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Archive for April, 2010

My favorite Olympian

Before I get to any criticisms, I think it’s important to recognize one of the best moments of this season. It had nothing to do with NHL hockey, but was still very important to the Stars and hockey. Canada won the gold medal, and my faaaavorite player, Brenden Morrow played a major role in winning that medal.

B's goal against Russia

Now there have been a lot of people throughout the season who have complained about Brenden’s level of play while he was with the Stars. They first blamed it on his knee, saying it must not have been completely healed from the reconstruction or that Brenden wasn’t mentally ready to play again. Then he went to Vancouver and played wonderfully for Canada, and ended up being a major part of the team. After this, most Stars “fans” went crazy on Brenden, saying he was lazy, didn’t care about the Stars, should have his captaincy taken away, etc. I say “fans” because most of these comments came from Heika’s Blog, and we all know that a lot of people who comment there are mentally fragile.

First off, Brenden is FROM Canada and obviously wanted to play in the Olympics IN Canada. He said that winning the gold medal was his biggest dream when he was growing up. Maybe I’d like his biggest dream to be winning a Stanley Cup as captain of the Stars, but if winning a gold medal is it, then that’s what I want him to accomplish.

So maybe he didn’t play his hardest once he got named to the Olympic team. He didn’t fight with Avery when the Stars went to New York. SO WHAT? We have other enforcers on the team and I don’t blame Brenden one bit for not wanting to fight with that little piece of… you know. I don’t blame him one bit for not being as physical. He didn’t want to get hurt and miss the Olympics, and you can’t fault him for that. Especially the possibility of getting hurt by someone like Avery.

Also, his role for Team Canada was drastically different than it is for the Stars. He played on the 4th line and rarely saw power play or penalty kill time. He wasn’t asked to play in every situation, be physical, and score goals at the front of the net while skating 20 minutes a game. He only played a few minutes a game for Canada (although that went up as the Olympics went on), and he put everything he could into those few minutes.

After Canada won, several people went so far as to tell Sarah and me that we were “terrorists” because we wanted Canada to win instead of the US. Seriously? I guess these are the same super intelligent people who think Brenden should have the captaincy taken away. Although most of the people telling us this weren’t even hockey fans and were just cheering for the US because it was the Olympics. That tiny bit of hockey doesn’t give you the right to tell me who I can and can’t root for. I wanted Brenden to win the gold, and I’m damn glad that he did.

I can see how it’s kind of unfair that the US only lost one game and was handed the silver medal. I think the Olympic tournament needs to be restructured. Why is it necessary to play a full week of games before actually playing for real? Why not seed the teams based on the way they finished in the previous Olympics? Maybe that’s not the best way to do it, but playing two full weeks of games that mattered would offset seeding them based off the previous Olympics.

I didn’t even think the US team would make it to the medal rounds, and they surprised everyone. They deserve so many accolades for how well they played. Watch for them in 2014 (if the NHL goes to the Olympics in Sochi), because a lot of those players will be back, more experienced, and probably still pissed they got the silver in 2010.

Even though the US played well, Canada deserved to win the gold medal on their home soil. I know there were a lot of people in the US cheering on the American team, but 80% of Canada’s citizens watched at least part of that hockey game. That would be equivalent to 240 MILLION Americans watching the game. I don’t even think that many people watch the Super Bowl.

People in the US were invested, but it doesn’t even compare to Canada. There weren’t parties in the streets in any American cities, but people came out to the streets in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa to cheer on the team and celebrate the gold medal.

Would you have seen this anywhere in the US? I don’t think so. Although, if you do, let me know because I’d love to be there!

Canada deserved it, and the ending to the Olympics was perfect because of it. Congratulations to them!

And now that he’s won a gold medal, Brenden’s new number one goal can be to lead the Stars to a Cup. Although he’s gonna need a ton of help with that.

I am so proud of Brenden and so happy that Canada won.

Amy

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Have you seen the Green Men of Vancouver? I highly suggest you check them out at this link to Yahoo Sports’ Puck Daddy blog.

Don't you just love creative hockey fans?

Don’t know how I haven’t heard about them until just now, but I tip my hat, ahem, goalie mask to the awesomeness that is Sully and Force. Keep on taunting those sent to the attitude adjustment suite, guys!

Check them out on Facebook

Sarah

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I thought of this while watching the playoffs last night. I feel so removed from the playoffs since the Stars haven’t made it for the last two seasons, that I really don’t care what happens. Well, I’d really like to see Phoenix and San Jose lose, but I just don’t care a whole lot.  I’d much rather talk about the few good things that happened for the Stars and Stars players this season.

So without further ado, I present to you the best aspect of 2009-10: Jamie Benn’s rookie season!

Jamie after his first NHL goal - the first of many this season

I am a big Jamie Benn fan (duh!) and I have been since the summer of 2008 when Sarah and I went to development camp. I followed him all through juniors in the 2008-09 season and saw him win gold at the World Juniors, win the WHL championship, and fall just short of winning the whole CHL championship. I also bought his first jersey in October of this season, and he said my jersey was the first of his that he had signed 🙂

Even a little playoff scruff! Yeah, it is a little creepy...

Jamie had an amazing season his last year in juniors. In the regular season with Kelowna, he had 82 points (46 G, 36 A) in 56 games. He missed a fair number of games in the regular season while he played for Canada in the World Junior Championships. They won the gold medal, partially thanks to his contributions. Jamie was on fire in the playoffs for Kelowna, as he had 33 points (13 G, 20 A) in just 19 playoff games. He even missed a couple games in the playoffs after taking a cheap hit from one of the Calgary Hitmen (actually Brent Seabrook’s little brother – ugh!) during the WHL Championship series.
Jamie’s technique tip for the videos done for the World Junior Championships.

First day of training camp

When most of you first saw Jamie, it was probably at the beginning of training camp. From the start of camp, Heika, the coaches, and the rest of Jamie’s teammates began talking about just how good this kid from Victoria was. He wasn’t even expected to make the team this season, and the coaches had penciled him in to start the season with the Stars new affiliate in Cedar Park. I had kind of penciled that in as well, since Cedar Park is almost 3 hours closer to me than Dallas is. After the first week of training camp, it was pretty obvious that he was going to be staying up in Dallas. Crawford said a few times that Jamie was the best player at training camp, not just the best young player. He had goals in almost all of the preseason games he played in and seemed to be off to a really strong start.

He had a great rookie season, scoring 22 goals and adding 19 assists for a total of 41 points. Those aren’t quite the same numbers he put up in juniors, but that’s to be expected since the caliber of the defense goes up a whole lot in the NHL compared to the junior leagues. He even made the move to center for the first time in his career, and I think he handled it wonderfully, except for knocking out several of James Neal’s teeth in his first game at center. Next should hold even more possibilities for Jamie because I think he really got more comfortable as the season went on. His scoring went up as the year went on, and we started to get more glimpses of just how dominant he can be when he gets the puck. As Ralph and Razor said at the end of the Minnesota game last weekend, it was only fitting that Jamie score the last goal of the season as a symbol of how he’s going to one day be one of the important leaders of the team.

Some things about Jamie:
1. He’s from Victoria, British Columbia (one of the most beautiful places in the world)

I don't think I'd mind living there... maybe if someone forced me

2. Krys Barch was his roommate on the road last season. Talk about a nice introduction to the NHL! With Barchie’s future in question for next year, Jamie may be looking at getting a new roommate.

3. “Jamie Benn” is the search term most used for people coming to our blog for all time. That’s pretty impressive since he’s only been with the Stars for a season. I should post more stuff about him so all the Jamie Benn searchers can come here 🙂

4. His older brother, Jordie, plays for the Allen Americans (who are currently in the CHL playoffs). Even though Jamie’s the younger brother, he’s the one who managed to make it into the NHL. I think that happens relatively often because the younger sibling is forced to play at the higher level as the older sibling to cut down on traveling, cost, etc.

5. He has an awesome shot. That practicing the quick release must really help. I really wanted a video of the goal he scored December 23rd against Columbus, but I couldn’t find one. Someone like me should be cataloging all of his goals for posterity, I guess.

6. Even though the season is over for the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn went down to Cedar Park to give the Baby Stars some help in the postseason. He’s playing on the top line with Rallo and Gagnon and will probably get a fair amount of powerplay time. He scored two goals in his first practice with the team, so hopefully that bodes well once the real games start. While I wish the Stars could be the ones in the playoffs, playing for the Texas Stars should give him a lot of good playoff experience at the professional level.

I think my favorite thing about Jamie is that he’s so humble and polite, even with everything that’s gone on his rookie season. He moved to a new country, played with amazing players such as Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and others, managed to score 22 goals, and learned a new position. His mannerisms remind me a lot of Brenden’s, and it’s refreshing to see that young star athletes can be so humble (here’s looking at you, James Neal). My favorite players are the ones who lead by their performance on the ice and drag the rest of the team along with them.

My two favorites 🙂

I look forward to everything that Jamie will do for this team in the future. Let’s hope he’s the only name on GM Joe’s “untouchables” list.

Amy

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Click here for the story. Straight from Joe’s mouth.

I'll miss you, Marty.

Words can’t describe how upset I am about this. And, yes, I know it was expected….I just hoped I could hold on to my delusions at least until June. I promise I’ll do his official leaving justice, but right now, I’m just not ready.

Check out what Marty and Brenden have said: (from Heika’s blog)

“It’s pretty tough to talk about, really. There are so many people who I have known for so long here, Mike (Modano), Jere (Lehtinen), Stephane (Robidas), Otter (Steve Ott), my boy (Brenden Morrow), and not just the players but the other guys like the training staff. They do so much for you, especially a goalie. There are so many people who directly affect your career and your life, and I have been with this group for my entire career. That’s one that if you move, you know you are going to miss those guys.”

On how his home office looks with Stars memorabilia:

“For being a maize and blue guy (University of Michigan), I’ve got a lot of green and gold in my house,” he said. “I never would have thought when I was drafted it would have lasted this long or meant this much, but it has. To each their own, but my whole perspective of hockey is to entrench myself deeply in the team and put myself in other’s shoes as much as possible. The idea of winning to me is being a team and being a family, and the closer you are the better. And even though my job description is stopping pucks, it’s just meant so much more to me to do other things, maybe to a fault sometime. It is my style to totally immerse myself in what I do. To say I just played eight seasons for the Dallas Stars, that only scratches the surface of how I feel about this time in my life and what they have meant to me.”

Stars captain Brenden Morrow said he will definitely miss Turco.

“He’s my best friend and my neighbor and we’ve known each other really since we’ve been here, so it will be tough,” Morrow said. “But we’re professionals and we’ll move on. We understand it’s a job, but sometimes that job is tough.”

I’ll miss you, Marty. More than words can say. You’re always going to be “my favorite player in the whole world.” Yes, Marty, the whole world.

Sarah

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I can’t believe the season is over. It seems way too soon to say goodbye to all of our players. I’m still kind of emotional from the game on Thursday, and watching the videos over and over isn’t helping either. Neither is having a picture of Mikey on the jumbotron as my desktop background.

Going to the game on Thursday was such a great decision. I was so happy to see Mikey and all the guys [possibly] one last time. I also got to spend some quality time with Trey, my favorite usher [who’s also leaving… THIS SUCKS :(], Myra and her family, and the amazing Fanatics.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not excited for the playoffs to start. I don’t really care who wins (as long as it’s not San Jose or Pittsburgh) and I’m not even in the mood to watch other teams play hockey.

It feels like yesterday I was at the first day of training camp. The team looked so focused and I thought they might actually make a run for it this year. I can’t believe Jamie Benn has already completed his rookie year – hopefully I’ll make a post soon about that because I am so proud of everything he accomplished this season. And even more proud that I bought his first jersey and mine was the first jersey of his that he signed!

I have a feeling this will be a long and weird offseason. When training camp starts, who will own the team? Who will still be here, and who will have moved on to other teams?

I’m not sure what next year will bring, but I’m sure I’ll be excited for it soon since it’ll be the first year I have season tickets. I can’t wait to be a part of the Fanatics every game of the season!

Amy

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As we approach the end of the 2009-10 season, the Stars should be filled with much more regret than optimism.

3 years ago, I said the Stars would win the Cup in the 2009-10 season. What could be sweeter than winning the league championship in the last year of Mike Modano’s, Jere Lehtinen’s, and Marty Turco’s contracts? How nice would it have been for players like Modano and Lehtinen to go out with a bang and win the Cup in their last year?

That can’t be what happens this season because the Stars were eliminated from the playoffs when Colorado won their game Sunday night. In a way, I was relieved that the Stars were finally mathematically eliminated because I was tired of holding out that .02% chance that they would make the playoffs (by the way, thanks stat dudes for keeping the hope alive!), but I was still disappointed that my favorite team failed to make the postseason for the second year in a row.

The problem with the end of this season is that this is the end of an era in Dallas. At the end of 2008-09, it was disappointing that the Stars didn’t make the playoffs, but there were excuses due to injury, poor management, a coach who couldn’t control the team. Changes needed to be made.

But changes were made and that didn’t help. A new coach, a new manager, a few new players… still the same result. The Stars didn’t get what they needed in the offseason for budget reasons. Even now, the Stars are spending money signing Ott and Petersen to deals. Don’t get me wrong, I like Petersen as a person and wish him the best, but honestly, he’s not going to be an integral part of a future Cup-winning team. He’s a role player who’s good in the locker room, and I’m sure the Stars could call up a similar player from Cedar Park and pay him less money. Otter is a fan favorite, and the team would be different without him, but I don’t see the justification in paying $3 million a season for a guy who scores about 20 goals and takes a whole lot of penalties.

We’re still not in the playoffs, but feelings will be different when the Stars skate off the ice Saturday night against Minnesota. There aren’t the same injury excuses. Yes, this team isn’t good enough to win it all, but they’re not bad enough to go the whole season without stringing together a 3-game winning streak. Edmonton managed to have a 5-game winning streak and Toronto had two 3-game winning streaks. These teams barely made it to double digits in wins, but they can manage to be consistent enough to win a few games in a row.

The Stars have lost so many players from the 2008 playoff run, and there hasn’t been anyone to take their places. We lost Zubov, Norstrom, and Boucher. Niskanen, Grossman, Daley, and Fistric haven’t been able to fill those holes. Fistric has shown promise this season now that Tippett is no longer there to send him down to the AHL. Grossman has shown some signs of development, but he’s not as far along as I’d hoped, and he’s nowhere near the caliber of Norstrom in front of the net in the WCF against Detroit in a 6 on 4. Niskanen has been a developmental failure, and maybe it’s time to give up on him in a trade. Daley needs to go away. The announcers have said that he’s been “developing” for the last 6 years, and I haven’t seen any signs of progress. He’s as good as he’s ever going to be, and it’s nowhere near good enough to be worth something to the team in the long run.

These were your defensive pairs in the 1999 playoffs:
Hatcher – Matvichuk (both in their prime)
Zubov – Sydor (in their glory days)
Ludwig – Chambers (two stalwarts that were maybe the best “third” pair of defensemen ever)

I don’t see any of the Stars current defensemen breaking into this lineup, with the exception of Robidas. His heart allows him to play way beyond his capabilities, and he’d make a wonderful third pair defenseman who saw some time on the power play but wasn’t forced to play 25:00+ a game. If you’ve seen the Stars play, you know how hard he plays the game and you know he’s too small to play that way effectively 82 games a year.

That’s just the defensemen. The forwards we lost, including Hagman, Halpern, and Barnes, created holes. While the Stars haven’t replaced them with similar players, the play of young James Neal and Jamie Benn shows that the Stars have hope on the offensive end of things.

Overall, the Stars aren’t even as good as they were in 2008, and that wasn’t even one of their best years talent-wise.

And they are about to lose a lot more. Pieces that can’t be replaced, especially since the Stars have been unable to replace pieces lost in 2008.

One of the pieces will probably move on to another team:

Marty Turco: He hasn’t played well since the 2008 playoffs, but he’s been an integral part of the team. The first time I remember hearing him mentioned was when I saw footage of some crazy young goalie flopping around in the crease during practice in the 1999 playoffs to emulate Hasek and his odd style of playing the game. I can’t do justice to Marty leaving; maybe Sarah will conquer that task some day when she’s ready.

He never won a Cup for the team, and until 2007 and 2008 he was questionable at best in the playoffs. But that’s not to say he didn’t have a wonderful career in Dallas. While I can think of so many goals given up on first shots or from the faceoff dots, I can think of just as many ridiculous saves that never should have stayed out of the net. When I think of Marty, I think of his performance in the 2 playoff games I attended in 2008: Game 6 against San Jose and Game 4 against Detroit. He played out of his mind. He kept the Stars in the San Jose game long enough for Brenden to get the the series-winning goal at 1:24 am.

Off the ice, he is possibly the greatest human (term borrowed from Razor) to ever play for the Stars. His work with Stick with Reading/Writing, his visits to children’s hospitals, the M Club at every Stars home game… Marty has given so much back to countless individuals and families in the city of Dallas. There’s a reason why he’s nominated for so many humanitarian awards every year.

While we may get a new goalie or test the waters with Lehtonen as starter, Marty was a fan favorite and I know it will take everyone time to get used to seeing someone else in the pipes.

Jere Lehtinen: As Ralph so eloquently said in his article about Lehtinen, he played his whole career with very little recognition. Yes, he won 3 Selke trophies, but he deserved to win so many more. He is +177 in his career, and this season will be the only season he finishes with a – rating.

Since, like everyone else, I don’t know much about Lehtinen, I don’t have a lot to say about him. So here is my favorite Lehtinen memory: If you’ve gotten your picture taken with him at practice, you’ve probably noticed that he seems standoffish and rarely smiles for pictures. I’m sure he’s not mean or grouchy, that’s simply the way he is. He probably doesn’t understand why people care so much about him. In one of the pictures I have with him, he’s looking the other way, and it looks like I took an awkward picture with someone at a party who wasn’t even aware he was in the picture. But at this practice, in March of 2008, Sarah and I found a way to make him smile. We showed him both our “We ❤ our Finns” sign and the “Leht’s Go” sign. He autographed them, smiling, and said our signs were “pretty cool”. This is the picture we got with him directly after:

A smile; success!

I’ll always remember his ugly yellow skate laces and the way he always seemed to make lines better. He’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve become such a Finn fan and have a Finnish flag hanging on the wall in my bedroom. He scored the crazy 1st goal of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. I still don’t know how that puck managed to go into the net.

He’s been talked about more in the past couple seasons due to his injury problems, and I miss the days when he plugged along without gaining any media coverage.

Mike Modano: I don’t think I have words for this one. If this is his final season, there will be hundreds of articles written about his career and how important he was to the Dallas Stars and American hockey. I can’t write something to rival what they will write, so I’ll leave that to them. We all know he holds every valuable stat possible for the Dallas Stars, and that he’s the greatest American-born player in history.

Mikey was the first player I noticed at my first game in March of 1997. I was 8 years old the first time I saw him play. I remember grabbing the program from my mom to check the rosters to see who this #9 was in white who zoomed up and down the ice. He was the only one whose jersey actually flapped as he skated. Even though players now may be faster than he is, you don’t see that with anyone else.

As soon as I figured out who he was, my goal was to get a Mike Modano jersey. And on opening night of the 1998-99 season, I got my white authentic Modano jersey. It is still my favorite jersey – I’ve added a Cup Finals patch and it’s signed only by Mikey and Bob Gainey. The logo on the front is still wider than I am, I can’t imagine how it looked on me when I was 10. The first pictures I have with Mikey are from the days before digital cameras. I’ll have to find the originals so I can scan them into my computer.

I can’t imagine a Stars team without Mike Modano. He’s taken a reduced role in the last several years, and I’m sure there are many Stars fans/bloggers who appreciate what Mikey means to the team but really have no idea. They didn’t see him get an assist on the last 8 goals in the 1999 Finals. With a broken wrist. Maybe they saw Mikey break the American-born scoring records, but they didn’t see all of his goals from Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen, and Brett Hull in the 90s.

I wish I could have seen him before Hitchcock came to Dallas and changed his game. Mikey was a much better player after learning some defensive responsibility, but I still wish I could have seen him skate through 4 or 5 guys by himself to get the puck in the net.

I have this great picture of Mikey and Brett Hull at the Cup parade in downtown Dallas. He and Hull are both leaning on a metal pole sticking out of their float. Neither of them could hold themselves up through the whole parade after the injuries they sustained in the playoffs. They both have huge smiles on their faces.

I just can’t write anything else about him until I hear for sure about his decision. Although, his actions and what he’s said in interviews make me think that this is the end for him.

The other two players won’t be so easily replaced. They are the only two members of the 1999 Cup Championship team. They are the only two team members who were playing in March 1997 when I went to my first Stars game. I know Modano’s number will be retired as soon as he hangs up his skates, and I hope Lehtinen will get the same treatment.

I’ll be making the drive up to Dallas from San Antonio Thursday for the final home game of the season. I don’t know how many Stars I’ll be seeing the last of, but I want to be sure to see them all before they leave. Feel free to come say hi and share some Stars memories with me. Or to give me a hug, because I’ll probably need it.

Amy

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