I covered the Texas Rangers extra-inning 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
About eight hours before the game ended in the bottom of the 13th inning, I ended up in a hockey conversation with Rangers outfielder/designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo during pre-game media availability.
Choo had a No. 17 Stars jersey hanging over the back of his chair in the locker room and I asked him what it was for. Choo said the jersey was a gift for his son, who is a youth hockey player in the area and has taken a real liking to the sport.
Choo said he never expected to have a kid who played hockey, but did say that it’s popularity is growing back home in South Korea. We also discussed the Winter Olympics and he said he hopes that the Korean hockey team surprises some people on the ice.
Let’s get started with the mailbag:
Who do you see as potential Asst Coaches? Are they thinking coach in waiting or with the uncertainty of Hitch's tenure, just the right fit?
— Rob Strauss (@AzAtlStarsfan) April 19, 2017
While the future head coach could be on staff, I don’t like the idea of a coach in waiting.
Having a coach in waiting creates too many question marks around the head coach, and leads to extra scrutiny during a losing streak — even a short one. With that in mind, I think the Stars are just looking for the right fit when picking assistant coaches.
If I were making the choice I’d hire one assistant coach that was more of a veteran, perhaps a former head coach. The other assistant would be a younger coach that works well with players and could take the temperature of the locker room for Hitchcock.
I think having a good mix and a couple different opinions within the coaching staff is a good thing, as long as they can work toward a common goal.
does neill graham have chance to be asst. coach?
— Dusan (@dusannevin87) April 20, 2017
I like Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham. He’s a smart hockey mind and has done a nice job as one of the youngest coaches in ECHL history.
However, I think he’s still at least two career steps from being on an NHL coaching staff.
Of the players currently with the stars, which player do you think will benefit most from having hitch has a coach? Who will struggle?
— James Magnusson (@J_Magz) April 20, 2017
Tyler Seguin could be the best answer to both of these questions. If he buys in and adopts the “Mike Modano model” and turns into a two-way center, he could become a truly dominant player under Hitchcock.
However, if Seguin doesn’t buy in it could lead to an immense struggle under the new coaching staff and could ultimately unravel the team (that’s the worst-case scenario).
John Klingberg also comes to mind when I think of players that could benefit under Hitchcock.
Gonna piggy back off this. What dmen will have a better season
— Justin Schmidt (@JustinSchmidt24) April 20, 2017
Hopefully all of them. Ideally the young defensemen will have a chance to learn a better defensive system, and they won’t be put in a spot where management is forcing the coach to juggle eight defensemen.
What are some hypothetical returns for Eakin if traded? Would you see more trade value in a pick or a package for a D man?
— huttonjackson (@DownSetHutton) April 19, 2017
I think the Cody Eakin trade — which I think will happen — will be part of a larger deal for a defenseman.
Perhaps the Stars could put together a package of Eakin, a second-round pick, and a depth defenseman and try to swing a deal for Jacob Trouba.
Winnipeg may counter, but that could be a starting point.
What would it take to get Jake Muzzin from LA. The Kings want firepower, so the Stars might not have the pieces, but if?
— Henri Muroke (@HenriMuroke) April 19, 2017
I’m not sure if the Los Angeles Kings would part with Jake Muzzin, but I think the conversation would require Dallas to send a top-six winger back to California.
You could try and dangle Eakin as a starting point for that conversation, but I don’t think it’s possible based on my conversations with a couple reporters that cover the Kings closely.
Will any Dallas media member ever ask why a guy with 3 goals and poor possession metrics was third in forward average TOI? If no, why?
— Phil (@philbert53) April 19, 2017
Lindy Ruff isn’t the coach anymore, so any questions about Eakin’s ice time are probably off the table now.
I know the question probably wasn’t phrased as fans would like it, but Ruff was actually asked about Eakin’s use throughout the season, and Ruff made it obvious he was happy with the center and valued him as a top-line option.
For example, here is a randomly selected answer from a mid-February interview:
“I think he’s got himself in a good spot now, really skating well, possessing the puck. His strength is he can hang onto the puck. In these last three or four games, he really looks like the Cody Eakin (we saw before), the skating end combined with having the puck more.”
In fact in that same conversation Ruff compared Eakin to Brad Marchand.
“Marchand is skating well. In some ways, he’s like a Cody Eakin, has the puck a lot, but is really shooting the puck well too, obviously.”
Ruff really liked Eakin as a player. That was obvious. Also keep in mind that Ruff didn’t discuss his lines with the media, so more often than not the Eakin conversation was a non-starter.
Where do you see Lindy Ruff at the beginning of next season?
— Josh Clark (@Josh_Clark02) April 20, 2017
Hey, it could happen.
How many Stars trades will we see this summer? Over or under 3?
— Gavin Wilkinson (@Gwilkers96) April 21, 2017
That’s a tough call, because I think you might be spot on. I would set the over/under at 2.5 trades.
Lindell is a RFA this summer. He's going to get a qualifying offer. Will he stick with that for 17-18 or will he get a multi year extension?
— Johnson, Zach (@zachj10) April 20, 2017
Don’t be surprised is Esa Lindell gets a two-year bridge deal and then gets a nice raise on his third contract.
Should I worry Hitch will convince Nill implementing a defensive system will fix the goalies? One or both still have to be replaced right?
— Taylor Holt (@tay18rholt) April 19, 2017
Don’t think you need to worry about that. Hitchcock is well aware the Stars need better goaltending and an improved defensive system.
The entire backend could look different by October.
Better goaltending, better defense, and bit more structure. If Stars make the right moves in offseason they should be a playoff team and one of the top-three teams in the Central Division.
Explain Oleksiak's upside without mentioning size or potential, 'cause I don't get it.
— Daniel (@DanielBeaudoing) April 20, 2017
Not really a fair question, because size and potential are the main reasons you would hold onto Jamie Oleksiak.
There are a couple other factors he’s showed in spurts, but consistency hasn’t been Oleksiak’s strong suit.
With the most current roster for the Texas stars, who do you think stays/returns and who goes?
— brandy. (@btav_) April 20, 2017
There are a lot of moving parts with the Texas Stars, so I just want to hit on some of the highlights in regards to the AHL offseason.
-The defense will be built around Gavin Bayreuther and Dillon Heatherington next season. The two newest defensive prospects will get a chance to play big minutes and could be NHL call-up options at some point next season in case of injury.
-Roope Hintz will come over to North America and could be a difference maker for Texas. Some in the organization believe that Hintz could spend one year in the AHL before turning into a full-time NHL player for the 2018-19 season.
-I don’t think Justin Dowling will be back with the Stars. Dowling is likely going to try and find the best opportunity to be an NHL player, and I don’t think that spot is in Dallas.
-Texas Stars captain Travis Morin will have a tough choice to make. I think Morin has moved to the point of his career that he’d have to accept an AHL contract to stay within the organization, and that’s a decision he has to weigh with his family.
-Philippe Desrosiers and Landon Bow have a strong chance of being the goalie tandem in Cedar Park to start the season. Dallas may look for a veteran to be that de facto third goalie for Dallas, but it’s completely possible they go young in the crease and hope one of the prospects takes the next step.
With a system change incoming, what are the odds we see more goaltending coaching in the farm system? Hitch have any input there?
— dschneider (@TheDS) April 20, 2017
The Stars have to take a deep look at their entire organization and one of those steps should be adding a full-time AHL goalie coach.
I’m not sure if that will happen, but it’s something that needs to happen for better success — especially if the Texas Stars roll out a young tandem of Bow and Desrosiers.
With Fort Worth building a new arena could you see Dallas moving their ECHL affilaite there?
— Chris Joslin (@ChrisJoslin) April 20, 2017
I don’t know too much about the arena project in Fort Worth, but I don’t think it’s a future home for the Stars ECHL affiliate.
From what I’ve read about the project it’s a 14,000-seat arena, which is two big for an ECHL team.
The Idaho Steelheads are going to be the Stars ECHL affiliate for a long time. ECHL teams typically sign one-year affiliation deals with NHL teams, but Dallas and Idaho have an understanding that they’re going to be linked for the long run.
How hilarious is it the Stars and Blackhawks have the same number of playoff wins?
— Ryan Prokof (@rprokof) April 21, 2017
Let me answer your question with another question.
Would you rather miss the playoffs completely or make the playoffs and get swept in the first round?
I’m not sure which ending is more frustrating for a fan base.
Dogger Update. Are they both still protecting the house?
— Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable) April 21, 2017
For those who missed it on Twitter, we had work done on the roof this week thanks to hail damage.
Lady Byng and Vezina (yes, those are their real names) felt the house was under attack, and still felt that way this morning when the roofers came to finish the job.
Thankfully the dogs were brave, watched through the windows, and (in their minds) ultimately scared away the roofers.
Now the brave dogs are enjoying a more relaxed day and Lady Byng has taken up residence on the couch in my office (photo evidence below).
Because life is filled with questions.
after your first full season on the NHL beat, have you considered changing your profile picture from legos to something else?
— Tom Dorsa (@TomDorsa) April 20, 2017
My Twitter profile picture is The Doctor driving a Lego Zamboni, I think that’s more interesting than my face.
On a side note, if you could travel through time and space to any moment in hockey history, where would you go?
What scene from the Blade trilogy best describes the the 2016-2017 Dallas Stars?
— David Castillo (@DavidCastilloAC) April 20, 2017
I considered a couple scenes, but I felt like this one probably best embodies the Dallas Stars season.
In the following clip pretend that Blade, played by Wesley Snipes, is Jamie Benn. Pretend that Whistler, played by Kris Kristofferson, is Lindy Ruff.
The cops coming to attack their compound are the injuries and adversity that attacked the Dallas Stars this season. Blade AKA Jamie Benn gets out alive, but Lindy Ruff won’t be around for the remainder of the movie.