Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oklahoma City Closes Time in AHL with Game 7 Loss at Utica

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Oklahoma City Barons were looking to play giant killer this entire postseason. After dropping from first place to sixth late in the season, it was going to be an uphill battle for the Edmonton Oilers farm team to make it to the Calder Cup. An upset win over division-rival San Antonio had them through the first round. The second would pit them against the top team in the West, the Utica Comets. The Barons and Comets circled each other through the mid-season as they battled for the top spot.

The Barons took the Comets to the brink in Utica tonight, but it was the home team emerging victorious. With the win, the Barons ended their stay in Oklahoma City. The club will relocate to Bakersfield, California next season.

Sadly, professional hockey in Oklahoma City has gone dormant once again.

This isn't a eulogy for the Barons. I don't think I'm prepared to write that really. However, the team deserved better than what they got. They didn't miss the playoffs once in their tenure in Bricktown and got to the Western Conference Finals twice. The real tragedy, of course, is that there are a lot of very smart hockey fans in OKC. They won't be watching the future of the Oilers at Cox Convention Center next season because a bridge was not built in the community to the casual fan base.

A crowded market that includes the NBA's Thunder, minor league baseball and a soccer team owned by the same organization as the Barons made the club a weak draw. It was and is unfortunate. I am sad for my fellow hockey fans in OKC and wish them well as they hope for the return of pro hockey to their hometown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Around the League: OKC and Utica Head to Game 7, Mueller Thru to East Finals

Chris Mueller (Credit: Mark Newman)
Welcome to the offseason. Throughout the summer, I'll be doing around the league posts once again, summarizing some of the goings on around the league.
  • OKC and Utica have taken their series to the limit after last night's 2-1 win by the Barons in New York. Former Star Richard Bachman was the first star of the game with 33 saves. Tomorrow's Game 7 could be the final game of the OKC Barons' time in the AHL, or they could take it to the Comets and face the Griffins in the Western Conference Finals. [OKC Barons]
  • Speaking of the Griffins, they smoked the IceHogs in five games and now have some time off waiting for their next opponent. Teemu Pulkkinen came back for the playoffs and has 13 goals and 2 assists in ten games. So, you know, he's pretty good and stuff. [TheAHL]
  • Out east, Chris Mueller and the Hartford Wolf Pack polished off the Hershey Bears in six to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For Mueller, he's having a better postseason than last year, somehow. He's already racked up 9 points in 11 games, compared to 11 in 19 games last postseason. [TheAHL]
  • The Coyotes are not renewing the contract of former San Antonio coach Ray Edwards as they move from Portland to Springfield next year. [WCSH 6 Portland]
  • Yet again, the All-Star game will take place in the Eastern time zone. While, yes, the West did claim last year's with Utica as host, it wasn't really the same as having a Chicago or a San Antonio host. To be honest, how long will it be until the All-Star game finds its way to sunny California? Average February high of 70 degrees in Ontario, CA? All those Northeastern teams are bound to say, "Yes, please."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Texas Stars Will Move to Pacific Division in 2015-16

Well, this is big news. In something of an unexpected turn, the Texas Stars are changing divisions and joining up with the new California teams to form the AHL's new Pacific Division. It wasn't unexpected that Texas would change divisions; that's happened many times before. It was unexpected that it would be with the West Coast teams.

San Antonio will also play in the division, which features all five California-based clubs and both Texas teams. The remainder of the old West Division is in the AHL's Central Division. Full detail below.

No information is available on the number of games played total, games against each opponent or the Calder Cup playoff format. You have to imagine that the playoff format will definitely change. This was unexpected as the league looked set to put all five Cali clubs in their own sequestered division.

Stock up on caffeine, Stars fans. 9:30 PM Central Time starts for a large number of this club's games are coming to an away schedule near you...

Here's the release:
American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced that the league's Board of Governors, convening for its Spring Meeting today in Chicago, Ill., has approved its division alignment for the 2015-16 AHL season.

The Texas Stars will compete in the Pacific Division against the Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Antonio Rampage, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, and Stockton Heat. The seven-team Pacific Division is part of the Western Conference. Texas is the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Dallas Stars.

The AHL's full divisional alignment is as follows (NHL affiliate in parentheses):

Western Conference

Central Division
Charlotte Checkers (CAR)
Chicago Wolves (STL)
Grand Rapids Griffins (DET)
Iowa Wild (MIN)
Lake Erie Monsters (CBJ)
Manitoba Moose (WPG)
Milwaukee Admirals (NSH)
Rockford IceHogs (CHI)

Pacific Division
Bakersfield Condors (EDM)
Ontario Reign (LA)
San Antonio Rampage (COL)
San Diego Gulls (ANA)
San Jose Barracuda (SJ)
Stockton Heat (CGY)
Texas Stars (DAL)

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI)
Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR)
Hershey Bears (WSH)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (PHI)
Portland Pirates (FLA)
Providence Bruins (BOS)
Springfield Falcons (ARI)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)

North Division
Albany Devils (NJ)
Binghamton Senators (OTT)
Rochester Americans (BUF)
St. John's IceCaps (MTL)
Syracuse Crunch (TB)
Toronto Marlies (TOR)
Utica Comets (VAN)

The format for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs will be finalized by the Board of Governors at its Annual Meeting in Hilton Head Island, S.C., July 6-9, and the complete playing schedule for the 2015-16 regular season, which begins Oct. 9, will be announced later this summer.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Can I Get a Welfare Check on the Texas Stars Fanbase?

(Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)
So... how are we doing?

Ten days out from the Texas Stars' departure from the postseason, where are we at?

There was a pretty good discussion going on in the comments of the final postgame article discussing what went down in the series.

I think the series clearly didn't go the way that everyone had hoped. Regardless of whether you envisioned the Stars winning the series or not, not a lot of folks had them down for a sweep. Former coach Willie Desjardins (and many others) always said that Game 1 was the easiest to win on the road. That's exactly what Rockford did to Texas. Game 2 should have been the equalizer, but lineup decisions that may or may not have been made in Central Texas affected that outcome.

If you back up a bit, the Stars have a lot of things to be excited about as you look toward the coming season. The way this team played since the All-Star Break reminds me a lot of another team that is enjoying post-season success: the 2013-14 Utica Comets. If you'll remember, the Comets were a mess to start their inaugural season. However, starting in late January 2014, something clicked, not unlike what happened with Texas after the 2015 All-Star Break.

With the momentum they gained from the late season run, they vaulted to first place in the West. Texas can do a similar thing next year.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Texas Stars 2015-16 Contract Status

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Here's a look at who is under contract and the status for anyone who isn't at the end of this year...

Under NHL contract
Locked up with Dallas for next season.
  • Branden Troock
  • Brendan Ranford
  • Brett Ritchie
  • Cole Ully
  • Devin Shore
  • Esa Lindell
  • Gemel Smith
  • Henri Kiviaho
  • Jason Dickinson
  • Julius Honka
  • Jussi Rynnas
  • Justin Dowling
  • Ludwig Bystrom
  • Matej Stransky
  • Mattias Backman
  • Mattias Janmark
  • Maxime Lagace
  • Philippe Desrosiers
  • Radek Faksa
  • Taylor Peters
  • Travis Morin
  • Troy Vance
Restricted free agents
Dallas must tender these players qualifying offers by June 30th to retain their services. If not, they become unrestricted free agents.
  • Curtis McKenzie
  • Jack Campbell
  • Jamie Oleksiak
  • Ludwig Karlsson
  • Scott Glennie
Unrestricted NHL free agents
These players can sign with anyone on July 1.
  • Cameron Gaunce
  • Kevin Henderson
  • Scott Valentine*
Unrestricted AHL free agents
There are only a handful of multi-year AHL deals in the entire league each year. The vast majority of AHL contracts, including all of the ones listed below, are one year long. These players can sign anywhere on July 1.
  • Derek Hulak
  • Derek Meech
  • Greg Rallo
  • Jesse Root
  • Matt Mangene
  • Maxime Fortunus
  • Mike Dalhuisen
  • William Wrenn
* - Scott Valentine was technically restricted by Nashville's QO of him last summer, which restricted his options last year. It's quite a mess that I'll outline in a coming post.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What to Expect from the Texas Stars Offseason

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the 2014-15 regular season in the rearview, Texas now looks to an offseason that is much longer than they would like. Certainly, it is the longest they've had in three years.

Here's the outline of what you should expect this summer for the timeline.

June 26-27 - NHL Draft
The big story in the NHL Draft is the top two pick drama. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will be the top two picks in the draft, both predicted to be game-changing talents. Edmonton and Buffalo have the first two picks.

Dallas picks at 12th. Players in this draft won't show up in the AHL for at least two more years barring any sort of Jack Campbell or Julius Honka situation.

June 30 - Qualifying Offers Due
Restricted free agents on expiring Dallas contracts must be issues qualifying offers by June 30th for Dallas to retain their rights for the coming season. I have a lot of information about this process in the glossary above. Dallas's RFAs for this season include Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Curtis McKenzie, Ludwig Karlsson, Jack Campbell and Scott Glennie. Not all of those players will get "QOs."

July 1 - Free Agency Begins
The frenzy begins as unrestricted free agents may sign with any club on July 1. You won't see players destined for the AHL signed on the first day, most likely, but you will probably see them within a few days of that starting gun. Dallas UFAs include Cameron Gaunce. All of Texas' AHL-only contracts are expiring at this time as well (Maxime Fortunus, Derek Meech, Derek Hulak, etc.).

Early July - Development Camp
Players who were drafted in the 2015 Draft and other younger guys will gather in Frisco for the first organized activity of the new season. Mostly this is skills work and practices with a lot of off-ice strength and nutrition work as well. It's a good chance to see some of the younger guys for the first time, but the only real 'game' style action is a scrimmage on the final day. Julius Honka will be attending.

September 11-15 - Traverse City
Traverse City, Michigan, becomes a hub of the hockey world in September as eight teams, including Dallas, send their prospects to the northern Michigan city to play a quick tournament. Derek Laxdal coached the prospects last year. If you can go, it's a great chance to rub elbows with the bigshots of the hockey world in the stands.

Late September - Training Camp in Cedar Park
While dates have yet to be announced, we know that the Dallas Stars will open training camp ofr the 2015-16 year in Cedar Park in late September. At that point, the season will be underway...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jussi Rynnas Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Every Thursday, 100 Degree Hockey will name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille features classic comfort food and Southern dishes less than five minutes from the Cedar Park Center. If you mention the Player of the Week or 100 Degree Hockey on your next visit to Lone Star Grille, your server will take $5 off your order of any two entrees.

Back-to-back player of the week honors are handed out for the first time this season as Jussi Rynnas earns the nod again after a big effort last night to keep the Stars in the contest despite a heavy Rockford shot count. Rynnas stopped 38 of 41 last night and 33 of 36 on Friday. That's a .922 save percentage in the playoff series.

Now the offseason looms for the entire club. Goaltending is a question mark in Dallas, specifically in the backup slot. Rynnas is in pole position for the backup job if he wants it. With another year on his contract with the NHL's Stars, he will enter camp as a favorite to clinch the job if Jim Nill decides to go a similar route as this year. However, if Nill decides to sign a more clear-cut backup in the role, Rynnas would be more likely to return to Cedar Park next year.

That will bring more discussion of what exactly the team is going to do with Jack Campbell and how he will be used in 2015-16. But there's plenty of time to discuss that over the coming five months...