Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catching Up: Prospects Finish Second, Texas Stars Shine in First NHL Preseason Game

McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
I've been a bit out of pocket over the past week. However, here's a catchup of the major events in the last week.

  • The Stars prospects fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets last week in overtime of the final game at the Traverse City Tournament. It was a great showing by many on the squad, including Radek Faksa, Gemel Smith and Brendan Ranford. Those three are all expected to play for the Stars in Cedar Park this season. It was also a great showing for Derek Laxdal. It was not his first time coaching the tourney for Dallas though. He won with the 2008 squad. Good chance for him to get his feet wet though in the organization again.
  • Kevin Henderson will be joining the Texas Stars again. Although he is property of Nashville, the Predators did not invite him to NHL camp. Regardless of whatever turned sour in Milwaukee for Henderson, the Stars found his presence a huge boon in the post season. He had 6 points in 21 games on the "Czech"-ing line with Radek Faksa and Matej Stransky.
  • Dallas camp began in Fort Worth on Friday, bringing with it a huge outpouring of 'hockey's back!' excitement. While many Dallas players had nearly five months off from hockey, the Texas players in camp were working on just three months' rest.
  • The Stars iced a prospect heavy lineup on Monday night against St. Louis. Here is the lineup, thanks to DallasStars.com:
    Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
    Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Scott Glennie
    Brendan Ranford – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
    Remi Elie – Jason Dickinson – Erik Cole

    Jordie Benn – Kevin Connauton
    Patrik Nemeth – Julius Honka
    Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak

    Kari Lehtonen
    Anders Lindback
    McKenzie and Morin combined for a tally in the game. Morin assisted McKenzie's third period goal off the rush. McKenzie led the Stars with four shots on goal.

    Regarding McKenzie, Lindy Ruff told the media after the game, "I just think he does a lot of good things inside the game. He does the little things right, and it starts there. He’s got a good goal-scoring touch, he’s got a physical side to him, so there’s a lot to like about the way he plays and way he carries himself on the ice."

    Further, Ruff had good things to say about Jamie Oleksiak's game: "I thought he kept the game in front of him. His gap was good for a defenseman. He made quick, smart plays with the puck; he didn’t try to chase the game at all; he stepped up physically for us when someone got close to our goaltender, or bumped into our goaltender, which was great to see. So his overall game was good for us."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dallas Stars Prospects Head to Championship Game at Traverse City

Brendan Ranford (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Despite losing captain Brett Ritchie to injury in game 2 of the tournament, the Dallas Stars prospects have cruised to a 3-0 record at the Traverse City tournament. They will play a team to be determined tomorrow evening at 6PM for the championship.

Dallas has been buoyed by the Calder Cup playoff experience of their veteran players. Brendan Ranford, Radek Faksa, Matej Stransky and Brett Ritchie have all been big players in the tourney. Gemel Smith, expected to be with Texas this season, has a goal and four assists in three games to this point. Future Texas Star Jason Dickinson has two goals and an assist. You can see the leading scorer list, which is peppered with Stars, here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Traverse City Tournament Opens Today

Dallas Stars prospects at the 2011 tournament (Credit: Judy True)
Derek Laxdal's first chance to get a look at many of his incoming players against another squad comes today as the Traverse City Tournament begins. The Dallas Stars' prospects will take on prospects from the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers today at 6:00 PM Central.

Dallas will play just four total games in the quick tournament with the final game being played on Tuesday. The Stars will face Carolina tomorrow and Buffalo on Monday. The last game will be played against an opponent to be determined by the results of the first three games. Dallas is in the Ted Lindsay Division and they will play their equally seeded counterpart in the Gordie Howe Division on Tuesday. The 1st v. 1st matchup is considered the championship.

You can follow the action through Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge), who is at the tournament, or via the tournament's PointStreak page. Here's the schedule and here's Dallas' roster for the game.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Your Guide to the Rest of the Offseason

Radek Faksa against Florida in last year's preseason
(Credit: Darren Abate)
The AHL's schedule release was the last big news of the summer before the whole thing gets started again. Let's take a look at the timeline for the rest of the offseason, leading up to Texas's first home game on October 11th.

Traverse City Camp — September 11-16

Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal's first coaching experience with his new organization will be the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Hosted by the Red Wings each year in the northern Michigan town of Traverse City, the tourney features the prospects of eight different NHL teams. Those tend to be the younger prospects. Think Brendan Ranford and Philippe Desrosiers but not Brett Ritchie or Curtis McKenzie.

The full roster and schedule has been posted already. It's good to see the team  succeed in this tourney, but I wouldn't peg too much to winning it. It's mostly a chance for team front office guys to get a look at what they have in some of the younger players and how they work together. It is also Derek Laxdal's first look at a lot of these players who will end up on his roster either this year or soon in the future.

Dallas Training Camp — September 19-21

Dallas Stars camp returns to Fort Worth this year for the second year under the leadership of Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff. There are going to be a lot of names familiar to Texas Stars fans fighting for roster spots.

Some of them are pretty locked into a place in Dallas, it's just a question of which line. One example is Colton Sceviour, who has been rumored as a potential top six forward with Jason Spezza as his center.

Others will be fighting for a chance in the lineup at all, such as Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie, Cameron Gaunce and even Travis Morin. Another matchup to watch will be the battle for the backup role behind Kari Lehtonen. Jussi Rynnas and Anders Lindback are both on one-way deals and hoping to take the load off the top tender, Lehtonen. The loser of that battle will come to Cedar Park.

Dallas Preseason Games — September 22-30

Dallas will play six preseason games, which should feature a lot of Texas Stars players. The first will be just two weeks from today, but they won't be broadcast in the Austin area.

Texas training camp — Late September

Dates are not set quite yet for the Texas Stars training camp. However, usually camp starts after a few preseason games have happened for the NHL side and some NHL contracted guys have been assigned.

Texas Preseason Games — October 3-5

Texas will play just two AHL preseason games this season, one each against familiar foes San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Both will be at home. Those games will bookend the big event though...

Dallas v. Texas Scrimmage — October 4

Dallas will bring their squad to Cedar Park to play a scrimmage on Saturday, October 4th. The format of the scrimmage has yet to be announced, but Jim Lites said around the announcement that the teams will be taking it seriously. Still, you can anticipate an All-Star game like atmosphere, as no one wants to get hurt in an exhibition game just before the season starts.

First Games — October 9 and 11

Dallas opens a season full of expectations against a team that almost made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season, Chicago, on October 9th. Texas will raise their banners against the Iowa Wild two nights later on October 11th.

And we're off!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AHL Schedule Released; Texas Stars Will Open Title Defense Against Iowa

Schedule features no Eastern conference teams, heavy diet of OKC and San Antonio
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The American Hockey League announced the schedule for the 2014-15 season this morning, including a 76 game slate for the Texas Stars. The season will start with four banner raisings on October 11th against the Iowa Wild. The season will conclude against the San Antonio Rampage on April 18th. Oklahoma City and San Antonio dominate the schedule with each team playing 12 against the Stars.

Conference rivals Iowa and Charlotte each get 8 games, meaning that the West Division makes up 40 of the 76 games in the season slate. The Stars' longest road trip will stretch six games over twelve nights from February 13-24. It will immediately be followed by the team's longest home stand, a seven-game set at the Cedar Park Center that will stretch from February 27 to March 17. January will be the busiest month for Texas with 13 games, six on the road and seven at home.

The Stars' first matchup against Western Conference Finals opponent Toronto will be November 5th at Cedar Park Center. Texas defeated the Marlies 6-2 in Game 7 of the WCF, scoring six unanswered to make their way to their second Calder Cup Final in team history. Grand Rapids, which Texas defeated in six games to move on to the West Finals, will not visit the Cedar Park Center until March 27th. Texas will go to Van Andel early in the season on November 14th.

Texas will play all Western Conference opponents. Newcomer Adirondack will visit the Cedar Park Center just once on the season and Texas will visit Glens Falls just once as well. Rochester also will play a home-and-home with the Stars. Hamilton, Toronto, Utica, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Milwaukee and Rockford will all make four appearances on the schedule, two at home and two on the road.

Friday and Saturday are once again the most common nights for home games; 23 of 38 home contests will be on those two nights. Game start times will be unchanged from prior years: 7:00p for Saturday games, 7:30p for Monday thru Friday, and 5:00p for Sunday.

Texas home games are spread out as follows:
Sunday - 3
Monday - 0
Tuesday - 3
Wednesday - 8
Thursday - 1
Friday - 9
Saturday - 14
After the Stars' open, they will play a very light October. Just 7 games fill the schedule from October 11th to 31st, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays. Texas gets just three 3-in-3s, which will all occur before January 1. Two of the three will be exclusively on the road, featuring games in Grand Rapids and Rockford from November 14-16 and Utica, Toronto and Hamilton from December 19-21. The final 3-in-3 will be just after Christmas, featuring Charlotte and a home-and-home with San Antonio.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Texas Stars Re-Sign D William Wrenn

Third-year blue liner could be reliable 7th D-man for squad
William Wrenn chats with Jack Combs (Credit: Steven Christy)
The Texas Stars announced this afternoon that William Wrenn has been re-signed to an AHL deal for the coming season. Wrenn, who played with Texas for the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign, scored two goals and five assists in just 40 games of action.

Wrenn and Hubert Labrie were both pegged as the seventh defenseman on a deep squad. Wrenn has lucky enough to never make his way to Idaho. However, this meant fewer overall games for him. Wrenn did play in two playoff games en route to the championship and got his name on the Calder Cup.

Based on the defensemen already signed to Texas, Wrenn could find himself as a seventh defenseman yet again. Here's an early stab at the lineup, assuming Patrik Nemeth is bound for Dallas.

To Idaho: Vance
I don't see Wrenn surpassing any of the players on that roster above him. It's good to have a seventh guy that you can rely on, however. Wrenn and Labrie were both 'seventh' defensemen last year and each played 40 games.

Here's the release:
The 2014 Calder Cup champion Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has signed defenseman William Wrenn to a standard AHL contract for the 2014-15 season.

Wrenn, 23, will begin his third campaign in a Stars sweater after appearing in 59 regular season contests over the past two years, tallying 14 points (four goals, 10 assists). The 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenseman also appeared in a pair of games during the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs last year against the Oklahoma City Barons.

Wrenn (REHN) was originally a second-round pick of the San Jose Sharks (43rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and made his pro debut with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces during the 2012-13 season. The Anchorage, Alaska, native later signed with the Stars on a professional tryout contract and appeared in 19 games during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign.

Prior to turning pro, Wrenn was a member of the U.S. National Development Team program and won a gold medal at the 2009 IIHF U-18 World Championships. He then competed at the University of Denver (NCAA) from 2009-11 and also played two seasons of major junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Report: Gaglardi Considering Hotel Next to Cedar Park Center

(Credit: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia)
The Austin Business Journal reported yesterday that Dallas Stars owner, Tom Gaglardi, is looking to put a 200 room hotel on the land surrounding the Cedar Park Center. The hotel would be part of the Gaglardi-owned Sandman Hotels, Inns & Suites chain. Sandman operates 42 hotels worldwide with all but one of those in Canada. This effort to build a pair of hotels in Texas would be their first expansion into the United States.

From the article:
Along with the Plano hotel, Gaglardi said he is already thinking of a Sandman hotel development on a large parcel of land near Cedar Park Center. The details have yet to be worked out, but it's safe to say the hotel would top more than 200 rooms.

"This is a new area for us; we are breaking new ground," he said.
Read more: Austin Business Journal.