Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Texas Stars Defense: Who Are Your Six (or Seven)?

Kevin Connauton and his linemate Cameron Gaunce have been lineup staples since the deadline. (Credit: Christina Shapiro)
While there was an abundance of caution from the Stars coaches to get too far ahead of themselves on predicting lineups for Game 1 Friday, there were a few interesting tidbits on Texas's curious position on defense. The Stars currently have nine healthy defenseman here in Austin and could add Jordie Benn before the week is out depending on the fortunes of the Dallas Stars over the next two games.

Coach Desjardins hasn't made up his mind who will be in his defensive grouping yet, but stated, "I like having a group of guys that I go with. That may mean a group of 7, but it's not going to be a big group."

That may mean that your starting six (or seven) on Friday are the players the Stars expect to ice for the playoffs' duration. Desjardins cautions that the Stars wouldn't hesitate to shake things up if needed though.

"We'll see how it happens with the guys we've got. They'll get the first chance at it. If it doesn't go the way we want, maybe we'll look at someone else."

Continuing with the abundance of caution theme, Doug Lidster suggested against soothsaying based on current pairings, especially when asked about the consistently paired Cameron Gaunce and Kevin Connauton.

"Team defense and team play is about all six guys and the goaltender," Lidster intoned. "We'll pick the six that we think are going to do the job for us. I wouldn't read too much into the pairings [as we've had them]."

As a refresher, Texas has Gaunce, Connauton, Oleksiak, Wrenn, Commodore, Morrow, Sloan, Fortunus, Nemeth, Jokipakka and potentially Benn. You can take Nemeth off the list for now. After being out for 24 games, Nemeth was re-injured in the Friday game against Houston and did not play the third period or Saturday's game.

The prospect-aged players on contract to Dallas are the most likely to play at first glance, but don't think that Desjardins wouldn't bench a player on Dallas contract to put in a guy like Wrenn if something wasn't up to snuff. The coaching staff has used ice time as a tool all season to great effect. There is no coasting in Willie Desjardins hockey.

Balancing all the veterans in the lineup is another challenge, but Lidster feels that veteran presence does not have to be on the ice to be effective.

"The experience can come from more ways than just on the ice. The veteran players that have been out of the line up have been just terrific with the young guys, taking them under their wing and working with them."

Lidster added though, "At this time of the year, even our first year players are experienced players."

9 comments:

  1. Boy, Im glad I don't have to decide this. I think in my mind, the top six looks like this.
    Connauton, Gaunce, Oleksiak, Morrow, Commodore, and maybe Sloan. Benn enters the top six when he comes back. This may not be popular because the captain is not on this list, but keeping pucks out of our net is the goal here. Steve

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    1. I really think you have to have Maxime on that list ahead of Sloan. He has been playing ahead of Tyler all season. I don't think that changes now.

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  2. If we are going to guess:
    (1) Fortunus is the captain.
    (2) Sloan is Fortunus' D-partner.
    (3) Oleksiak is +19 and big.
    (4) Benn (when he comes down) as Oleksiak's partner.
    (5) Gaunce (+7 for Texas in only 9 games).
    (6) Connauton is Gaunce's partner.
    Commodore, Morrow, Wrenn can sub-in for Benn until he comes down, as to give guys a game off if one gets banged-up in a physical series. Jokipakka can just takes his suits with him.
    - PBG

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    1. I think you're mostly right here. I don't know if Sloan plays as Fortunus's partner. Morrow has been with him some recently.

      I think Gaunce-Connauton is pretty solid personally but Lidster was trying to sway us from that path.

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    2. I don't know how we keep Morrow out of the line up. His skating is super impressive, his ability to carry the puck out of the defensive zone is probably the best on the team. Steve

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  3. Commodore will suit up if only to use that canon of a shot he has on powerplays, teaming him with the Fraser line would be devastating. Since we have received all the new defensive guys the Stars have looked like three different wildflower puzzles in the same box, to difficult to figure how to piece togeter and frustrating as hell.

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    1. That would be devastating... if there's a Fraser line.

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  4. Phoenix & Dallas eliminated by tonight's Detroit victory.
    I won't hazard a guess of what lines WD should put out, but I will state the obvious, finding the right chemistry amongst too many options can be just as difficult as making do with too few. Looking forward to seeing his picks next Wednesday. Go Stars!

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    1. I meant this Friday... so excited I got tix for Wednesday(& FRi/Sat if we don't sweep, hehe).

      Anyone know where to watch the Away games? I've seen Pluckers & Hooters in the past, but cannot locate info on the playoffs. I even dirtied my browser looking on Fecebook.

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