Let us continue this look at the Stars roster and who should be on it next season by examining the forwards. So far we have taken time to look at the goalies and defense, and see a team with some young talent that is just hitting the budding point. Talent that has spent a couple of seasons at the NHL level and despite struggles, or injuries in Lehtonen’s case, is showing promise. Players still in their early and middle 20’s like Grossman, Fistric, Lehtonen, and Daley could be a huge factor in deciding how successful this team is the next couple of seasons. But the forwards for this team are a little different. While there are a few young guys already providing results and great play, the forward group is where this team’s age and leadership mostly comes from. Now there has at times this season been a lack of leadership from some of the veteran guys, and that could be something seriously addressed this off-season. But the group of forwards Dallas has right now is a mix of some extremely promising young players, some veteran guys in the middle of their career, and a couple guys who have been a huge part of this team’s success and are getting to the end of great careers. So here we go, let’s break it down and discuss who should stay and who should go:
Jamie Benn: YES! No thought should be needed, YES! Coming on as a rookie in training camps and exhibition games, there was talk that Benn had potential. But at 20 years old, Jamie has been a surprise to even those who thought he could play at the NHL level. Although he has played every game for Dallas this season, he played very few minutes in the first third of the season. But he used every chance he got to prove he wants to be here. With 21 goals, he sits 4th in goals on the team and has also shown that he is a quick and agile skater with a little grit to him. Benn will of course be here next year, and hopefully for years to come. He has been a bright spot for this team, and another young guy that has enjoyed success by learning from the likes of Modano and Richards.
Krystofer Barch: Not a guy you expect much out of, Barch is still someone who will show up any night you want him to. His 130 penalty minutes trails only Otter, and he is often a guy to fight to try to pump up the arena and team, or to come to avenge his teammates. An interesting fact though is that Barch has an even +/- this season, showing that unlike a lot of 4th line guys around the league he is not a big liability in the defensive zone. But of course he is not really a threat in the offensive, unless you are a defenseman with your back turned trying to pick up a puck. Should he stay? Hard question. Although I don’t think he should leave he is also someone who does not play every game and will not be too missed if he does end up on a different roster next year. But I see him coming back and playing some mins on the 4th line again.
Fabian Brunnstrom: A young player who should some promise last year when he chipped in 17 goals and 12 assists in 55 games. But as the season went on he showed signs of struggling with bringing his effective offensive game into the NHL and struggled playing against tougher and bigger defenses then what he was used to in Sweden. Flash forward to this year, where he has struggled with injuries and getting playing time. In 43 games this season, Fabian has only had 2 goals and 9 assists while still showing that he is struggling getting used to the NHL. Should he stay? No. He is a restricted free agent this summer, and there have been talks all season that he could be a trade chip that Dallas may be trying to use. Either way, I do not see him here next season, nor do I think he should be. I think he needs a fresh start somewhere where he can be a 3rd line winger and try to see if he still has some of that potential, or he should go back to Sweden where he has had success and is better suited.
Loui Eriksson: Loui has reached his NHL potential over the last two years as the former 2nd round pick of 2003 has hit the beginning of his prime years in stride and looks to be one of the better players for the Stars for years to come. He is only 24 years old and has continued to grow each year for Dallas. After breaking through last year with 36 goals and 27 assists, he has repeated the impressive offense with 29 goals and 40 assists with 3 games left this year. He also was one of the most talked about players for Sweden in the Olympics and impressed many around the hockey world. Should he stay? Now that is just a stupid question to ask. Of course! Dallas signed him to a 6 year extension worth 25.5 million early this season, which puts him into a Stars uniform until at least the 2015-16 season. Many fell that he can be a big name player for years to come, and right now it looks like he will be doing his work here in Dallas. Just one bright thing in the Stars future.
Jere Lehtinen: Jere is the hockey player most coaches want 4 or 5 of on their team. Throughout his career, Jere has scored and chipped in on the offensive side while always being one of the best forwards in his own zone. At times he has looked like a 3rd defender in the defensive zone for the Stars. But age and many years of playing great on both ends every night has caught up with Lehtinen. At 36, Jere will hit 37 in June this summer and has spent a lot of time on the IR the last 3 seasons. He has only played 48, 48 and 55 games the last three seasons and his numbers have been dropping off. He was one of the best at being able to put up 20 goals and 50 points while always working harder then 90% of forwards in his own zone, but I have to ask should Jere be back at 37 years old next season? In my opinion, no. I hope Jere hangs his skates up and we get to have a great ceremony honoring the proud player from Espoo, Finland. But he may still want to give it another try or maybe go home and play in his home country. I will always remember Jere and what he was for this team for 15 seasons, but I think it may be time for the team and for him to say goodbye.
Mike Modano: Oh man is this a hard one. Even more then Lehtinen, just because there is no one like Mike and what he has done for American hockey and the game in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The Michigan native has racked up 556 goals and 801 assists in 1456 career games has only played for one franchise and will always be remembered for what he has done with this franchise. Mo has taken on a more of a leadership and depth role, and has done a pretty good job of it. Mo has only put 13 goals and 15 assists this season in 56 games, but has spent as much time with the likes of Peterson, Barch, and Wandell next to him as he has with Benn or Ott. He also spent time shifted to winger and has played on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Should he stay? Yes, I think he should for one more year. Now will he? That is the question. Modano has turned down chances to got to other teams or “contenders” to stay here. So I do not think Modano playing anywhere else is really a factor. But he is undecided if this week will be his last 3 games in the NHL. Sure he is 39 and will be 40 at the start of next season. But I still think Mike can be a 3rd line guy for this team and someone who can help this team bridge into their promising future. Plus with Modano being my all-time favorite player, part of me always wants to see him out there, wearing number 9 in black.
Brenden Morrow: Captain, oh Captain, where have you gone off to? The that seems to be a common thing being asked as this season winds down. Morrow has easily been the second biggest face of this franchise for the last decade behind Modano, but unlike Mo is not nearing the end of his days. So where has the presence and aurora around the 31 year-old captain of the Stars gone? That is one of the biggest questions he and this team have to ponder and fix this off-season. Morrow has the ability to be a 60-70 point a season type of player, and the vocal leader of this team. And we have seen it in the past. But after only playing 40 games in 06-07 and only 18 games last year, he has missed time with injuries. He did put together his best year in between those two seasons, but this season has seemed out of it both mentally and physically at times. His 45 points is not horrible, but it is not near what he could be doing with all the offensive talent on this team, and he seems to disappear in games. What is frustrating more for many fans is how well he played in the Olympics for team Canada. He was one of their best players and looked like the Morrow that lead Dallas to the Western finals in 2008. But he did not bring that intensity back with him to Dallas when this team needed it to try and push for the playoffs. One telling stat too: Brenden had 7 straight seasons with a shooting % over 15% beginning after his rookie year, last season in 18 games it was 9.6% and this year is 12.7% in 74 games. His shot has not been with him many nights this season, and he looks over anxious or rusty a lot at times when in the past he would just cannon shots into the back of the net. Should he stay: I say yes. There are many fans saying that he should be moved because he is not living up to the money he is getting or his “C”. But I think the Olympics showed that he still can do it. Give him the off-season to condition, rest and focus his mind. Let him come back next season and give it one more try. While I agree they could get something big for him, and I have been a critic of him this season, he is our Captain and I think the real Morrow still can make a return. He just has to do it soon, or it may be time for change.
Dallas NEEDS Morrow to return to form (Pic Source:Yardbarker.com)
James Neal: Another heck yes! Neal, along with Benn and Eriksson, is part of the youthful addition to the Stars offense that is providing results right away while continuing to improve with each passing month. Neal was the Stars 2nd round pick in 2005, and is wrapping up his second season at the NHL level. In his first season he pocketed 24 goals and 13 assists and gave the crowds at the AAC something to cheer about despite a bad year. This season he has kept up with 26 goals and 28 assists despite dealing with multiple slumps where he has gone dry goal scoring wise for 6-7 games at time. He has spent almost the whole season either with the 1st or 2nd line and is building a relationship with his roommate Brad Richards. Should he stay? I already answered that, but again, YES! He has shown he can be the goal scorer to Richards’s or Ribeiro’s play-making abilities. There is a lot of talk Dallas will try to give him a raise and a long-term contract this summer, and I hope they do. What also is great about Neal is his willingness to check and throw the body a bit, along with his offensive talents. Hopefully he is a shining member of this team for years to come.
Steve Ott: Otter has continued to grow from a grinder and tough guy to a fan favorite and jack-of-trades type hockey player. It showed this season. After having 19 goals and 27 assists last season in playing a lot of Morrow’s minutes, Ott played on many lines this season and has 19 goals with 14 assists heading into the final week. He also added his first career hat-trick last week, scoring a short-handed, even strength and powerplay goal. He continues to be one of the better agitators in the league, and someone few like playing against but everyone wants on their team. But his growth into a potential 20 goal a season scorer while also playing on the PK and being a physical leader makes him someone Dallas fells is at the core of what they want for the future of this team. He got rewarded by signing a new contract averaging just under 3 million that keeps him signed til the end of the 2013-14 season. Should he stay? Another guy that is an easy yes. If not for him, the disappearance and injuries of Morrow might have been even more crippling to this team the last few seasons. He a guy who can check and grind on the 3rd line, be a threat and the glue on a 2nd line, play the PK, and bring energy with his hits and willingness to stand up for his teammates every single night.
Toby Peterson: Toby is an interesting case. It is not that he does not always deserve playing time, but sometimes finding some for it. Peterson may be newer to fans around here, but he is 31 years-old and has spent many years bouncing between the bottom of the NHL and being in the minors. But he will always go out on the ice and give effort. He won’t give you 50 points, he won’t give you 20-25 goals, but he will give you effort and a good 4th line guy. That is probably why Dallas today signed him to a two year deal worth 1.55 million, which means he will probably play either center or wing on the 4th line for the better part of the next two years. He has added in 9 goals and 5 assists with a +3 in the limited role we have seen him in for most of the year. Should he stay? I think so. He is not a big guy at all, but he can skate, take faceoffs, and play both ways. He averages about 11 minutes on the ice a night, and I think that is a role you will see him continue to be in for the next couple of years. Dallas does not want a lot from him, just effort and the willingness to keep doing what he has shown he can do on that 4th line.
Mike Ribeiro: Is Ribs great run in Dallas coming to an end? That seems to be a common question around here among die-hard fans recently. Since Dallas sent Janne Niinimaa to Montreal and stole Ribs from the Canadiens for basically nothing in 2006, Mike has been one of the best Stars players. His creative play often leads to great scoring chances for his linemates, and he has posted 59, 83 and 78 points in the three seasons leading up to this one. But there have been rumors that despite 52 points in 63 games this season, Dallas could be thinking of moving Mike and his 5 mil a year salary somewhere else this summer. A few leaks have been rumored that he does not get along with the coaching staff and their style of play like he did Tippett, and that he is not that happy with the new system. Also Ribs is not strong with getting back and covering in his own zone, something Crawford wants from his centers with Dallas dealing with a not so great defense right now. Should he stay? I say no, only if you get a good return for him. With Benn transitioning to center some, Richards on the top line, and Ott, Peterson, and maybe Mo and maybe sutherby also at center, Ribeiro could be movable for either a right winger or a top 4 defender. This team strongly needs both of those things and does not want to give up Neal, Benn, Fistric or another top prospect to get one of those if they don’t have to. What I am suggesting is that if an acceptable trade comes from moving Ribs for a key defender or a RW that can play on the 1st or 2nd line, I would agree with this team pulling the trigger.
Brad Richards: The Stars top offensive player this season, Dallas is seeing the fruit they hoped for when they traded Smith and Jokinen to Tampa Bay for Richards. This season Richards has looked comfortable and slick for the most part, and is putting up the All-star numbers that go along with his big paycheck. Through 77 games, Brad has posted 24 goals and 66 assists for 90 points. He leads the NHL in power-play points, and if the team had done better you would maybe be hearing his name in award talks just because of the season he has had. He is one point off of his career high with 3 games to go, and has already set personal bests for PP goals at 13. He is turning 31 in May, and looks to be right in the prime of his career. He has also been huge in helping the blooming of Eriksson and Neal as he nightly gives them scoring chances and all three continue to grow as a top line. Should he stay? Another easy yes. Some might wish he would take a bit of a pay-cut from his 7.8 million paycheck per season, and the Stars are apparently looking at working out a new deal with him to bring it down a tad and spread it out with incentives over a few seasons. But there is not much else you can ask for from Richards 9 out of 10 nights. He is always creating, has kept the Stars otherwise sloppy powerplay afloat, plays on the penalty kill every now and then, and plays a ton of minutes. Hopefully he keeps this pace up a few seasons and leads this team back onto the winning side of things.
Brandon Segal: Segal has been fun and interesting to watch in his time in Dallas since claimed off waivers from the Kings. In 17 games he has had 5 goals and 5 assists and been a little bit of a spark for the team. He is 26, so he fits in with the age group of the Stars entering the main years of their careers and has looked great in the time he has spent with Dallas. At 6-2, he is a strong guy and the only real RW the Stars have right now besides Lehtinen. Should he stay? Yes, I would like to see what Segal can do with a full year with Stars and some chemistry with his linemates. His success may be a bit surprising, but he is a physical guy and plays a game halfway in between Ott and Morrow. To me he looks like he could be a 3rd line guy, play RW next to Modano or Ott or Benn and put up 35-40 points in a full season. Plus Dallas could probably sign him to a cheap 2-3 year deal at under a million a year.
Brian Sutherby: A rough player all the way through, Sutherby is one of those players that will give you what he has, even if it is not much. He will be a grinder, and is a good 4th line center type of guy who will check and can play against a good line from the other team when he is healthy. One big thing though is that Brian has not played 60 games in a season since 06-07 and seems to deal with nagging injuries a lot. Part 0f it may be from the type of player that he is, but when he is on the ice he has shown he is someone who has heart and respect for the game. Many of his teammates speak highly of him, and his 9 points in only 43 game this year while averaging less then 9 minutes a game when he does play is not bad. Should he stay? Yes I think he should. I think you keep him for his more rounded game and veteran presence on that lower line and left Barch go or send him to the minors. Despite some injury issues, Sutherby plays good when in their and could even be with Ott and Segal on a 3rd line that likes to forecheck and pressure.
So there you have it, my thoughts on who I would keep for next season and who I would not bring back. I highly encourage your feedback on which players you agree with me on or maybe you don’t agree with me on. Let me know your thoughts, and look for another article later this week on some of the Stars young players or players in the minors that we might see next season. I will bring up Wandell, Larsen, Climie, Glennie and more.