Friday, June 29, 2012

Stars Name Owen Newkirk as Broadcast Voice

The Texas Stars are announcing today that they have selected Owen Newkirk as the new radio voice of the team. Newkirk will also handle the role of media and PR relations, as did his predecessor. Previously of the Binghamton Senators, Adirondack Phantoms and Albany River Rats, Newkirk worked the 2009 All-Star game in Worcester.

Everything I could find online spoke highly of his work as a broadcaster. Here's some praise from Mark McGuire of the Albany Times-Union:
Newkirk is a rising talent as a broadcaster. It would surprise no one who has ever heard him if he some day makes it to the NHL, calling one of the most difficult sports to provide play-by-play. Simply, the guy is good, both behind the mic and behind the scenes.
And of course, thanks to the miracles of Google, I was able to find his TV demo reel.



Furthermore, I believe this is a pretty good sample of Newkirk calling an early season game from his time in Adirondack.



Here's the press release:
The Texas Stars announced on Friday that Owen Newkirk has joined the organization
in the role of radio play-by-play announcer and Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations.

A native of Blue Hill, Maine, Newkirk has a wealth of experience in the American Hockey League, most
recently serving as a color commentator for the Binghamton Senators (2010-2012). Previously he was
the play-by-play voice and Director of Public Relations for the Adirondack Phantoms (2009-2010) and the
Albany River Rats (2007-2009). Entering his tenth season of calling professional hockey, Newkirk, 31,
was part of Binghamton's run to the 2011 Calder Cup Championship and was a member of the AHL Live
broadcast team that called the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic in Worcester, Mass. Prior to his time in the
AHL, he was Director of Broadcasting for the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals for four seasons (2003-2007). In
addition to his hockey experience, Newkirk has also broadcast for the Albany Firebirds (af2 – 2007-2009)
and Berkshire Black Bears (independent baseball – 2003).

Newkirk is a graduate of Haverford College.

Dev Camp, Godard Buyout and Free Agent Frenzy

(Credit: Steven Christy)

The hockey world and the Dallas Stars press wire are buzzing this morning with a few different stories.

Development Camp

First of all, last night Dallas announced the schedule and roster for Stars Development Camp. Camp will be held next week, July 5-12 in Frisco, Texas. The full roster, which can be found here, comprises 40 players, including nine goalies. It would seem unusual to have that many until you notice the note at the bottom of the roster indicating that media availability with Jack Campbell, Christopher Nihlstorp and Tyler Beskorowany must be specially requested. To me, this means they will be off doing some special activities with goalie coach Mike Valley. I plan to attend development camp and talk with some of the newest Stars.

Godard Bought Out

Second, Mike Heika broke news yesterday that, as expected, the Stars bought out Eric Godard's contract. Godard was brought on as an experiment as the team "tough guy". In the end, he played 0 games in the NHL last year and was often a healthy scratch with Texas. He tallied one goal and 58 penalty minutes in 46 games played. Godard's contract switched over to one-way next season, and the Stars were not anticipating him making the NHL roster or being a useful piece at the AHL level.

His buyout cap hit is $258,333 next year and $233,333 in 2013-14. That's nothing in comparison to the hypothetical $70.2 million salary cap for 2012-13. In all, it's most fair to everyone. Godard wasn't being used in the Dallas system and deserves a chance to move on elsewhere. For Dallas, it frees up one of their 50 contracts to give to another player.

Free Agent Frenzy

Texas has a total of six unrestricted free agents from last season's roster. They are:
  • Fortunus
  • Lukowich
  • Raycroft
  • Sawada
  • Spang
  • Wathier
Only one of those has re-signed, Francis Wathier. On the list of players I don't expect to re-sign, I would include Andrew Raycroft, Ray Sawada, and Dan Spang. Unfortunately, I also do not believe that the Stars are targeting Brad Lukowich. In questions about veteran players and signings with Scott White, Lukowich was not in the conversation. As to veteran D, Texas is targeting Maxime Fortunus. Fortunus's AHL salary was 150,000, making him the highest AHL salary other than Brad Lukowich. That $150k is already pretty high for an AHL salary. I believe Fortunus may test the free agent market on July 1st, just to see what's out there.

On the Texas free agent list still are Nick Layton, Stephen Schultz and Shawn Weller. Schultz is the only one on this list that I would think is a possibility to sign. However, when you look at who's already signed and who is coming from juniors, there isn't a lot of roster room left. Could Schultz be added on an AHL/ECHL two-way to provide depth for the roster? I think that's the most likely way for him to play for the Stars this season.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

AHL Announces Video Review, Hybrid Icing, Division Realignment

Credit: Steven Christy

The AHL's Board of Governors meetings concluded today and the league announced numerous changes to the league coming out of the meetings. The headliner for many NHL fans is the addition of hybrid icing to the AHL game. As a possible precursor to addition to the NHL, the AHL will be testing the rule.

Here's the section of the league release pertaining to that:
The Board has also approved a test of a variation on Rule 81 (“Icing”) at the request of the National Hockey League, that will, in the event of a potential icing violation, complete the play should a defending player be the first to reach the end zone face-off dots and provided the puck has crossed the goal line at that point. This rule will be in effect until Nov. 19, 2012, at which time its continued use will be determined by the Board. This was the only rules test approved.

I'm interested that the rule will change, potentially, one month into the season. This rule has the potential to reduce dangerous collisions in the race for a puck at the goal line. I hope it is successful.

The headliner for AHL fans is the addition of video review to the league. According to Kevin Oklobjiza of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "[one] camera, above net, referee is judge, replay controls at ice level, monitor in penalty box (as in college). #AHL video review is totally referee's discretion. Coaches can't demand review. Likely won't be able to use TV/in-arena cams for extra view."

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive to the announcement from players to fans to even goal judges.

Elsewhere, Texas "changed" divisions as the AHL renamed the West Division to the South Division. The Stars are joined in the division by Houston, San Antonio, OKC and Charlotte. Charlotte left the Midwest and moved to the South, displacing Abbotsford. Stars players have to be happy about that. Texas usually flew into Seattle to avoid costly international flight travel and bused to Abbotsford. On the other hand, no Timmy's coffee in Charlotte, so there's that.

The AHL also adopted two rules changes from the NHL for next season:
• Rule 67.2 (“Handling the Puck”) now calls for a minor penalty “any time a player places his hand over the puck while it is on the ice in order to conceal it from or prevent an opponent from playing the puck”.

• Rule 76.4 (“Face-offs”) states that “both players facing off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off.” Violation of this rule will result in a minor penalty for delay of game.
Final thing to note, the AHL also announced today that the season will end on April 20th this season, five days later than this year. For comparison, Kevin O. reminds us, "In 1957, the Amerks lost final game of Calder Cup finals April 17."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Around the League: New Steelheads Coach; Could Fortunus Return?

Dallas came into the draft this past weekend with eight total picks across seven rounds. They came out with nine selections after trading Mike Ribiero for Cody Eakin and a second round selection. At the time, it was thought that the Stars might package those three second-round picks to move up in the first, but in the end, the player they wanted fell to 13th, thanks to a run on defensemen in the top 10.

Radek Faksa has been mentioned as a player who could crack the NHL roster this year. Remember though that due to CHL transfer rules, it's either NHL or back to the OHL's Kitchener Rangers for the young forward. There is no chance to see him in Texas next season.

Newly acquired forward Cody Eakin has a few connections to Texas as well. The center played four games of the Calder Cup Finals in 2010 with the Hershey Bears on an ATO. He had just finished his season with the Kootenay Ice where he played with current Star Matt Fraser. Eakin recorded no points in limited minutes in the Final. Eakin is expected to play in Dallas easily next season.

Coaching changes in minors

Elsewhere, Idaho has found a coach. Brad Ralph, out of the SPHL's Augusta Riverhawks, is the new head coach of the Steelheads. Ralph is only 31 years old and played in the ECHL as recently as 2009 with the Charlotte Checkers. Ralph was drafted in 1999 at #53 by the Coyotes. For an age comparison, Andrew Hutchinson was selected right behind him at #54 by the Predators.

Idaho's search included interviewing former Stars coach Jeff Pyle, according to sources. Pyle also interviewed for the head coaching job with the Orlando Solar Bears, but lost out to Drake Berehowsky. Pyle and his family have moved back to Atlanta for the time being.

Here's some other news from here in Cedar Park and around the leagues:
  • As of last week, the Stars were still in negotiations with free-agent-to-be Maxime Fortunus. Fortunus would represent the veteran player on the roster as the Stars have not indicated that they have been actively negotiating with current captain Brad Lukowich.
  • Will Hoenike, voice of the Idaho Steelheads, was a finalist for this year's ECHL Award of Excellence for Media Relations. Hoenike, 2011's winner and a friend and frequent reader of this blog, was beaten out by J.P. Puma of the Colorado Eagles. Congratulations to Will on the nomination! [ECHL.com]
  • Taylor Vause was featured in a magazine called "Dub Nation" which sells itself as an inside look at the WHL. The article featured many of Vause's Photoshop works and an interview about his time in Texas. The article starts on page 66. [FlipDocs.com]
  • Mike Heika did one of his always informative live chats yesterday. He thinks Fraser and Dillon could both start in the NHL this coming season. I think they could but probably won't. You can read the transcript. [DMN.com]
  • The Allen Americans announced this week that Nino Musitelli has re-signed with the team. Musitelli was a 2010 training camp invitee for Texas. [Don't Stop Livin' in the Red]
  • Staying the Central League, the RGV Killer Bees announced that they are ceasing operations for next season. This only leaves two CHL teams in Texas, Allen and Fort Worth. It is looking like rough times for the league as the long-rumoured merger with the ECHL could be coming in the next few years. [Killer Bee Hockey]
  • Something interesting here regarding the Connecticut Whale and their lease at the XL Center. [Hartford Courant]
  • Finally, we're down to just two openings on the coaching carousel, Lake Erie and Adirondack. [ConnPost.com]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What to Expect from the Draft: Texas Stars Edition

2011 draft picks Jamie Oleksiak and Troy Vance in the 2011 Traverse City Prospects Tournament (Credit: Judy True)

The NHL draft begins this Friday in Pittsburgh, and the Dallas Stars have a boatload of picks with eight total through the seven rounds. If you're picking outside the top 10 selections or so, the NHL draft is very much about delayed gratification. Some of the top players in the draft this year, like Nail Yakupov, the consensus number one pick, will play in the NHL next season. Otherwise, it's the long slog through juniors and the American League before eventually making the show.

So when do the 2012 draft picks start filtering up to the Texas Stars?

One of the best ways to figure this out is to start seeing when the current players for the Texas Stars were drafted. We did this for the 2010-11 season here.

As in that post, here is a look at the players who were originally drafted by the Dallas Stars organization and are expected to play for the 2012-13 Texas Stars.

Year Round Overall
Campbell 2010 1 11
Chiasson 2009 2 38
Gazdic 2007 6 172
Glennie 2009 1 8
Nemeth 2010 2 41
Oleksiak 2011 1 14
Sceviour 2007 4 112
Smith, A. 2007 5 128
Smith, R. 2009 3 69
Wathier 2003 6 185

Aside from veteran leadership in Francis Wathier, all of the players coming on next year's squad are 2007 draftees or later. Two of those 2007 guys, Sceviour and Gazdic, are just finishing up their ELCs this summer and were extending qualifying offers yesterday. Austin Smith, who took five years between draft and entering the pro ranks, is just getting started on his first ELC.

You'll see as the year gets higher, the round gets earlier. The earliest we could expect a 2012 draft pick in Texas would be 2013-14. This is only in a very special case, however. There are a lot of rules around when players may leave juniors. Jamie Oleksiak got lucky because he was drafted out of Northeastern, not the junior system. He was allowed to only play one year in the OHL before leaving to go pro.

By and large, those picks from 2012 that do make it to the pro ranks will not start to filter in until 2014-15 with the majority of them coming in 2015-16 and beyond.

So take note of some names on Friday, but don't expect to see them on the backs of jerseys at the CPC anytime soon.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dallas Stars Extend Qualifying Offers to Six RFAs Including Several Texas Stars

Image credit: Steven Christy

The Dallas Stars announced today that they have extended six qualifying offers to restricted free agents in the system, including several who spent significant time in Texas this year. The following players were tendered qualifying offers:
  • Richard Bachman
  • Jordie Benn
  • Mark Fistric
  • Ryan Garbutt
  • Luke Gazdic
  • Colton Sceviour
The Stars did not extend QOs to Angelo Esposito, Mikhail Stefanovich, Michael Neal and Jake Hauswirth.

From DallasStars.com:
Teams are required to extend a one-year “qualifying offer” to any current restricted free agent by June 25 in order to receive the right of the first refusal or draft choice compensation should that respective player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club. The qualifying offers will expire at 4 p.m. (Central Time) on Thursday, July 15.

Qualifying offers fall into three categories:

1. A player whose prior year salary was equal or less than $660,000 must receive a qualifying offer of 110% of their prior year’s salary.

2. A player whose prior year salary was more than $660,000 and up to $1 million must receive a qualifying offer of 105% of their prior year’s salary (but in no event shall such qualifying offer exceed $1 million).

3. A player whose prior year salary was more than $1 million must receive a qualifying offer at 100% of their prior year’s salary.

If a team does not give a qualifying offer to a restricted free agent, he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and can sign with any team with no compensation required to the player’s former club.
The chief RFA concern for the Stars is Jamie Benn, who will not get one of these one-year contracts, but instead a longer term deal. Notably absent is Tom Wandell, who the Stars have not yet made a decision on. Philip Larsen is also absent from the list but is expected to get a deal done. Teams have until June 25th to extend qualifying offers.

The players extended QOs are not surprising. The only one that was on the fence was Esposito, and while he played well in the back half of the season, he needed to show more to earn a roster spot. When you've got a fifty contract limit and some highly touted prospects entering the system, you can't take a contract and roster spot up with a player who has not shown he is going to play in the NHL.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stars Re-Sign Mike Hedden to AHL Contract

Mike Hedden in an early February game against Milwaukee (Credit: Portraits by Deena)
Hundred Degree Hockey has learned that the Texas Stars have re-signed forward Mike Hedden for the 2012-13 season. Hedden, who is going into his fourth professional year, was signed to an AHL contract by Texas.

Hedden surprised many as he collected 34 points last season, bouncing from the first line to fourth line throughout the season and producing at every turn. The Neumann College product is looking to build on that first season, as Texas Stars GM Scott White alluded to.

"Mike is an AHL contracted guy who had a good year last year. And now the goal is to follow up that year with another good year on a team that has overall better results."

White felt that signing Hedden as a veteran player was an important part of the puzzle for Texas.

"I'll take less individual statistics and more team points and I'm sure Mike would as well. He'll complement our young guys well."

Along with the signing of Francis Wathier, Texas is working to solidify a veteran core to support the numerous first-year pros on the team, many of whom joined the team for amateur tryout stints this past spring.

White led me to believe that the team is still working on several veteran signings. Most of the staff's time for the next week or so will be consumed by the NHL Draft, taking place next weekend in Pittsburgh next weekend.

(Note: You can follow Mike on Twitter @michaelhedden26)

Desjardins Excited to Get Started with Texas Stars

GM Scott White introduced Willie Desjardins as the new head coach of the Texas Stars in a press conference this morning at the Cedar Park Center.

In a summer of change for the Texas Stars, nailing down the head coaching position was priority one for Joe Nieuwendyk and Scott White. Yesterday, the Stars announced Willie Desjardins as that new coach and held a press conference today to introduce him to the Austin media and fans.

For Dallas, Desjardins represents a known commodity and one they value very highly. "The familiarity with Willie was huge in the decision," said Scott White. "Joe Nieuwendyk and Les Jackson talked about that familiarity. More importantly, the structure that we want to play with and return to is also part of it."

Both Coach Desjardins and White mentioned structure and systems alignment in their opening remarks and were later asked about it by the assembled media. It was a sore point last season and was definitely a focus point in this hire. Desjardins addressed it head on, "I think there's lots of similarities in what we'll run, which is good for the organization with players moving back and forth."

Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan, who was on-hand for the press conference, agreed.

"One thing that I've been asked about is the same systems. Whenever you have continuity in the organization, it makes it easier. Willie has the ability to adapt to fit the personnel. Our philosphies are the same, and it's going to be very similar."

Desjardins did not get many opportunities to come visit Austin during the past season but heard rave reviews from the Gulutzan and Jerrard families and couldn't wait to bring his family to Central Texas. That connection to Gulutzan is highly prized by Texas GM White.

"Ultimately, Willie wanted to be a head coach again. We're getting a bonus because he's worked with Gully."

Desjardins' experience as a head coach in the WHL for the Medicine Hat Tigers is a big positive for the Stars.

"When you work at the junior level, you work with younger players and everything's kind of ahead of them. You look at Matt Fraser. I tried to get him to Medicine Hat and didn't get him. We never expected him to progress the way he did. That's the exciting thing about working with young guys; you just don't know where they can get to. It's about how hard they want to work."

While development is a huge part of the Desjardins hire, the team knows that the fans are hungry for another run at the Cup. The team's new head coach has a history of winning championships in the WHL and wants to bring that tradition to Cedar Park.

"We want to play an exciting brand of hockey, and this is a good group to do it with. We want to get to the Calder Cup, for sure. Watching L.A. celebrate on TV, how great of a celebration was that? That's what we want to get to."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wathier Signs On For Two More Years

Wathier in the 2011 All-Star Game. (Credit: JustSports Photography)

Big news in the free agent market today for Texas Stars fans as Dallas announced the re-signing of Francis Wathier to a two-year deal. The club locks up a veteran forward with the signing and ensures some forward stability for the young club.

Wathier is coming off a career year in terms of assists and points. He also gets a lot of credit for the growth of the game of Scott Glennie this past season while being grouped with him on a line with Colton Sceviour. With Texas's veteran situation up in the air due to free agents Brad Lukowich and Maxime Fortunus possibly leaving, this is a great signing to ensure that there will be another experienced voice for the forwards in the room.

If Brad Lukowich does not re-sign, I would not put it out of the realm of possibility that Wathier earns the captaincy of the Texas Stars.

Here's the release:
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed forward Francis Wathier (wa-tee-ayh) to a two-year, two-way contract, for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward skated in 75 games for the Texas Stars (AHL) in 2011-12, earning 18 goals, 24 assists and 42 points, with 94 penalty minutes. His assist and point totals were both career bests at the AHL level, and among Texas team leaders, he placed fourth in goals, assists, points and PIM.

The native of St. Isidore, Ont., skated in one game for Dallas last season, going scoreless. He has appeared in nine career NHL games with the Stars, recording five penalty minutes and making his NHL debut on Oct. 22, 2009.

Wathier, 27, was Dallas’ sixth-round selection (185th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He was a part of the Idaho Steelheads ECHL Kelly Cup championship club in 2007, and as a member of the Iowa Stars in 2007-08, was named Iowa’s American Specialty Man of the Year for his outstanding contributions to the Des Moines community.

Willie Desjardins Named Next Coach of Texas Stars

The Dallas Stars announced this morning that they have hired Willie Desjardins as head coach of the Texas Stars. The hiring was widely expected as news broke last week that the Stars were in talks with Desjardins about the job. A press conference with the new coach is expected on Thursday morning in Cedar Park.

Desjardins is battle proven as a head coach, earning his stripes in the WHL with Medicine Hat. In his eight season with the Tigers, he won two WHL championships and a Memorial Cup runner-up. He posted a 333-182-61 regular season record and a 65-43 playoff record during that time. Additionally, he has never failed to make the playoffs of a team he started off the season coaching. During his time in Medicine Hat, he coached current Dallas prospects Jace Coyle and Tristan King.

After the 2008-09 season, Desjardins left the WHL and joined Dallas's coaching staff as an associate coach. Famous for his late-game whiteboard sessions on the bench, Desjardins was primarily responsible for in-game strategy in Dallas. He brings a knowledge of Coach Gulutzan's systems along with some of his own style to the new role in Cedar Park.

From the standpoint of the Dallas Stars organization, the hire is a very good one. Desjardins brings a winning pedigree to the Texas Stars. He has a knowledge of Dallas's systems and a working relationship with their coach and all of the staff in Dallas. If the Stars are looking for a tighter relationship with their farm club, then this is a spectacular hire all around. It's pretty clear that Desjardins is on a path to an NHL head coaching job and experience as an AHL head coach is a clear stepping stone to that ultimate goal. He was highly coveted in the summer of 2009 when Dallas picked him up. His role in Dallas was much more than just an associate coach, with some calling him more of an "Associate Head Coach". With this hiring and the talent that currently is beginning to pool in Austin, the Texas Stars could make some noise in the AHL next season.

There is currently no word on an assistant coach for Desjardins.

As a side note, this hiring comes a full month before the hiring of Jeff Pyle last summer (July 13, 2011). This leaves four currently unfilled AHL jobs: Chicago, Milwaukee, Peoria, and Adirondack. (UPDATE: Peoria filled this morning by Dave Allison, former Iowa Stars coach.) Several NHL clubs are high on other AHL coaches, such as Jon Cooper (NOR), Dallas Eakins (TOR), and Todd Nelson (OKC). While Texas's head coach position may be settled, the AHL coaching carousel is far from over.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Scott White Adds Some Clarity on Josh Robinson Signing

I spoke briefly with Texas Stars GM Scott White this morning about new goalie Josh Robinson and the state of Texas's goaltending. White indicates that Robinson's contract is not signed yet, but they have agreed to terms. Robinson is a depth signing for the team, and White expects that he will be assigned to the ECHL and not the CHL's Allen Americans.

It is unclear whether the ECHL means Idaho or another team in the league. Depending on what happens with Beskorowany, Bachman and Nihlstorp, Texas could need to assign Robinson or Beskorowany to an ECHL club not named the Steelheads.

On other fronts, White indicated that AHL contract signings will have to wait until after NHL free agency for Texas. Players like Mike Hedden and Stephen Schultz highlight the list of players on expiring AHL contracts for Texas.

White also said that he expects a quicker timeline than last summer on the coaching hire. Separately, Mike Heika wrote today that the Stars are in active talks with Dallas associate coach Willie Desjardins about becoming the head coach of the Texas Stars. Desjardins has a solid history as a head coach in the WHL with Medicine Hat. Jace Coyle and Tristan King both played for him during his tenure there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Texas Stars Add G Josh Robinson on AHL Deal

It's getting crowded in net for the Stars organization as the Texas Stars reportedly signed Josh Robinson to an two-way AHL deal today. Robinson is coming off four years at Michigan Tech, his most recent season as the starter. The netminder had a 15-14-4 record with a 2.83 GAA and .909 SV%. He will participate in rookie camp in July in Dallas then join Texas once their AHL training camp begins.

Texas Stars GM Scott White, who played at Michigan Tech himself in the late 1980s, could not be reached for comment before press time on this story.

Robinson becomes the sixth goaltender in the Stars system, all of whom are now playing at the professional level. This presents a bit of a problem for the organization after the first few spots on the depth chart. Yesterday's signing of Cristopher Nihlstorp puts the 2/3 spot in question, but this signing affects things all up and down the roster, in my mind.

As I discussed yesterday, I don't think it's likely that Beskorowany would be assigned to Idaho. Robinson is the most likely assignment for that team. Idaho has had a need for a "system" goaltender for the past two seasons. Robinson could be it. Then again, Robinson could be a signing intended for Allen, and Beskorowany could indeed be headed out or to Idaho. My thinking there is that the Stars as an organization might be trying to assist the Americans more now that "they" are more invested in the team (Modano, Belfour, etc as owners).

Another rather outlandish prospect is that the Stars are planning to move Bachman in a sign and trade scenario. They would then be pinning their NHL backup hopes on Nihlstorp, who has never played a game in North America. I think it's rather unlikely. By the way, great work here by The Goalie Guild interviewing Mike Valley about Nihlstorp.

Overall, the signing is something that I expected: a "fifth" goaltender for the system. What I wasn't expecting was yesterday's signing to now make fifth into sixth and confuse things even further.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Goalie Nihlstorp Could Join Campbell in Austin, Push Out Beskorowany

The Dallas Stars announced today that they have signed Swedish goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp away from his SEL team, Färjestads BK. Nihlstorp is coming to the system on a two-way contract, which means he could compete for the NHL backup job with Bachman or provide solid veteran help in Cedar Park.

"Competition is great for everyone, and I think we'll have a great competition," Stars goalie coach Mike Valley told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

The big question on everyone's mind is definitely competition and the numbers game. Most people expected that Dallas would add a fifth goaltender somewhere on the depth chart to provide stability in the system. Opinions were mixed as to whether that would be a 2/3 on the depth chart or a 4/5. Personally, I was in the 4/5 camp, but others including friend of the blog, goalie scout Justin Goldman, thought it was 2/3. In the end, 2/3 won out. But I still don't see how the numbers game works out.

Now, even a cursory look at the system reveals a mismatch in development, experience and depth chart positioning. Unquestionably, Kari Lehtonen slots in at #1. However, Richard Bachman probably feels like he earned a legitimate shot at the backup position. Now he has competition from Nihlstorp. Whoever loses that battle will go to Cedar Park. With Nihlstorp, that's a fine outcome in terms of balance. However, if Bachman falls, how do the starts get split at the CPC? The organization will want Bachman to be ready to fill in at any time, so they'll need him sharp and warm. But they will also want Campbell to continue getting experience, since he is the future #1 for the system. It's a tough spot to be in.

And then, well, there's the truly unfortunate numbers game at the bottom of the depth chart. Tyler Beskorowany regressed this season with his play, finishing with an over 3.00 GAA and sub-.900 SV%. For a second round pick in his second pro year, that's a huge disappointment. In the final year of his ELC, Dallas cannot possibly be considering sending Beskorowany back to Idaho for the season. Is Beskorowany trade bait? If so, his trade value could not possibly be lower after the season he had.

What about out of the box solutions? Could some team with a lot of young goalie prospects still in Europe or the CHL need an AHL backup? There are generally quite a few goaltenders each year who are on AHL only contracts. Close to home, Dov Grumet-Morris in San Antonio is a good example. Would a loan be possible? There would have to be guarantees in place that Dallas couldn't pull the rug out from under the team accepting the loan. It doesn't seem feasible and I've never heard of such a thing for goaltenders before. Skaters who fit in this category from just last year include Drew Schiestel (from Buffalo), Ray Sawada (played in St. John's), and Tristan King (Dallas prospect played in Ontario of ECHL). It's a radical thought, but you never know.

Dallas has some questions to answer here before the end of the summer, perhaps even before the end of the month and the beginning of free agency. The summer just got a little more exciting for Texas Stars fans.

Monday, June 4, 2012

TSN Steals Work From Texas Stars ATO Taylor Vause



UPDATE: Somewhat of a success! Thanks to everyone's comments and tweets, TSN has posted another copy of the image with the proper credit to their Facebook page. However, the original still exists without any credit attribution.

The new digital age is somewhat confusing for a lot of "big" media outlets. However, if there's one thing that is a cornerstone of good journalism no matter the medium, it's attribution of source material and request for use of said material. That is where TSN failed this weekend. Plain and simple, they stole one of Taylor Vause's awesome Photoshops posted here and placed it on their Facebook page with absolutely no attribution or request for the content.

Several people have pointed out that the material is stolen and yet it still remains on their page with no comment from the page administrators (this has changed a bit, see update above). Take a look at the image on Vause's imgur album. TSN even cropped out his name, which was clearly in the bottom right corner.

Taylor is now aware of the theft, thanks to Erin Bolen and Graham Jenkins tweeting with me about it last night. If you have a second, I'd recommend going to the Facebook page and commenting on the photo, asking why they didn't credit Vause for his work. You can also tweet at them @TSN_sports. Link to this blog post in your tweets and messages so that it's glaringly obvious that the work is the same. (No need for this now that it's resolved.)

You can't spell stolen without T-S-N.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Around the League: Summer of Change for Texas Stars

Not a whole lot going on right now for Texas, but here's what I've got for the past week.

For the Texas Stars, this is going to be a summer of turnover and changes. We already saw that on the first day of the off-season as Texas fired coaches Pyle and Truitt. Many of the front office staff are also moving on this summer, whether by choice or not.

Matt Clinkscales, who has been responsible for the visual look of the Stars website, printed materials, etc, and also for game operations, decided to move on to Electronic Arts this off-season. He blogged on the topic and posted some pretty great "historical" photos that Texas fans should see. You can check that out here.

Elsewhere:
  • The Calder Cup Finals kick off tonight in Hampton Roads. It's the injury ravaged Marlies against the Norfolk Admirals. Norfolk is 39-3 in their last 42 games. Wow. I'm going with Norfolk for the win, probably in 6, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were less.
  • This came across my Twitter searches this morning. It's a blog that is creating the center ice artwork for minor league teams online. Texas's is pretty accurate, I'd say. [Frozen Minors]
  • Jamie Oleksiak, who will be with the Texas Stars next season, gets a mention in this article as the poster boy for what is wrong with the CHL-NHL transfer agreement. I don't disagree with what he did to make it to the AHL early, but I do think that it would be good to re-examine the system. [The Hockey News]
  • Ian Herbers decided to leave the Milwaukee Admirals for a plum job in the CIS (Canada's NCAA) coaching Alberta's Golden Bears hockey team. That leaves three AHL jobs unfilled: Milwaukee, Texas and Adirondack. In addition, one open NHL job has already been filled by a non-AHL coach, Calgary.
  • The Mississauga St Michael's Majors are now the Mississauga Steelheads. Check out the logo, which is pretty much the same as the Idaho Steelheads logo with the exception of a maple leaf embedded in the letter "A". Apparently Mississauga is in the Credit River Valley, so why not the "Repo-Men" or something? Just a thought. [mississauga.com]
  • No word on the Cedar Park Center's naming rights search, but the Bradley Center is now the BMO Harris Bradley Center. They now share a sponsor with the IceHogs' arena. No indication if they will be involved in a "BMO Harris" Cup. [Milwaukee Business Journal]