The Dallas Stars have not only not moved, but are 8-3 and in first place in the NHL's Pacific Division. OK, so hockey really doesn't get moving until after the first of the year, but for a franchise that is three years running without a playoff appearance this start is good news.
The team may finally be sold soon, first-year coach Glen Gulutzan is winning players over, and the offseason additions are working. Hence the whole 8-3 thing. The eight wins are tied for the most in the NHL.
Dallas Stars color analyst Daryl "Razor" Reaugh stopped by to talk the state of the Stars, and the NHL.
Big Mac Blog: Kari Lehtonen has been great, but is this start all the work of the GT?
Razor: He has been really good, but health has played a part. They are healthy. This team was pretty dinged up at the end of last season. Kari had played so much he wasn't what he has been for the first month.
The other thing is these guys really liked playing for (former Stars coach) Dave Tippett because his system worked, but these guys here will all go out of their way to say how smart Gulutzan is. That's what makes this start so staggering is that they have a new coach and they turned over a third of their roster. They play a smart way, and the poster boy for all of this is Sheldon Souray (left). He gives them a swagger and a big presence they haven't had on defense since Derian Hatcher or Richard Matvichuk.
This team is trending in the right direction and it's only going to get better.
Big Mac Blog: How can the Stars balance Lehtonen's minutes when he's been so good and the backup in Raycroft has been OK?
Razor: When they've had back to backs that's when Raycroft will play. He played well in L.A. (earlier this season). Last year there was no issue of Raycroft playing but this guy's confidence was shaken last year. It's almost like it's two-fold: Give the team a chance to win and make sure the other guy gets the night off.
Big Mac Blog: Is backup goalie just an area where teams can no longer pay because the salary cap forces teams to prioritize and go cheap at this spot?
Razor: Yeah. You either go cheap with a young guy and hope, or use the backup and hope it's OK or play your first guy to death. Kari is not going to play 75 games. There is a belief in the other guy (Cory Crawford) and he knows he's going to play. It's one of the most difficult things in sports is to sit two weeks and then go in and have no drop from the other guy. It's weird because you can't get ahead of yourself - that's what I like about the new coach. He stays in the moment and that's why I think this will work out.
Big Mac Blog: This team was so thin at forward last season but it added guys like Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Michael Ryder; how have those additions helped or made a difference?
Razor: It's been great but it's only going to be great when you are 8-3. It's the type of guys that they brought in. Radek Dvorak is the type of player is the player you want to have because you can trust him. Fiddler is abrasive and can skate like the wind. I don't know if you can say enough about getting guys who play their roles and are professional.
Big Mac Blog: With the NBA in a lockout do you think the NHL can receive a spike in attention?
Razor: Whether it spikes or not I don't know but it's a huge opportunity. The league from a marketing standpoint is in the right place to do it. Players are available and games are available all over the world. In the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe ... that is tentatcles going to places they've never gone before. The Winter Classic, a Thanksgiving game between Original Six teams.
They have hired smart people, too. At the same time, they have to have some things fall in place. Getting Sidney Crosby back would help. It's like the playoffs - you have to play a good game and be lucky.
Big Mac Blog: I see Stars d-man Alex Goglioski is a minus-3; what do you make of the plus/minus stat and how should fans look at it?
Razor: That is a great question. The problem is there is not enough time on broadcast to explain what it is. It's such a confusing stat. You talk to a coach about a plus/minus and they almost dismiss it; teams keep their own. There are so many variables that come into play on a plus/minus.
The stats that I and coaches look at are scoring chances. That is more indicative of what a player is doing on the ice. But even that is a stat that teams themselves keep; there is no set in stone direction for that either.
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