A change in philosophy. A new direction. A rebuilding on the fly. Call it whatever you would like, but we can all agree that the Dallas Stars have a new look after the last couple of weeks. You long-time key members of the franchise have been traded in Mike Ribeiro and fan-favorite Steve Ott, and the Stars have become one of the more talked about teams this summer. How did Dallas replace two of their top six forwards? By adding two 40-year old veterans that can still provide offense in the ageless Ray Whitney and superstar Jaromir Jagr, along with a 2nd line center in Derek Roy who could use a new home.
In the end the Stars really did change their look up front. With Brad Richards gone and the team low on true top six forwards, the Stars had to at times play many of their bottom-six guys in top minute roles. One of those guys was Ott, who naturally fits more as a 3rd liner that can jump up onto the 2nd line if the situation calls for it. Now the team has a mix between old (Jagr, Whitney, Ryder) and young to play on the top two lines, and while they might have added some age to the roster, they certainly added more firepower. When a team finishes with the worst powerplay in the recent history of hockey, helping the powerplay and improving playmaking is a must.
But while it is true that Whitney and Jagr might not be long-term pieces like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, they should bring some excitement to the ice for at least this season. Combined they could bring over 100 points at a combined $9 million this coming year. But both could also be important for young players to watch. Having talented scorers like Whitney and Jagr playing alongside still growing skilled players like Benn and Eriksson could help both learn how to be some of the best from two wingers that over the years have been able to be offensively threatening long into their older years. While Mike Ribeiro might be a offensively talented player, most could agree that many GM’s and coaches would rather their budding superstars learn from guys like Whitney and Jagr than Ribeiro.
With captain Brenden Morrow likely to be a wild card this coming season as he tries to overcome a season full of injuries and issues at 33, adding veteran leadership and scoring isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the short-term scheme. Sure some are arguing that the Stars should just let the kids play and either be fully competitive or go young and rebuild, but if the youngsters are not ready than Joe Nieuwendyk had to find a way to be competitive. In the end he has begun changing a core that wasn’t working while still possibly finding a way to be competitive this season and help the team. With seven possible top six forwards if Morrow can return to any sort of his former-self, the team has added depth that is always necessary for the long season.
No, Whitney and Jagr are not Parise or Semin or even the recently traded Jordan Staal. But GM can’t afford to let this team continue to be mediocre while the kids are developing. And the two vets not only can help the team be competitive, but they can teach the kids a few things and bring some excitement back to the roster.