So, the Stars have a very good, almost-great team with a two-year window and a need for scoring help on the wing.

Enter Max Pacioretty.

The left winger has one more year after this season left on a six-year, $27 million contract that has a cap hit of $4.5 million a season. He’s scored more than 30 goals and 60 points in each of the last four seasons, he’s only 29 years old, he’s 6-2, 205 pounds and can play physical if needed and he is in desperate need of a fresh start.

The Montreal Canadiens season is done, and there has been talk of a player like Pacioretty being on the trade block as the Habs look forward. The captain of the Canadiens has certainly struggled with his scoring this season, with just nine even-strength goals in 60 games and a career-low minus-15 on the scoresheet, and for better or worse is being looked at as an example of the team’s struggles and the need for change.

Diving deeper, however, the full story begins to emerge.

Pacioretty has always been a very strong possession forward at even strength and a danger on the power play. This season, he’s riding an absurdly low 95.1 PDO at even strength and a career-low shooting percentage, however he’s having the same impact on his team that he always has.

In short, he makes whoever he plays with better. Just take a look at the 5v5 shot charts below.

Patches1

With two exceptions, any player on the Canadiens that has stepped onto the ice with Pacioretty has seen their possession numbers improve – in many times drastically so.

Patches4

Pacioretty does get very favorable offensive zone starts, but he’s mostly been playing against top-line competition this season and doing quite well. Again, he’s just not been scoring at his normal clip at even strength, but everything else about his game has remained strong.

Most importantly, he’s a beast on the power play, and has nine goals so far this year with the man advantage, which would coincidentally be tied for the lead on the Stars.

There’s no doubt he’s a strong player having a very difficult season and going through a tough time as the Habs struggle, and all the tea leaves are there saying that a fresh start on a team like Dallas – strong possession team, needs power play help, likes to play physical – is exactly what he needs.

Does he fit on the Stars? There’s no doubt. The Stars need help on either wing, and with Mattias Janmark able to move to the right side, Dallas would easily be able to slide him into the top six next to a revived Jason Spezza, who has been looking much like his old self of late.

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Max Pacioretty – Jason Spezza – Mattias Janmark

Makes my hockey pants tingle.

However, there is the price to be considered.

Michael Grabner was acquired for a second round pick and a prospect, however he doesn’t have nearly the pedigree of Pacioretty. Derrick Brassard was just traded for a first-rounder and a top goalie prospect.

A player like Pacioretty is like, at the cheapest, going to cost a 2nd and another pick, a roster player (Brett Ritchie) and a top prospect like Jason Dickinson. I doubt the Stars are willing to part with a first round pick, even if it’s not a rental player in return, however the Stars cannot continue to afford to play the waiting game and “we’re building a lasting contender through the draft.”

The NHL is too competitive and every season where you’re rolling along you need to take advantage. There’s a good chance other teams in the Central will be aggressive to improve and the Stars need to consider the ramifications of staying out of the arms race – can they afford to watch the division continue to aggressively improve while hoping players like Shore, Ritchie or Elie magically find a way to start contributing.

To sum up – losing prospects to trade, losing draft picks to trade, is tough. It’s a gamble that could have lasting effects years down the line.

But wouldn’t the Stars be much better replacing the player on the right, with the player on the left?

Patches5

Hey, click these:

2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s
2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen

2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s

One thing I never could have understood when I was growing up is how much people change as they age. I don’t know if you can really grasp it until you experience it. I’ve changed in a lot of ways, and one of those is how I watch sports, for better or worse.

This Twitter exchange got me thinking about that idea.

The Dallas Stars are in a very rough stretch. They’ve played some bad hockey, and when the luck dragons show up on top of that it just looks gross. I mean they outshot Anaheim 40-17 Wednesday night, but still lost 2-0 to a soon to be 38-year-old backup goalie. Younger, more tasteless, me would have cracked a bottle of Southern Comfort open up somewhere during the five squandered early third period power plays.

I fully acknowledge that outcome should make me crazy. It would have made younger me crazy. Two things have sucked most of the emotion out of sports for me: the Texas Rangers and #PeskyStars.

The dramatic heel turn the 2011 World Series took had a, so far, unchangeable impact on me. Obviously there are more personal heel turns that would mean more, but I’ve never experienced anything that dramatically crushing. I’ve gone through my share of bad things (hospital stays, bad parental relationships, poverty, divorce, etc), but the unexpected highest height of the sport immediately becoming the lowest low is something I didn’t recover from emotionally.

I blame the #PeskyStars too. There was nothing really fun about them for many years, and they #GotPesky right as I began seriously writing about the team. Imagine wanting to write (for free) about a sport you love and trying to find things to say about that. Some nights it wasn’t easy.

What happened for me was I withdrew emotionally and tried to just see what was going on. I lost a lot of that fan instinct, again, for better or worse. I don’t enjoy games the way I used to, I enjoy moments and plays.

Watching Miro Heiskanen play those five Olympic games was a treat. Seeing all the intricacies of what he brings to the rink nightly was more rewarding than any specific Stars game has been for me since, I guess, 2009? I don’t even know.

I love watching John Klingberg play. Alexander Radulov is a joy. Guys who bring that spark and visibly have fun (ie mainly Europeans and Russians in particular and Phil Kessel) give me the most satisfaction from hockey these days.

I want the Stars to be successful. I get sucked in watching the Stars dominate a hapless opponent. Even last night as they shredded Anaheim in the third period I was into it. I’m just not emotionally invested in worrying about bad luck anymore.

Good process can lead to crap results. The Stars weren’t perfect against the Ducks, but outshooting a team 40-17 is going to win many games in this league. If they do that every game in a seven game series they’re probably going to win, but even then they still aren’t guaranteed.

Game six in 1999 was won on a goal that shouldn’t have counted by the stupid rules of the time. It’s fun to laugh at Buffalo, but that game only got to overtime because Jere Lehtinen beat arguably the best goalie of all time short side through a tiny hole between his knee and the post.

In game two Craig Ludwig scored. If he doesn’t score on a limp shot from the point that game goes to overtime. If you ever wonder if God cares about sports go rewatch that series from beginning to end. There is no God that anyone would willingly follow who would allow some of those things to happen in a sporting event if they were really invested. The Stars were the more talented team by far but it’s not a stretch to say Buffalo could have easily won.

The cold reality that there is no justice in sports, only good processes that sometimes are out of players’ control. That hit me hard a decade ago. An illegal goal no one wants to review can scar a small city forever. A lazy fly ball to right field can miss a fielders glove by a foot and make a goat out of a regular all star while emotionally crippling an adult.

Sports are fun. I have no more expectations of ultimate success even though I’ll enjoy it, I think. Everything is math and at any point the luck dragons can come up and stomp on the dreams of even the team with the most sound process. We’re just along for the ride.

Eat Arby’s.

Hey, click these:

2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues

2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop

Every month somewhere after the 20th I send a significant portion of my pay check to pay for a car I tolerate, but don’t really like. I know I need the car. I have to get to work, and an hour long metro ride then 25 minute walk to work each way doesn’t sound appealing.

I pay more than I would like to for this car. I got it from Carmax with zero money down and no co-signer. It felt nice to be able to walk in and get one given some of the financial chaos I went through after I graduated college, but I’ve always felt like I’m being ripped off to a degree with how much I’m paying.  And yet, the car is still outside.

Goalies aren’t much different. Goalie performance can be so variable from year to year that it’s easy to get stuck with a lemon. Paying for a goalie is one of those necessary evils NHL clubs just accept. In a perfect world a mid-tier free agent will step up and save general managers some dough, but banking on it to happen is hit and miss. Then when you miss you take heat for not going after the bigger fish.

Enter Ben Bishop. The Dallas Stars inked him to a six year deal for a hair under thirty million. He’s been ok, and with a cap hit under five per year it would be hard to really complain too much. I got into a Twitter conversation the other day discussing how Bishop is going to hold the Stars back from locking up younger guys and in general hold the franchise back.

My initial reaction to this was “that’s bullshit”, but in my past life I was often too quick to outright reject ideas that seemed silly to me. So, I decided to see if this idea is as silly as it initially seemed to me.

The initial premise here is that the Stars are paying too much for their average to solid goaltending. I can dig it. This year in particular they are paying more than you would like, but too much suggests there are other things right now that they could do with the money. The roster doesn’t need much.

On their ledger you will find over 12 million in goalie salaries when you throw the Antti Niemi buyout in there, but for the sake of fairness lets just chalk Niemi up as a generic dead cap hit. Bishop and Kari Lehtonen combine for close to eleven millon this season. Most teams spend about six to seven million per season on their duo.

But, wait! Lehtonen is a free agent after this year which drops that total by almost six million. Bishop is paid near the league average for a starting goalie. Were the Stars to re-sign Lehtonen to a more reasonable total, say two million per year, the Stars come in at about seven million for their duo. Or, roughly league average.

Bishop’s contract is structured in a way to make it VERY tradeable. He will take in 2/3 of the total value of his deal in the first three seasons. The final three seasons are low salary and have limited no trade protection. His contract is a very tradeable to a receiving team needing to soak up salary cap space without paying actual money.

Those three years will likely be years where you would reasonably expect him to be a backup caliber goalie, but also when you would expect one of the Stars top goaltending prospects to at least be in the NHL doing something. Colton Point and Jake Oettinger are legit and in college. Surely one of them is in the NHL by that point.

Who does Bishop keep the Stars from re-signing? Everyone is under contract through next year. Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin are up simultaneously so the Stars will shift some of Spezza’s money to Seguin, but outside of that? I don’t see who is impacted. The core of the team is in tact. Even Esa Lindell, when he hits restricted free agency, likely soaks up Marc Methot’s money. So, I don’t know.

If anything I guess there’s an argument to be made for a limited amount of cap space minimizing the Stars’ activity in the trade market. As the year goes on and available space gets prorated to allow for teams to acquire higher salaried players without killing their cap I still don’t see the impact.

The only real money problem I see with the current roster is paying an injury-prone fourth line center almost five million dollars a year to win faceoffs and stand statuesque in front of the opposing net while Brett Ritchie tries to will pucks on goal from five feet away.

Maybe sometimes silly positions really are just silly. Ben Bishop isn’t much of a problem even if he falls off of a cliff. NHL clubs are always going to pay to feel secure in net because they would rather be caught with an average guy long term than with a mediocre job-killer for even a season.

Verdict: bullshit.

Hey, click these:

2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues

2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal

One thing I’m fairly confident I know about Miro Heiskanen at this point is that he learns quickly. I mean yeah he can pass, skate, use space exceptionally well, and has a very high hockey IQ, but he adapts so quickly. Sure, they played Korea in Team Finland’s 5-2 victory, but this was probably his best overall game with or without the goal.

The first period was the best period I’ve seen him play in the Olympics. Heiskanen came out firing. He took around four shots in the period, and probably attempted six or seven in the game. He scored his first goal of the Olympics and took his first slap shot of the tournament.

When Heiskanen fully decides, or is allowed, to take over a game he’s going to be a genuine bad ass. The talent is obvious and you see moments where he looks the part. As he gets older and more consistently finds that top gear they should happen more frequently.

On to the gifs:

The first of many shots Heiskanen took in the game.

17minShot

Heiskanen was on the attack here and came under pressure. Instead of turning it over he chips it into the corner to keep the attack alive.

17Mirosmartpuck

The degree of difficulty on this pass is fairly high.

Miro Outlet

Here is his second shot of the game.

2nd Miro Shot

This gif is my favorite one from the four games. Heiskanen skates the puck out of the zone under pressure all the way up the ice to lead a rush before dishing the puck off to a teammate.

CoastToCoast

Miro finally got on the board. The NBC broadcast gave us four beautiful angles of our sweet boy scoring his first Olympic goal. The first gif goes all the way back to the pass he took from Eeli Tolvanen. Note that he got hit before taking the shot.

MiroGoal.gif

On the reverse angle you can see how the puck found its way into the net.

The third angle gives you a better idea of how quickly he got the shot off.

Goal3

The fourth angle shows off the traffic he had to fire through to get the puck on net.

Goal4

I enjoyed this play too. Its a simple play, but very effective. Heiskanen chips the puck into space in his own end to eliminate the Korean forecheck.

MiroChip

We rarely get to see him play any defense because of how quickly he gets the puck out of his own end. This gif shows him in coverage off the rush.

MiroD

This guy really likes South Korea.

KoreanMan

I think Heiskanen was going for a body check on this play, I guess? I don’t know. Either way he stopped the rush at the line so the attack could go the other way.

MiroD1

This next gif is pretty nice. It’s just a simple pass in the defensive zone under pressure, but it is oh so nice

MiroPass

I think this is the first and only slapshot I’ve seen him take in four games.

MiroShotAgain

Team Finland plays again Tuesday morning at 7:10. They take on Canada for the chance to move on further in the medal round. Heiskanen is already playing against adults in Finland, but this game should be the biggest test of the Olympics for him outside of Sweden. Norway, Germany, and Korea are fun games to watch, but anyone who follows the Stars should be closely watching him play against legitimate teams to get an idea of how NHL-ready he is.

For us to get to see a sixth Heiskanen Olympic game, Team Finland may want to use him more. The only pressure Korea got on Finland was with him off of the ice. He’s the alpha. Use him guys.

Hey, click these:

2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1

2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines

I like going to the Trader’s Village occasionally. I know what I’m getting into when I go, but when I go I end up looking at the vinyl record stalls. The Trader’s Village in Houston has two record stalls I remember.

One is air conditioned (a detail worth reporting about a flea market) with a wide selection of new and old records plus t-shirts, posters, and other things I don’t really need. I once saw a newer pressing of Hotel California for sale for 70 dollars.
Hotel California

The other one smells like the dusty and slightly mildew-y home of a 70 year old hoarder with no surviving relatives and like 20 cats. It’s fowl. I start coughing within ten minutes if I don’t find what I’m looking for quickly despite there being no stall door and the stall being the dimensions of a cheap apartment garage. I had to tie the last record I bought there to the roof of the car on the way home to get the stench out.

When I went there last time I found a five dollar original pressing of Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. I immediately went to test it on his record player only to hear the unmistakable sound of a warped beyond repair record. The owner flung the record to the back of the stall, said “well, fuck it”, and put the record sleeve on the wall as a display.

You have to simultaneously watch your back against getting ripped off and check your merchandise if the deal looks too good out there. Logic gets stripped away and the person with the currency to spend has to be very careful or they head to their car more pissed off than even the average Trader’s Village customer which, again, is saying something.

The beauty is that everything is for sale for a price and both proprietors will look you in the eye with a smile while they reach for your wallet to Help You Out.

I’m not saying Pierre Dorion, Marc Bergevin, Peter Chiarelli, Jason Botterill, or Jeff Gorton fit the stereotypes of either business owner, but I’m not saying they don’t either. The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers (haha), Buffalo Sabres, and New York Rangers all appear to be open for business on some of their top guys with a week to go until the NHL Trade Deadline.

The first three are marks if you want to make a trade they will eventually regret, but I don’t have much of a read on Gorton or Botterill.

Mike Hoffman of the Senators, Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, Evander Kane of the Sabres, and both Rick Nash and Michael Grabner of the Rangers names are out there and have been connected to the Stars.

Deadline

Grabner is a name Mike Heika floated. He makes sense because of how little money he’s owed, but that shooting percentage and lack of shots seems like a dangerous combo to bank on in a trade. To paraphrase a famous man who once looked incredibly silly: do the things he does well lead to a high shooting percentage? He’s shooting 17.4% over the last two years and gets buried in Corsi and expected goals. Just play Jason Dickinson.

Rick Nash and Evander Kane are fine players. The prices seem to be exorbitantly high for two guys who are about to waltz into free agency. They could help for sure, but the cost becomes unreasonable quickly. Reportedly the Rangers are asking for the moon in return for Nash, and the Sabres have been asking for comparable for Kane. Neither guy moves the needle enough for a team that is already good like the Stars to be reasonably expected to pay up at the current high rates.

Mike Hoffman comes with a second year of control at a reasonable salary. He has a good shot and plays for a mediocre Senators squad. He’s been putting points on the board, but the underlying numbers aren’t great. You’d be banking on his skill set playing up with the Stars, which isn’t a bad gamble.

The problem with Hoffman is the Colorado Avalanche. I guess Pierre Dorion or Eugene Melnyk are the real problems, but now the Avalanche come into the fold. They own the Senators first round pick after the incredibly short-sighted Matt Duchene acquisition. If you’re the Stars and you pick up Hoffman you’re increasing the odds of the Avalanche moving up higher in the lottery to get an even better prospect.

If there are other trade options this has to play a little bit into your thinking. Then again, maybe it doesn’t because you figure someone is going to try to acquire him regardless. At the very least it’s an interesting wrinkle for the Stars.

This entire path really only leads you to Max Pacioretty. I’m not entirely sure why Montreal would trade him, but I also have no idea why they traded P.K. Subban. He’s the best player on this list. He’s the most productive in counting stats over the last two years and has easily the best underlying numbers. The contract is just icing on the cake.

If you’re the Stars Pacioretty is easily the best option without the context of price considered. With his salary and age you almost don’t even worry about the cost unless it’s just stupid high. As much as I love Julius Honka, I don’t bat an eye at including him in a deal for Pacioretty with the increasingly imminent debut of Miro Heiskanen on the horizon. Jason Dickinson becomes available since Pacioretty soaks up more of those minutes.

I’ve advocated for going for This Thing for two years now. You don’t have many more years to just floor it with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin at their peaks. Nill went for it this offseason. Add American Hero Pacioretty to this already dangerous lineup and the Stars are one of the Stanley Cup favorites this year and next year.

Hey, click these:

2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?

2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3

My first headline for this was “back on my bullshit”, but then Sundays With Miro sounded more pleasant. Tuesday’s With Morrie doesn’t have shit on this.

Miro Heiskanen finishes up the preliminary round with zero points, maybe three or four hits, and if I had to guess about 17 minutes per game. And yet, he’s easily the best defenseman on Team Finland. Unfortunately it took them seven and a half periods to realize it.

Sami Lepisto is fine. Lasse Kukkonen has his uses. They’re older, and vets, especially in a short tournament like this, are going to get preferential treatment. If you have two eyes (hell, one of mine barely functions) it’s hard not to see that Heiskanen is the best skater and passer in the defense corps. I don’t know if he’s the best defensively, but that’s because he rarely had to play defense since he moves to puck so well from his own end of the rink.

Heiskanen is still buried on the second powerplay unit which gets about 30 seconds of each penalty. Late in the game he didn’t even get on the ice for it despite the Finns pulling Mikko Koskinen for an extra skater.

In the Finland win over Norway I was pleasantly surprised to see Heiskanen being more assertive offensively. Against Sweden he was back to being moderately conservative in the offensive zone until late in the game. Even when he wasn’t being conservative he didn’t turn the puck over. The kid is just a machine. When he decides he wants to be an offensive force consistently he will be a monster.

Would it be nice if he had some points? Yes. Would he have some points if Finland had some offensive weapons besides Eeli Tolvanen? Absolutely. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Alexander Radulov won’t have that issue however. With a little bit of luck Heiskanen could easily have a goal and four assists in the Olympics so far.

If you don’t feel the spirit of The Lord flowing through your veins this Sunday just yet, you may soon. Here are the gifs. As usual, these are in chronological order.

Miro wins a lot of these board battles.

See? More proof.

At this point it is almost a given that he’s going to win virtually all puck battles.

Here Heiskanen goes skating between two Swedes in his own end to make a safer outlet pass.

He finally lost a battle.

This was the first penalty Miro took from that same play. I mean….eh? Kind of a slash?

Heiskanen dropped some filthy stick language to lead to a prime chance.

Heiskanen now beats all three Swedish attackers to spring a chance. On the broadcast they gushed about Eeli Tolvanen, but he never even gets the puck without this ridiculous breakout.

MiroExitAgain

This pretty neutral zone pass led to another big chance moments later. If Finland had more finishers Heiskanen would be putting some points on the board.

MiroOutlet

Heiskanen skating out of danger for an outlet pass.

Miro with a smart little chip to avoid Swedish pressure.

MiroChip

Three Swedes, one Fin. Who wins?

Heiskanen skating himself out of trouble once more.

The second penalty call of the day on Heiskanen was also pretty weak.

His passes are so crisp. Here he is springing another chance for Finland.

MiroOutletLate

Heiskanen and Tolvanen on the ice late in the game setting up a great chance off a give and go.

On the very next faceoff Heiskanen picks the puck up and dances into the home plate area for a great chance.

Nothing came from this pass off of the stick of Heiskanen, but think about how ridiculous it is.

Heiskanen had to spot his teammate all the way across the ice. The pass was on the button. It was crisp and flat.  It beat almost all of Team Sweden and some of Team Norway without them even being on the ice. Let’s not get carried away with comparisons in a bad tournament missing virtually all of the good players in the world, but that’s a Sergei Zubov/Jason Spezza/Alexander Radulov kind of pass. Unreal passing ability.

If he can ever pull that off in the NHL I may faint. And that’s kind of the point to all of this. The raw skill is obviously apparent. His ability to get the puck out of his own zone is next level and so are both his skating and passing. Now, how does it translate into the NHL?

The smaller rink is going to be a factor in his ability to skate the puck out of the zone, but the broadcast made mention repeatedly of the fact that Finland trains on smaller rinks. Maybe it won’t make THAT much of a difference, but some of these plays are unlikely to happen because these rinks are, in fact, international in size.

Finland should play on Tuesday in a qualifying match to head to the medal round.

Hey, click these:

2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good

2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen

Driving into work this morning I was thinking more about Miro Heiskanen after his Olympic debut on the 16th in Team Finland’s 5-2 win over Team Germany. He obviously went third over all for a reason. He was so impressive despite the ugly turnover that led to the first German goal.

The more I think about it the more impressed I am with how he uses his hockey IQ to maximize his skills. Often against Germany he would tap the puck into space then use his skating to beat the opposition to the puck. It’s such a small play, but really smart for an 18 year old to be pulling off against adults.

Fortunately I wouldn’t have to wait long to see Heiskanen in action again. He and the rest of Team Finland took on Team Norway Friday night. Finland handled them fairly easily, 5-1. Eeli Tolvanen was really good again and is going to terrorize the Central Division with Nashville. We’re #HereForMiro though.

One thing I found odd about his Olympic debut is that he did almost nothing in the offensive zone. He shied away from shooting at every turn despite scoring at a high clip in Finland. Someone on the coaching staff must have thought the same thing because against Norway he came out firing.

How about some gifs?

You’ll see Heiskanen come in on the top left corner to pick up a puck at his own blueline and skate it out of danger.

Don’t get me wrong, he still tried to pass the puck. On this opportunity off-screen is a wide open winger. The player in the slot decided he wanted the puck though.

Heiskanen’s first of, I believe, three shots on the night. This one made a legit thud when it popped the blocker.

The reverse angle:

One of the many fun zone exists Heiskanen attempted (and succeeded) to make.

Miro playing some…interesting (???) defense. He had good gap on the forward, but I’m not sure what he was doing after the forward stopped skating.

More fun exiting the zone:

This play was actually horrific to watch live because you couldn’t tell that the puck hit the net over the glass until they showed the reverse angle. Heiskanen looks like a kid chasing butterflies in the outfield in their first little league game.

I mean look at him.

Heiskanen’s second shot of the night was another hard wrister from the top of the circle.

The reverse angle again:

Here he is nonchalantly skating the puck out of danger to make a crisp outlet.

And now it’s time to watch Miro dance.

On day two his skating still stands out. The hockey IQ is off the charts. He pretty clearly has confidence to pull off some of the moves he attempts. But how many of those plays are really jaw dropping? They’re just really solid to good hockey plays, but there are so many of them.

It was great to see Heiskanen being more assertive offensively. If that is fully part of his game he’s going to be an easy number one defenseman. Right now he’s playing about 15 minutes a night. I found a gif from each shift except a couple in the third period. He is always doing something productive. If that is all he ends up becoming he’s going to have a solid 15 year NHL career.

If some more of that offense we saw tonight comes out as he gets older? You’ve got yourself a player there.

Hey, click these:

2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/12/18 – Jamie Goligoski
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good

2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues

Thematically the St. Louis Blues team shares a lot with the musical genre from which they requisitioned their symbols and identity. You don’t want to get the blues. The blues represent being at your lowest point and depression. Pretty fitting for a 50 year old franchise with no Stanley Cups, eh?

Musically the blues are about creativity, improvisation, and setting a mood. Within the structure of a song the artists are encouraged to add their own personal touches to make it their own. That couldn’t be further from an appropriate description of the franchise. As a team they are tantalizingly boring.

Tonight’s game was more thematically blues than musically. It was depressing for the most part and most of the night I wondered why I was suffering through it and what I needed to change about my life to make things better. It’s great that the Stars won, but boy that was awful.

How about some thoughts? Everybody likes thoughts.

1. I kept thinking the Stars could use another dynamic skating defenseman. Julius Honka does a lot of that, but I think I’m officially spoiled on Miro Heiskanen after watching one game. His skill set so perfectly fits the Stars.

2. Stephen Johns is an adult. I expected Ken Hitchcock, Rick Wilson, and a more structured system to have a big impact on him. This is ridiculous though.

3. St. Louis collapses SO HARD defensively. Early in the game Gemel Smith set up Jason Spezza in tight on an odd man rush. I thought if he stopped the Stars would’ve had a ton of room to work.

A few shifts later Spezza carries it in. He did stop. He immediately had a 15 foot radius of space and a ton of time. The Stars got a few other chances from it later. The John Klingberg power play shot off the post comes to mind.

4. A two goal lead with 4:18 to go in a February divisional game with the team right ahead of you and the worst thing you can possibly do is take a double minor. Klingberg accidentally did it.

The Stars gave up only one goal, but the chances were coming. Tyler Pitlick in particular made a great save. Ben Bishop was great. It was nice to not be terrified of the inevitable coming goal.

5. The boring Hitchcock memes write themselves when his two most recent teams play, don’t they?

Hey, click these:

2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/12/18 – Jamie Goligoski
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good
2/6/18 – Jaromir Jagr and Tom Brady

2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1

I’m now an old man and I’ve witnessed enough bad hockey to appreciate what the Dallas Stars are doing this season and recognize how bad 2017 truly was. That was a hot ass mess that somehow didn’t warrant a coaching change midsession. I’m already getting distracted.

The biggest consolation by far was “winning” the draft enough to move up to the third pick where the Stars selected defender Miro Heiskanen. The NHL abandoning the Olympics this year gave him the chance to play for Finland. They took on Germany tonight for what was the first chance for many of us to see him play in a live game. In the 5-2 win he showed quite a bit,

These are the thoughts and first impressions of a 32 year old man lovingly watching and dreaming about the future of an 18 year old hockey player:

I feel like I have a good read on Heiskanen, but I also don’t. He was easily the best defenseman on Team Finland and arguably looked like their most dynamic all around player outside of possibly Eeli Tolvanen. But, something was missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Several aspects of Heiskanen’s game stick out. He’s a very fluid skater who stops and starts with ease. He isn’t a speed demon. He’s just a really really really good skater. He makes a very good first pass and it’s usually a pass with a high probabilty of being completed successfully.

The kid is a horse with the puck. He was so strong on his skates and he’s only 18. Heiskanen won puck battles in every zone, fought for everything and usually came up with the puck, and only had one real turnover I noticed. It was a bad one, but only one.

Offensively there wasn’t much there, but I swear he was doing something on each shift to disrupt a play or move the play to the other end of the rink away from his net. He’s just always there. The thing is he clearly has the offensive tools to be a top tier offensive player if he decides he wants to use them.

I don’t remember him doing much anything in the offensive zone at even strength. The couple of offensive plays he did set up were on the powerplay. I’m not sure he even attempted a shot on net which is kind of crazy since he has 11 goals and 8 assists in 25 games playing against adults in Liiga.

I wonder if we’re seeing a young kid defer to veterans on an international stage. I mean he’s only 18. That isn’t even really a criticism. You’re supposed to do that. He’s just so clearly more talented than the rest of them that I left that game wondering how dominant he would be if he really asserted himself.

The most dangerous play he attempted was a Stars-esque exit pass that led to a German goal against. Where was the creativity in the offensive zone? With all the talent he has I’m looking forward to see how he looks against Norway, and I hope he punches the gas more. He’s a keeper.

I tweeted out a bunch of bootleg iPhone 8 Plus (boogie) videos of him showcasing his skils. Here they are.

Here he is skating the puck out under pressure:

Here’s an example of how quickly he can get a pass fired off:

Heiskanen brushes off a hit to make a play in the offensive zone:

This play wasn’t perfect, but he did recover to break up an opportunity:

Look how hard the Germans have to work to get him off the puck:

Miro does a really solid job of breaking up forechecks:

Here he is carrying the puck out of the zone again:

And again:

This is the powerplay opportunity I was referring to:

Followed by determined puck retrieval:

….and this is the ugly turnover that led the the first German goal:

Miro came back shortly thereafter to jack a puck and find a safe outlet:

He can play. Watch him now while you can. He’s the best prospect the Stars have had since Val Nichushkin by far, and I would be shocked if he isn’t a very good player for the Stars for a very long time. Your next chance to see him is on Friday against Norway.

Hey, click these

2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/12/18 – Jamie Goligoski
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good
2/6/18 – Jaromir Jagr and Tom Brady
2/6/18 – .insert(“Really Bad Chess Pun”)