The Dallas Stars offseason was one full of magic and happiness, at least if you call yourself a Stars fan. They found themselves losing some of their least significant pieces and bringing in some of the NHL’s top talent.
They said goodbye to 42-year-old Ray Whitney, a depleting right winger whose only sign of surefire value was on the Stars atrocious power play. They also cut ties with short served back-up net-minder Tim Thomas, the 40-year-old who left his own ugly stamp on the Stars recurring substitute goalie dilemma. The reassuring fact of the matter is that neither of these veterans have signed with a new team and will probably exit the NHL with their last game being in a green jersey.
With these names scratched, the Stars knew they had to refill both spots with more skilled, higher quality talent. So when July 1st came around, Jim Nill and Co. dove in. The Stars signed Patrick Eaves to a one-year deal, thus filling the void Ray Whitney left in his departure. They signed Anders Lindback to a one-year deal and Jussi Rynnas to a two-year deal, inevitably creating competition and grand depth at the back-up goalie position, something that they have severely lacked for the past five years. They snagged Jason Spezza, one of the most talented centers in the NHL, in a trade for Alex Chiasson and developing prospects. With Chiasson being sent off to Ottawa, the Stars needed a filler for the top right winger spot. So, with this problem in mind, the Dallas Stars added Ales Hemsky, the winger who served Edmonton and Ottawa in the last season of his contract in ’13-’14, on a three-year contract.
But while the NHL’s attention is focused mainly on Spezza and how he will turn this team into a postseason no-brainer, Ales Hemsky remains the belittled piece of the Stars offseas0n. What people do not understand is that Hemsky will make or break the Dallas Stars this year by his play.
While Spezza will have a major role in holding up the Stars second-line dot, his spot was run by Cody Eakin, a young center who is hard at work in trying to become a hot NHL topic, and they turned out just fine, they even made the postseason. So Spezza should only add more skill and make the position even better than it was when Eakin was around. Bottom line, even if the eleven-year veteran depletes almost back to his rookie caliber (which would never happen), the Stars would still succeed as they did when Eakin was manning the helm.
But Hemsky serves a different purpose. He’s coming into a spot that the Stars do not show significant talent in. Hemsky is going to be Lindy Ruff’s ultimate wild card, by the fact that he is going to need to be flexible. He will more than likely be placed in the top six at the beginning of the season along with Valeri Nichushkin. No specific lines have been announced yet, which has led many people to debate on which winger will be set on the first line and which will be assigned to the second line. Some want to see the return of on of the Stars many first line combinations by putting Nichushkin back up top and leaving Hemsky with former teammate Jason Spezza. But if Nichushkin slows down or does not get a chance to show his true potential after it could possibly be masked by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin’s dynamic strength, they will need a strong winger in Hemsky to step up and take the position.
The good part about Hemsky is that he is a set-up kind of guy, not a scoring type. Hemsky would mesh well with the dynamic duo because of his ability to feed his linemates more often than not.
Hemsky had a decent season last year, even through the mess of the trade deadline and his ultimate sendoff from Edmonton to Ottawa. He totaled out with 13 goals and 30 assists, but a horrid -15 rating turned many heads away. But Nill took a massive chance on him, and is hoping that chance will turn up in the long run.
But Hemsky’s downfall is going to ultimately prevail in his injuries. Hemsky has not played in more than 75 games since the 2005-2006 season and is a bit of an injury magnet. The Stars need to be assured that they sunk $12 million into a good and logical player, not one who sits on the bench half of the season. If Hemsky can stay healthy, the Stars will of made the right decision and found themselves a quality assist-first player that knows how to move the puck around well. If not, it will almost be as if the Dallas Stars found another Ray Whitney that they could stick a fortune into and get measly progress and a plague of injuries in return.
A lot of eyes will be set on how Spezza performs, but not many will focus on Hemsky, and his name will definitely be on the bottom of the visitor’s white board. That’s a very good thing if Hemsky keeps up-to-date with his skills and playing ability.
If Hemsky does ultimately fail, the Stars have an arsenal of AHL talent on the wings that they could bring in for extra help, including Brett Ritchie and Scott Glennie. But, Hemsky should be looking forward to a presentable year, most likely around 15 goals and 30-35 assists. It will all depend on how Hemsky turns out. He will come out to be the Stars hero or disaster in the upcoming season. If the Stars are focusing on a season for the record books, look for Hemsky to hold a major role in this fantasy becoming a reality.
Do you think Hemsky is going to have a good season? Great season? Terrible season?
Leave your comments and questions below, and as always thanks for reading! Go Stars.
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