Thursday, July 31, 2014

Could Greg Rallo Be the Texas Stars' Vet Forward Option?

Greg Rallo (Credit: Chris Jerina)
The Texas Stars could be going back to the well on a former player to fill the veteran gap at forward. Former Texas center Greg Rallo broke the news this morning that he would not be returning to the Florida Panthers organization next year. He was the captain of the San Antonio Rampage last season.

Rallo joined Florida after two years with Texas from 2009-11. It wasn't that Rallo didn't like the Stars. It was more that Florida offered a better opportunity to play in the NHL. The Panthers signed Rallo to an NHL two-way deal. The move paid off as Rallo eventually picked up 11 NHL games between 2011-13 with the Panthers. It was an opportunity he never would have gotten with the Dallas Stars organization.

When Rallo was in Cedar Park, he was great for the Texas Stars. After putting up just 9 points in 55 games with the Manitoba Moose, he came to Texas on a tryout. After expecting to spend the season in Boise with the Steelheads, Rallo signed an SPC with the AHL Stars and tallied 44 points in 69 games. He added 10 points in the Stars' improbable Calder Finals run that inaugural year, playing many big minutes alongside Jamie Benn and Aaron Gagnon.

Rallo returned for the second year, putting up even more offense: 54 points in 78 games. He parlayed that success into the Panthers contract. With the Rampage, he scored 42, 40 and 34 points in his three years.

Has Rallo passed the biggest offensive numbers of his career? That's possible given his decline over the past three years. However, look at the teams he was playing on. San Antonio made the playoffs his first season there. It was also his best offensive season in the Alamo City. Probably not a coincidence.

What role would the Illinois-born forward fill for the Texas Stars? He certainly would not be asked to step into the top six in the same role he had with the inaugural year Stars. However, he can still be a very effective player in an offensive role. He might be even more effective in the minutes he has when he is asked to play fewer of them. Rallo will be 33 by the time the season starts, which would make him the oldest player on Texas' roster. The current oldest, Maxime Fortunus, turned 31 earlier this week.

Rallo could be extremely effective as a bottom six player who also has the upside to play power play, penalty kill and slide into the top six in case of injuries and callups. Between Mike Hedden, Chris Mueller, and Dustin Jeffrey, the Stars lost an entire line (all veterans) from their championship lineup. Rallo would fit nicely on the wing, possibly helping out the younger Taylor Peters and Branden Troock on the fourth line. He can take faceoffs for Peters when needed and has good experience to bolster his young linemates.

Rallo would count as one of Texas' veteran players. That list already includes Travis Morin, Maxime Fortunus, Derek Meech and Cameron Gaunce. Texas may need to leave one of their spots open for Patrick Eaves to make it down after things shake out in Dallas. Signing Rallo wouldn't break the bank on veterans though.

What makes it possible he would sign here? Well, for one, Rallo was spotted at the Cedar Park Center during the Stars' playoff run chatting with Scott White. Take that as you will, but it is certainly something. Additionally, Rallo obviously would like to win now while he is still able to contribute. San Antonio was a good place for him to get NHL games, but it was not a great place for winning. The Stars are setup to win now with the young core and the good feeling of a championship season still in the tank.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Texas Stars Sign Vet D Derek Meech to AHL Deal

Derek Meech (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have re-signed a key piece of their championship push this afternoon, inking veteran defenseman Derek Meech to an AHL contract for the coming season. Meech joined Texas mid-season after playing the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign in Belarus. He earned his second Calder Cup with Texas and contributed veteran leadership on the blue line along with 3 goals and 8 assists in 21 playoff games.

The Meech re-signing occupies one of the Stars' veteran spots. Other players on the list include Cameron Gaunce, Travis Morin and Maxime Fortunus. It also makes for a crowded blue line. If you make the foregone conclusion that Patrik Nemeth is headed to Dallas, here's what we've got in no particular order:
Seems pretty legit to me. Note that Ludwig Bystrom is headed to Sweden next year given this logjam at D. Texas could still sign another AHL D-man to fill the 7 role and allow Vance a lot of top pairing minutes in Idaho.

This signing is big for the Stars. It helps to reinforce the stalwart defensive corps that Texas is known for. But it does create questions about the remaining veteran spots. Is there room for another veteran forward in the fold to replace what was lost with Chris Mueller and Dustin Jeffrey going elsewhere? Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Future of Texas Stars Custom License Plates in Jeopardy

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has announced that it will phase out 87 custom plates that have been sold through their partner at the end of this year. The DMV is now requiring that each active plate have at least 200 users per year.

According to a source, the Texas Stars custom plate is currently at fewer than 200 users and will be among the plates that will get the ax at the end of the year. The Dallas Stars custom plate is also on the chopping block.

According to the Dallas Morning News, has added a $25 rebate for all orders of at-risk plates. The main driver for the change is that the customized and varied license plates create confusion for law enforcement.

"I'm surprised they didn't get at least 200 plates," said James Mitchell, a Texas Stars season ticket holder since 2009. "I thought for sure at least 200 season ticket holders would order them."

Mitchell recently changed over to vanity text on his custom plate reading '14 CUP'. He isn't worried too much about losing his plate though.

"I ordered it for ten years."

(Stick tap to reader, Katie T., for bringing this story to my attention)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Report: Texas Stars Sign Yale Forward Jesse Root on AHL Deal

According to the Yale Daily News, four-year forward Jesse Root has been signed to an AHL deal by the Texas Stars. Grant Bronsdon first reported the story yesterday. It looks like Root will be an AHL/ECHL guy for the organization this season.

From the article:
"Most recently, forward Jesse Root ’14 reached a deal with the AHL Texas Stars. The 2013-14 Eli captain will join last year’s AHL champion after spending the spring with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a tryout contract."
The Pittsburgh native had a single goal in eleven games with the Sound Tigers on a tryout to end last season. Root led the Yale Bulldogs in points in his senior season with 14 goals and 23 assists in 30 games.

In a bit of interesting news that I'm sure no one ever asks him about, Root's cousin is former NFL quarterback Dan Marino.

Cedar Park Center Driving Economic Success in City

(Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)
With the five year anniversary of the Texas Stars, the city of Cedar Park is also celebrating the five year anniversary of its 'crown jewel', the Cedar Park Center. The CPC hosted its premiere event on September 25, 2009, a George Strait concert. Since then, it's been a steady diet of concerts, basketball games, graduations, and of course, Texas Stars hockey.

Phil Brewer, the city of Cedar Park's Director of Economic Development, was there when the whole thing started in 2008 and was on the stage for the victory rally last month as a city representative.

"It's been a positive impact from the day we've opened the facility in terms of community visibility and recgonition," he said. "Every year they've grown the number of events."

While a formal study of the economic impact of the center has not been commissioned, the evidence is there that the entertainment at the corner of 183A and New Hope Drive brings business to the Cedar Park economy.

"Recently we hosted the Bluebonnet Open Figure Skating competition. It filled up the hotel rooms. We had over 200 room-nights used in Cedar Park out of a total of 360. Projects like that have a positive impact on the community. Others come in, like Cirque du Soleil. Most of those performers stay in Cedar Park, eating in our restaurants and shopping in our stores, having a positive impact on the city and community."

Cedar Park is the fourth fastest growing large city in the country and that growth is bringing a lot of business into the city, including the new Costco, In-n-Out Burger, and Walmart Super Center. Future developments where Texas Stars fans can look forward to spending their pre-game meal dollars include BJ’s Brewhouse, a new Chipotle, and Lupe Tortilla.

From the hockey side of things, the Dallas Stars are very happy with the relationship they have with the city through the Cedar Park Center.

"You couldn't have hoped for more," said Dallas Stars president Jim Lites. "We started in 2005. To see how the community has grown toward it, the success we've had, the crowds, how [the media has] been. Everything we wanted to create in Cedar Park has occurred.

"Players want to play here. Guys want to manage here. Coaches want to coach here. It's about winning. It's 3 hours from Dallas. The guys get down here and the players know we're watching. It really matters."

As part of the agreement that brought the Texas Stars to Cedar Park, Hicks Cedar Park LLC had the option to purchase the 17 acres of land around the Cedar Park Center for development. Brewer confirmed that the company had exercised the option last fall and purchased the land.

"When the center opened in 2009, the economy was not the strongest it's been," said Brewer. "It has been a really matter of waiting and being patient. We don't want to see any development happen in front of the center if it's not quality development. It needs to enhance and be part of the theme in that area.

"The Hicks folks have been working on site plans and layouts and we've had some meetings in regards to that. They are looking for the right partner. That is the plan with restaurants, retail and maybe even office space and a hotel."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Texas Stars Announce Two Game Preseason Slate

Spencer Bennett and William Rapuzzi in last year's preseason
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas announced today that they will play a short preseason schedule, consisting of just two games. Both will happen the same weekend at home, sandwiching the Dallas/Texas game on Saturday. Familiar opponents Oklahoma City and San Antonio will visit on Friday and Saturday respectively. Friday's game will be at 7:00 PM, earlier than usual for a weekday game. Sunday's game will be a matinee at 3 PM to complete the 3-in-3.

The Stars have played either two or three preseason games in each season in Cedar Park. They also played two preseason games last season.

Here's the release:
The 2014 Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today their 2014-15 pre-season game schedule.

The Stars will play two games during their 2014-15 pre-season schedule, squaring off against West Division rivals Oklahoma City and San Antonio at Cedar Park Center. Texas will host the Barons on Friday, October 3rd at 7:00 p.m. and then face the Rampage on Sunday, October 5th at 3:00 p.m.

Texas Stars full season ticket holders already receive tickets to both pre-season games as part of their full 40-game plan. Individual game tickets for both pre-season games will go on sale at a later date.

2014-15 Pre-Season Game Schedule (all times CDT)

  • Friday, October 3rd – Texas Stars vs. Oklahoma City Barons
    7:00 p.m. @ Cedar Park Center
  • Sunday, October 5th – Texas Stars vs. San Antonio Rampage
    3:00 p.m. @ Cedar Park Center

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dallas-Texas Connection Grows with Scrimmage Announcement

Francis Wathier and Stephane Robidas battle
in the 2009 edition of the Dallas v. Texas
matchup. (Credit: Ron Byrd/Texas Stars)
I've been out of the country for the past week in Toronto. Yes, I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame and that post will be coming soon. For now, recapping the biggest story of the last week....

The whispers and rumors of the last month were verified this past week when Jim Lites confirmed that the Dallas Stars would be visiting the Cedar Park Center for a practice and scrimmage as part of their preseason training camp in early October.

The Stars will open training camp in Fort Worth, as they did last season, and then play a slate of preseason games. After their final game on September 30th, the club will head to Cedar Park for a practice on October 3rd and a scrimmage between the Texas Stars and Dallas Stars on October 4th. Lites noted that both teams will be taking the game seriously and it will include referees as well. It's a great tune-up for the AHL club as they start their schedule and helps Dallas keeps its legs under it during the week between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season.

This is the second time such an event has happened. Before the first season, Texas hosted the Dallas club in the "Bud Light Battle of the Stars". For a taste of that game, take a look at this Dallas forward lineup:
Ja. Benn – Ribeiro – Morrow
Eriksson – Richards - Neal
Ott – Modano – Petersen
Brunnstrom – Wandell - Sutherby
One player remains in Dallas from that roster. The names above have been replaced now by names familiar to Cedar Park fans: Sceviour, Roussel, Garbutt, and Eakin. That doesn't even include your defensemen, who weren't listed in gamesheets I could find.

The game also helps to reinforce the 'team of the Southwest' message that the Dallas Stars are pushing. This game, combined with yet to be announced marketing events around it, will help raise the profile of the NHL club in Austin.