5/29/18 – Stanley Cup Final: Game One

I have this weird feeling sometimes where I try to sit down and write and nothing at all comes out. It isn’t writers block because I can always run my mouth if I want to do so. It isn’t a lack of activity going on in the hockey world. The draft is on deck and the Stanley Cup Final is going on right now. I think this is how my depression manifests itself.

What frustrates me about this happening right now is that it takes away a good portion of the enjoyment I would have otherwise gotten from an incredible game one of the Stanley Cup Final between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. That was peak entertainment.

Days and weeks can go by and my brain feels like it is wrapped in saran wrap. I don’t want to get out of bed, household activities become less important then build up, and I can spend hour upon hour engaged in one most likely irrelevant task yet sitting down to write or cleaning the kitchen can feel like the most impossible task in the world. I watched the game, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it to the level I would while in a good frame of mind.

Even right now I’m sitting at work thinking about getting ready for summer school, cleaning my room, finalizing grades, and a million other things I need to do. Yet, I’m writing this – something that initially came into my mind Friday night (minus the hockey) as I drove in a giant circle around Houston trying to clear my head of all of the depressing thoughts swirling around them.

Despite all of that I still got more enjoyment out of the presentation than half of the viewers watching it along with Twitter. Look at all this fun!

The party Vegas threw included a great hockey game. Sure, the officiating was horrible. It’s an NHL game…in the playoffs. It’s going to be horrible because it always is. The game was fun though! 6-4! Look at all dem goals! And they were good goals too! That no look pass by Timothy Jimothy Oshie was incredible. This is what the NHL wants and needs hockey to be!

It’s better for everyone if hockey succeeds in Las Vegas. The show they put on last night is the exact reason why you would put a team out there in the first place. The wonderful hockey and Stanley Cup Final appearance is all just a bonus. If my depressed ass can appreciate it what’s wrong with so many of the rest of you?

5/22/18 – 2019 Dallas Stars Salary Cap Picture and Free Agent Projections

The Stanley Cup Final matchup will be set tomorrow which means only one thing that really matters at this point: the 2018 season is finally almost over. The Dallas Stars have undoubtedly been at work piecing together how they would like the 2019 roster to look for months so I thought it would be as good of a time as any to see what they see by looking at how the salary cap picture looks.

I took the info Cap Friendly had for the Stars to make the table. I used @Cane_Matt ‘s Free Agent Predictions for the Stars RFA and UFA. RFA projections are italicized. Nichushkin is underlined because that’s my guess for what he eventually takes.

2019

Antoine Roussel, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, and Kari Lehtonen are UFA. I could see Pateryn coming back if he was fine being a 7th defenseman, but I don’t really see it with the others.

UFA

None of these projected contracts are bad outside of maybe Lehtonen, but look at how much roster space is already taken up. Without moving a defenseman they don’t have room for a regular lineup player so it’s currently hard to see how either Hamhuis or Pateryn fit. Roussel is fine, but with so many depth options who produce at roughly the same level he’s an extraneous expense.

I think we can confidently pencil in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, and Valeri Nichushkin into the top nine forwards. Jason Spezza should be there. That’s seven regular spots spoken for by guys already here.

Gemel Smith and Tyler Pitlick need to play. Remi Elie at least needs to be on the roster as a spare forward or in the lineup. What about Jason Dickinson? Roope Hintz? Nick Caamano? Jason Robertson? Denis Guryanov? At some point they have to get a shot or why even keep draft picks? The Texas Stars are on the verge of the Calder Cup Final, and right now none of those guys have a realistic path to NHL playing time.

That’s 15 forwards without ever discussing Brett Ritchie, Martin Hanzal, or Devin Shore. Those three are projected to make a little over eight million to be ok. Having depth is good. Having clutter isn’t.

If Hanzal needs to go on long term IR that will eventually open close to five million in cap space depending on how the Stars utilize their assets and open up a roster spot, but for a team that needs to improve offensively there isn’t a lot of room on the roster. The Stars could be pretty active in deals. 18 forwards and the only change is Nichushkin in for Roussel which doesn’t move the needle.

Some of that cap space is going to a goalie, but there is no reason to dedicate much of it to one. Andrew Hammond is probably the best target for the Stars, and Matt has him projected at a little over a million dollars. Do it.

Defensively there isn’t a ton of wiggle room either, but fortunately everyone is inexpensive. Marc Methot isn’t particularly good, and he makes close to five million. If the Stars really want to go off the board and improve the defense even more than by just adding Miro Heiskanen they could look to flip Methot.

The problem with that is….who kills penalties? Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell for sure. Is Jim Montgomery trusting Julius Honka, John Klingberg, or the rookie Heiskanen to kill them off? I probably would, but no one asks me.

We’ll go through the free agent list later this week and see if any fit. Matt already nailed the Evander Kane salary so we’ll treat it like gospel until proven otherwise. Spoiler alert: there isn’t much out there.

 

5/21/18 – Finding Offense Within: Valeri Nichushkin

The Dallas Stars need to find some of that sweet offense for 2019. They’re going to have to look under every rock and put on the heavy gloves to dig in every dirty couch they come across looking for spare offensive change. Today we dive into the Soviet Couch and look at old friend Valeri Nichushkin.

The first draft pick of Jim Nill as the Stars General Manager is only two months past his 23rd birthday. He’s coming back from Russia for the 2019 season so he should provide some offense down the lineup. How much he’s going to provide is where the problem comes in.

Val came out of the gates with 34 points as a rookie in 2014 before missing virtually all of 2015 due to injury. In 2016 he had another 29 points. Over his last 86 games in the KHL Nichushkin has 51 points which translates to roughly 30 points in the NHL.

Any number of reasons for this low total can be justified if you are so inclined, but I’m not. If you can score, you can score in the KHL. Ilya Kovalchuk has 285 points in 262 games the last five seasons. Pavel Datsyuk has 69 in 81 over the last two years.

And they’re old.

So if you’re looking for Nichushkin to come back and be a dynamic offensive player you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. He always looks dynamic though which is where the expectations and frustration come from. Look at him dice up the KHL before setting up a tap in goal.

Pass1.gif

Nichushkin has some slick hands. He can stickhandle, he can bulldoze his way to the net, and everything he does looks smooth. The slickness masks a lot of warts. Nichushkin looks the part of a dominant offensive forward, but mostly plays the game of a power forward with limited finishing ability.

Goal1.gif

Razor pointed this out with Nichushkin early on and I’ve never been able to shake it. Val can’t elevate the puck. This is purely anecdotal, but it seems like almost every one of his goals is nearly flat on the ice or a deflection. He can’t, or at least hasn’t been able to, shoot.

As a rookie Nichushkin produced at the rate of a third liner at even strength with third line minutes. The images are from hockeyviz.com.

Val1

After a lost season Val came back for the 2016 season and took a step back to perform at the level of a fourth liner. He was beyond useless on the powerplay in both seasons.

Val2

I pulled a bunch of data from Corsica to further illustrate the point.

Val

I took the even strength data collected for Nichushkin’s two full seasons. 21 forwards got into more than ten games in those two seasons. If you rolled 12 forwards to fill out a lineup from those two years Nichushkin might make the lineup.

Val5.

Maybe.

Those are his rankings in all of the aforementioned stats among the group of forwards.

I ran this poll for a reason.

There likely isn’t much difference production wise between Antoine Roussel and Nichushkin. The difference is in perceived potential or banking on youth. I would bank on youth too if the options are basically split though, honestly, spending legitimate money on either player is probably foolish.

I’m falling into the trap of focusing on what he can’t do. What can Nichushkin do that can help the Stars depth scoring issue? He can crash the hell out of the net and set up his linemates. Nichushkin needs to be on the ice with guys who can follow him to the net and accept passes from him in prime scoring areas. He’s best when the puck is on his stick. Let him have it.

The problem is he’s going to have to earn time with the guys who can do that, and the Stars don’t have many of them. Nichushkin isn’t taking Alexander Radulov‘s place in the lineup, but speaking of Radulov, that’s who Nichushkin needs to study endlessly.

At his absolute best that is who Nichushkin should strive to be: a big playmaking winger with some sand paper. At his worst Nichushkin is a bottom six forward who will drive the play to the other end of the rink which is absolutely valuable. You need guys like that to be successful. You just don’t want to pay them a ton of money when they are apparently relatively easy to acquire (hi Vegas).

5/20/18 – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

An expansion team is going to the Stanley Cup Final. The flaming hot takes have been pretty funny which was to be expected if you could have possibly seen this coming.

I wish I was creative enough to see this coming because the schadenfreude is off the charts. I think once it was pointed out on Twitter that the twelve wins by the Vegas Golden Knights in one playoff run is more than the St Louis Blues have ever had in a single playoffs it hit me how funny this is.

I wrote that prior to the game and edited it to twelve afterwards. The Twitter reaction after the fact is even funnier. The revisionist history being thrown around is something to behold.

If I linked all the salty Tweets out there this would take all night. The number of people who genuinely believe Vegas drafted a stacked team is stunningly high.

William Karlsson had a 23.4% shooting percentage.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a .927 save percentage after a career .912 save percentage in his Pittsburgh Penguins career.

Erik Haula got power play time and scored with it after not getting any with the Minnesota Wild.

David Perron career’d at age 29 after not topping 50 points since 2014.

Dale Tallon inexplicably gave up Reilly Smith and Jon Marchessault.

James Neal had a normal James Neal season, and realistically could have been their best forward by a mile. He shouldn’t have even been in Vegas if the Nashville Predators had the good sense to trade him for anything rather than let him go for free.

Most of the salt is jealousy, but there will be many lessons taken from what Vegas has done when they inevitably walk to winning the Stanley Cup in the next two weeks. The most prevalent lesson going around Twitter now is that NHL General Managers are stupid. They aren’t, though some definitely are bad at their jobs (Tallon).

Two lessons that the Dallas Stars need to take away from this are to play fast (hello Jim Montgomery) and to trust the players you have identified as talented. This came into my timeline yesterday and stuck with me as I watched the Jets get eliminated earlier.

Too often the idea of developing players, employees, or anyone really is to punish for a mistake rather than emphasize the success. Flawed players only have their flaws pointed out so they work on becoming well-rounded players who fit into the traditional bottom six mold. They get discouraged from taking risks because they know if they take that risk and it fails they’re going to sit in the press box.

You can’t develop talent like that, at least not anymore. I mention teaching a lot, but I’ve seen it firsthand in my classroom. This year I’ve worked with kids who, outside of 16% of them, didn’t pass the 8th grade STAAR exam. Many of them have failed year after year. There are behavior issues, undiagnosed learning disorders, and kids who learned that if they shut up teachers will leave them alone. If I spent time focusing on what they couldn’t do instead of developing new skills we would never get anything done.

I can confidently say that 80% of my students can do actual Algebra now. I can also confidently say that 85% still can’t consistently solve problems with negatives, fractions, decimals, or lengthy word problems by hand. We adapt and work to their strengths to help them get what they need to graduate high school – to find success.

The kids are empowered to ask questions and find solutions. It builds confidence and lets them take ownership so they know it’s ok to take a risk by engaging in the class. If they screw up we learn from it as a group and keep moving. Being afraid to fail adds that extra pressure that doesn’t really help.

Vegas was in a prime position to not worry about that. No one expected them to do anything despite what some corners of Twitter will tell you. With no real expectations it’s easier to sell “make a mistake, it’s ok”, but NHL teams should take notice. Julius Honka, Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, and others like them deserve a shot to show that they really are as talented as the organization believes they are.

5/15/18 – Finding Offense Within: Nick Caamano

The Dallas Stars are going to need to find offense from many different sources to make it back into the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2019 season. Efficient spending will be a key to maximizing how much offense they can add. With this series we’ll take a deep dive into some prospects who could help soon.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2017-18 training camp was prospect Nick Caamano. A 5th round pick in 2016 isn’t supposed to make as much noise as Caamano did, but he drew rave reviews from the Stars coaching staff. He even skated in a couple preseason games.

“I like him. I like him a lot,” said Hitchcock. “He’s got moxie. He’s a 19-year-old kid, but he’s got the moxie of an older player. He’s made a great account of himself, and nobody in this world would have thought he would have hung in this long. He’s still here, and when we play on Thursday he’ll be here again. That’s a good sign.”

That 19 year old kid was barely 19. He’ll turn 20 a couple weeks before camp starts in September. He was the youngest player in his draft year. Until he was traded to the Hamilton Bulldogs at the end of this year his OHL career was spent with the Flint Firebirds. You may remember them from this nonsense.

The 6’2 left shooting winger has put up respectable, but not eye popping, numbers in juniors with 121 points in his last 131 games over two seasons. Those numbers don’t suggest “future superstar”. With the right secondary skills and system fit he could provide bottom six offense fairly soon.

Given that he isn’t one of those eye-popping forwards very little video is out there of him in action. What you can see from the little that is easily accessible is a big power forward type that scores most of his goals by driving to the net.

Here he is scoring during the Hamilton playoff run by entering the zone with speed and going right to the net.

CaamanoGoal1

Not to throw unnecessary shade at our Russian friend, but this is the kind of play we always wanted to see more of from Val Nichushkin.

Caamano kills penalties too. Below is a short handed goal from earlier this season.

CaamanoGoal2

For a guy without a lot of hype that’s a nice bit of work on the breakaway. He deked the hell out of the goalie and showed some nice edge work. Check out his right skate as he comes in on the keeper.

That celebration is fun too.

In his brief six game run with the Texas Stars to end last season he registered three assists. This is one of them.

CaamanoAssist

There’s some playmaking ability in there on top of the ability to drive the net. At even strength this year he was really good. Using the numbers pulled together by prospect-stats.com we can see that he had the 10th most shots of any forward in the OHL at even strength.

Shots

(We’ll talk about number two later).

Of those shots, 45 were High Danger shots from in close. Only four forwards in the league attempted more at even strength. When you combine High Danger chances and Medium Danger chances Caamano shoots up to second in the league among forwards.

Shots2

(We’ll talk about number six later.)

The same holds true on the powerplay. Caamano finds ways to get to the net. The problem has been that he can’t score from distance. If he learns to use his playmaking ability more consistently he could be a valuable player going forward, but even as is if he can kill penalties, drive the net, play a responsible game, and occasionally score that’s a bottom six forward.

 

Antoine Roussel is a free agent looking for a raise from the two million he’s already making. Brett Ritchie is making close to two million for 14 points in a depth role. The Stars got 31 points out of the duo for close to four million. The Stars need depth scoring, but if someone like Caamano could step up to take one of their spots you’re probably getting similar production for less than half the price. All of the excess cash can then be funneled to a higher priced acquisition.

It’s entirely possible Caamano isn’t ready, but a year after the coaching staff seemingly fell in love with him it isn’t a stretch to think he could make the roster in a depth role out of camp if he has another strong showing.

Charity Hockey Game to Benefit DPD Officers Wounded in Home Depot Shooting

Tomorrow the Dallas Police Department and Fort Worth Police Department will play a charity hockey game in honor of Rogelio Santander and his partner Crystal Almeida. Both officers were wounded at Home Depot in late April when a gunman opened fired on them as they attempted to arrest him for outstanding theft warrants. Office Santander passed away from his wounds.

This is a little last minute, but someone posted it on Reddit. I don’t know where I’ve been, but I haven’t seen anything about this. I assumed if I hadn’t seen it many of you hadn’t either.

Dallas Police Hockey tweeted out a bunch of information about the game. Tickets are 10 bucks at the door at 7:45 Saturday night at the Plano StarCenter.

The families of the victims will be represented at the game.

DPD will be wearing this decal donated by FastSigns during the game.

These pucks will be sold off for the benefit too.

Many of us have uneasy feelings about the police but then something like this happens and helps remind you that the overwhelming majority of them are just doing their jobs. Help them out if you can make it.

5/9/18 – Miro Heiskanen’s European Fancy Stats

I’ve been doing some digging to get ready for the upcoming NHL Draft. I would like to give as much information as I can reasonably find on each of the players I think would be reasonable targets for the Dallas Stars at the 13th pick so I’m diving deep.

Spoiler alert: very near the top of that list is Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His profile is coming soon. In looking him up I came across something I didn’t realize existed: fancy stats for Liiga, the top league in Finland. Also playing in Liiga is Stars uber prospect Miro Heiskanen. So natural curiosity made me look him up.

Simo Teperi appears to have put the stats together based off of the work of Micah Blake McCurdy. The full list of player cards can be found here. This is how Heiskanen looked last season.

Miro

Let’s look into it piece by piece starting with his scoring rates.

Scoring

We knew Heiskanen got first pairing ice time, but it really sticks out when the visual aspect is added. The fact that his even strength goal scoring and primary assists per hour each individually made him score at the rate of a first pairing defender is something I didn’t realize.

ShootingZone

His point totals could have been even better. Miro’s IFK teammates only shot 4% with him on the ice. Bump that up a little and the assists will be racked up quickly.

Impacts

IFK was solid at generating shots and goals without Heiskanen on the ice. They were dominant with him on the ice though. The goal for these charts is to be in the upper right hand corner as much as possible.

Finnish teams don’t score against him, but they allow goals. The heat map shows how that happens. Remember that Heiskanen plays on the left side. I marked the areas of the ice to take note of on the chart below.

HeatMap

Teams just don’t get shots against IFK with Miro on the ice. The only red that shows up is on the fringes of the left face off circle outside of the prime scoring area. The left wing probably bares more responsibility for that than Heiskanen anyway given how tidy the area in front of the net looks.

Heiskanen puts puck on the net too. In the offensive zone you see an abundance of red at the left point into the face off circle, but also in about the same area on the right. He’s so damn good.

Stats

The rate stats look stupid for an 18 year old playing against grown men. They would look great for anyone, but an 18 year old performing the way he did is simply unfair. This was an NHL talent playing in Europe, and he’s going to look so good in North America in just a few months.

CoastToCoast

The Olympics gif posts are here if you need an adrenaline boost this morning.

 

5/7/18 – Finding Fancy Scorers in the Draft

The NHL Draft is just around the corner. This year the Dallas Stars aren’t in a power position. Last year the lottery balls fell their way, propelling them up to the third overall pick where they selected defenseman Miro Heiskanen. This year lady luck is too busy smiling on the Vegas Golden Knights to care about anyone else. The Stars will pick 13th.

A run of futility like this franchise has seen has no one culprit, but if we wanted to blame just one we’d have to pick one of scouting or development. More specifically we’d need to single out the inability to bring young offensive talent into the lineup. The little hockey team in Dallas desperately needs that to change this year.

How do they do that? Target scorers. It seems like a stupidly simple answer, but this is a league that let Brayden Point slide until the third round of the draft because he isn’t 6’2 and 210. Find guys who can create offense, skate, and have the hockey IQ Jim Nill covets. Take a cue from that new undersized head coach and knock size a few rungs down the decision-making process.

Data and the eye test can come together here and make identifying those scorers easier. Canucks Army always does great draft stuff. They put out their spring draft rankings recently. The post has a ton of info. I can’t stress enough that this isn’t the only thing you should focus on the prepare for the draft. The #FancyStats used for the rankings absolutely need to be considered though.

The goal here isn’t to rank the players for the draft. The goal is to find offense wherever it may be “hiding”. I took their data and focused on a few aspects of the offense. Some definitions from the Canucks Army rankings.

Stats.jpg

I sorted this by INV% and then cut off anyone at less than 2.5 shots per game. Arbitrary? Sure, but the focus is on the guys at the top anyway. It’s worth noting that many leagues don’t have stats available (US High School, Russian minor leagues, etc.) so some players won’t show up here.

Also, 5.1 is 5’10. I did a double take, but I’m not a smart man.

DraftFancy.jpg

Twelve guys are going before the Stars pick unless a trade surfaces. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Quinton Hughes, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Adam Boqvist, and Evan Bouchard seem to be locks to be in that group.

You may notice that Wahlstrom is a ringer. For the USNTDP he took damn near five shots per game and was a dominant point producer at even strength. The Canucks Army write up included this absurd graphic.

Wahlstrom

Is that good? If he slips at all that’s a guy that should be squarely on the Stars radar from a statistical perspective.

Playmaker Joe Veleno stands out as a center who can get his linemates on the board. Joel Farabee wasn’t quite as good as Wahlstrom, but he’s still pretty great. Another is defenseman Ty Smith, but if all things are equal the pick should be a forward. The name my eyes get drawn to is down at the bottom, Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

He’s low because that measure includes powerplay time. He was a teenager playing in the top league in Finland, Liiga. I would imagine he didn’t get much time to do anything on the powerplay, but you can see that he was really productive at even strength. Teenager producing against adults? Check.

Other names from this list will be available when the Stars pick in the second and third rounds. This draft becomes a home run if they can make those middle of the draft picks into winners with offensive potential. Radek Faksa and Roope Hintz are quality players, but dynamic offense still has to be part of the equation somewhere. It’s up to the Stars to see if any of these guys fit what they want.

 

5/6/18 – Should You Flip Off a Racist or Lick Someone in the Face?

If you ever needed more proof that hockey has work to do with race, I submit Exhibits A & B for the record.

A black man in the OHL has been suspended for flipping off a group of people making racial comments towards him with no corresponding suspensions or punishment of any kind given to the other parties.

A “known pest” white man has licked two people without so much as a penalty, fine, or suspension in the NHL.

Unequal punishment isn’t only an NHL phenomenon. It happens everywhere. Earlier this month a report was released studying punishment in schools.

“The analysis shows that students of color suffer harsher discipline for lesser offenses than their white peers and that racial bias is a driver of discipline disparities,” [Rep Bobby} Scott [D-Va.] said in a statement.

So naturally when Givani Smith, younger brother of Dallas Stars forward Gemel Smith, flipped the bird to the Soo Greyhounds bench strangely ironic hell broke loose against him.

The incident sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media. Some called the Toronto native a “coward” and a “douche bag” while others stooped lower.

One man sent a photo of Smith to his personal Facebook account with “Hockey N—–” in the caption.

He also received a death threat.

“There were threats, physical threats after Game 6,” said Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.

“Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with.”

Things got so bad that the Rangers needed a police escort from the Soo airport to their hotel and from the hotel to the Essar Centre for Game 7. Smith watched the affair from the press box with a security guard posted at the door.

All because he flipped someone off. Sure, civility is important. We don’t need to be flipping people off, but this is absurd. None of these reactions are ever justified, and they look even the more ridiculous when they come in response to a common mildly vulgar gesture.

The sad thing is that this is an unfortunately common situation that black hockey players are forced to confront. Gemel talked about his own experiences in the OHL with Sean Shapiro last year.

“I’ve been through that stuff, even when playing in the OHL. To me I just block it out, none of it really bothers me. I think of it like just words, that stuff doesn’t effect me.”

And,

“Definitely happened more when I was younger and in the OHL, I think it was a maturity thing. The fact that it happens at that age is a good thing, it teaches guys how to cope,” Smith said. “I had some really high-end players say some stuff to me, I’m not going to say any names, and to be honest I just laugh now. None of it really bothers me.”

The fact that at least one black player thinks it’s “a good thing” that they experience racism at an early age in hockey so they learn “how to cope” with it is a telling indictment of where hockey and society still are racially. No one should have to put up with this nonsense anywhere, and sure as hell not at work.

I work at an urban school where 97% of the population is Black or Hispanic. On my first day of school six years ago I was very aware that most people didn’t look like me. I’ve never been treated the way Givani Smith was treated in this one instance, and presumably others, in my entire time there. This isn’t just a race issue. It’s a white society issue and it isn’t ok.

This is why actively working towards inclusion is important. From Sean’s story:

“My first triple-A team when I first started taking hockey serious, my coach was black and there were four other black players on my team. It kind of helped us kind of get through at first,” Smith said. “I know stuff like that is going to come up as long as I live, and the best thing to is don’t break. You can bend, but don’t break.”

I still can’t get over how much the kids in my building flocked to Black Panther. Representation matters.

Remember all of the little girls running around dressed like Wonder Woman? Representation matters.

Hockey can’t show representation the way Black Panther or Wonder Woman did yet because there simply aren’t enough black NHL players to do it on that scale. That’s also why inclusion is important. Every single story like this that happens and spreads limits the potential audience for the sport. How can you expect any of the 42 million black people in the US to feel comfortable coming to an arena seating 17.000 almost exclusively white people when these things keep happening?

This is why Hockey Is For Everyone month is important. It’s easy for members of the majority to say “oh, of course everyone is welcome” because they don’t see or feel the impacts of how much racism is so easily thrown around.

The NHL needs to take a more active role in including everyone.

The NHLPA needs to take a more active role in protecting their members. No union worth anything should ever let a member treat another member like Givani Smith was treated in the OHL.

NHL teams need to take a more active role in the arena to make sure this behavior isn’t tolerated from fans.

It’s 2018 and this garbage keeps happening. Enough is enough. A white man licking people in the face has faced less consequences than a black man justifiably responding with a non-violent gesture to racists. I can’t.

 

 

5/4/18: Monty Effect on NCAA Free Agents and Tanner Jaillet

The Dallas Stars have never been a major player with college free agents. You never really hear their name attached to any of the big ones, and until recently it never seemed like they were very active at all. How much of an impact does the signing of Jim Montgomery to be the Stars next coach have on that going forward?

Montgomery has led the University of Denver Pioneers to be one of the more respected programs in the NCAA since taking over in 2014. His players are starting to make a mark at the NHL level. Will Butcher in New Jersey, Danton Heinen in Boston, and soon Henrik Borgstrom and US Olympian Troy Terry will be in the NHL.

Gavin Bayreuther and now Tony Calderone have joined the Stars as NCAA free agents the past two seasons. If the Stars want to be even more active, having a resource like Montgomery available can only help. He gives them firsthand access to knowledge and sources to help them make more informed decisions about who to pursue.

On the other hand, if you’re a college free agent unsure about heading to a team in Dallas couldn’t seeing Montgomery in place help pacify your worries? He’s a big name in college hockey and surely could be a valuable recruiting chip.

Montgomery should also bring another perspective on the prospects the Stars currently have in the NCAA. This is part of the value of going outside the organization for some fresh blood. He should have some of his own views on players like Riley Tufte, Colton Point, Joe Cecconi, and Jake Oettinger as they try to break into the NHL very soon.

All of that alone is a worthwhile impact, but why not see if that influence can help improve the Stars organization now? Many college free agents are still unsigned. Among those is one of his former key players at Denver: goaltender Tanner Jaillet.

The four year starter at Denver has a career .925 save percentage. That’s pretty salty and has improved the last two years. He was named the 2017 Mike Richter Award recipient as the top goaltender in the NCAA.

Of course, he’s 5’10 so he’s going to get passed over. Why shouldn’t a franchise like the Stars give him a shot? They have Point and Oettinger coming, sure. They aren’t coming next year though. 24 year old Jalliet is going to have to work to be in a position to block either player, but if he made himself that useful is it really a bad thing?

Right now the Texas Stars need goaltending for next season. Landon Bow is the only goalie under contract for 2019. Outside of half of a season in the WHL and half of a season in the ECHL he’s just been ok. They’ll need an emergency NHL option, but why not take a swing at something more with someone who has had as much success as Jalliet in tandem with a veteran?

The beauty of that question is the Stars now have someone who can directly answer it. Getting more involved in the pursuit of college talent makes a ton of sense, and they are now uniquely situated to do it with an extra bounty of information thanks to the hiring of Montgomery.