Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Defending Big D covers the Dallas Stars end of the draft

The last season was something of a disaster for the Dallas Stars. We all know about the Sean Avery debacle, but the season itself was riddled with injuries and disappointment. After an exciting run to the Western Conference Finals, the Stars didn't even make the playoffs.

Still, with the emergence of Loui Eriksson and rookie James Neal, the Stars actually have some promising young talent developing. This is also the first time in quite a while in which the Stars have a top-10 draft pick.

In order to find out more, we decided to call upon Defending Big D to tell us more about the Stars upcoming draft. We're big fans of DBD. Not only are they great bloggers, but they also allowed us to be lazier and not have to talk about breaking Stars news at Battle of California. Brandon, you're a swell guy.

Anyway, make sure to follow Defending Big D's Stars coverage.

1. With one of their best draft picks in ages at #8, what direction should the Stars go in? Are there any prospects - who realistically could be around at no. 8 - that you have your eyes on in particular?

It’s tough to say exactly which the direction the Stars should go. The #8 pick is starting to shape into a “tweener” pick, where the Stars could trade down to 10-15, get value in return and still draft the guy they wanted. They are also in position to possibly trade up a few spots to pick someone they have their eye on. Yet with there being a seemingly even talent after the #3 spot until around 15 or so, making sure you get good value for the pick you do make won’t be tough.

It’s also hard to say exactly which direction the Stars will go, forward or defenseman. Les Jackson (who will be running the draft) has stated several times that the Stars will pick whoever is at the top of their draft board with their selection comes up. What position or player that is makes no difference; the Stars are going for the best player available. How true they stick to the plan depends on what happens in front of them. The Islanders could truly shake things up if they pick Matt Duchene, if the rumors are true. That could lead to an incredible domino effect in the top ten, and the Stars could be in position to make a move for either a Magnus Paajarvi-Svenssen, or Jared Cowen, both players that are expected to be gone by #8.

The key of course, will be to not reach with that eighth pick. There are a number of players that would fit perfectly for the Stars system that could be available at 12-15. My eyes are on Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Ellis, Dmitry Kulikov and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Those are all players that could either be picked at #8 or #16. Personally, I like Ekman-Larsson the best since he has the most upside of any defenseman in the draft. Some are wary of him because he’s only become known in the past year and he will most likely not be NHL ready for 2-3 seasons. That’s a tough commitment to make with a top ten pick. That being said, I would be happy with Kulikov, Ellis or Schroeder as well.

2. How do you feel about the management changes made in Dallas? Do you think it could have a negative or positive effect on the upcoming draft?

I’m starting to come around with my attitude over the recent changes. To say they caught me off guard a bit would be an understatement. The general belief was that after some evaluating of the situation, Brett Hull would be reassigned and Les Jackson would take over the full time duties as the General Manager. After all, he had basically been doing the job on his own the whole time anyway. The hiring of Joe Nieuwendyk was surprising and out of left field a bit, even if Stars fans had been hoping and clamoring for him to get back with the organization ever since he retired back in 2006.

The initial reaction to Nieuwy’s hiring was an equal mixture of shock and excitement. After all, Les Jackson had done a pretty damn good job during his time as the co-G.M. and it was surprising to see him “reassigned”. But at the same time there was a high level of excitement to having Nieuwendyk taking over; he’s one of the most revered former Stars players among fans and only Guy Carbonneau could have garnered much more excitement than him. The prospect of the hard work, accountability and dedication that Nieuwendyk had as player being used in the Stars’ front office gave us all something to be enthusiastic about.

Then the firing of Dave Tippett and the hiring of Marc Crawford nearly undid all of the goodwill the fans had built up over Nieuwendyk. Tippett was a coach that was loved, LOVED by the fans here in Dallas. Sure, there were moments of frustration over his constant line-shuffling and his inability to get the Stars power play to click without Sergei Zubov, but fans were just as fiercely loyal as his players have always been. He represented everything the Dallas Stars franchise has stood for: Hard work, blue collar grittiness, loyalty to your teammates and just being an all-around nice guy. Not seeing him behind the bench for the Stars next season is going to be tough for fans to deal with.

Just ignore the cries for him to get fired in November of 2007, when Doug Armstrong got the axe instead. Amazing what a Conference Finals appearance and a tough season full of back-breaking injuries will do for the fans’ confidence in the coach.

In the end, and while some fans still believe this, Dave Tippett was not fired because of this past season. Joe Nieuwendyk as hired to bring about a change in the Dallas Stars organization because let’s face it: this team had become a bit stale. Tippett had won just three playoff series in five seasons, two in the same year. He always had one of the highest payrolls and most talented teams to work with, and things didn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. Remember, the Stars were floundering to start the season way before Morrow ever got hurt. And not everything can be blamed on Sean Avery.

Marc Crawford certainly represents a completely different change in coaching type. There is some belief that the players had become too comfortable with Tippett, and he lacked the ability to kick their ass into gear without Brenden Morrow swinging the foot. I think it will be extremely exciting to see what Crawford can do with a team that is much more talented than the one he had in L.A., and it will certainly be interesting to see the Dallas Stars become a much more offensive team, more so than at any time in their past.

3.Looking back, what are some of the greatest moments in Stars draft history? We'd imagine that choosing Mike Modano instead of Trevor Linden must rank up there, but what are some of the other pivotal moments and/or big "steals" for the franchise?

For the past 12 drafts, the Stars have primarily been picking in the very late first round or even in the second round with their first pick. This will be the first time the Stars have had a top 15 pick since 1996. It’s been steady over that time, with Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, Loui Eriksson, Steve Ott and Brenden Morrow all being selected in the late first round.

I can’t speak really to the draft history of the Stars before they came to Dallas but yeah, you’d have to think that Mike Modano has been the best draft pick in franchise history. Highest scoring American player of all time, franchise leader in nearly every single offensive category. I’d say that was a good pick.

Marty Turco was found in the 5th round of the 1994 draft, when the Stars drafting him out of high school. I’d say that that was a pretty good investment. Antti Miettinen was drafted in the 7th round in 2000. And most recently, Jamie Benn was drafted last year in the 5th round, a guy who dominated the WHL playoffs a month ago.

4.On the flip side, what are some of the lowest moments? Are there any decisions that stick out as especially foolish? Or, perhaps, picks they shouldn't have traded during a deadline deal?

As far as draft busts, you don’t have to look any further than the last top ten pick the Stars had. Richard Jackman drafted 5th overall in 1996 by the Stars, and his biggest contribution in his career has been as trade fodder for Dallas, Toronto, Florida and Pittsburgh.

When you talk of trades involving high draft picks, everyone immediately turns to the trade that send Jarome Iginla to Calgary six months after he was drafted 11 overall in 1995. He made his debut in the 1996 playoff with the Flames and has never looked back.

Yet the Stars received Joe Nieuwendyk in return for Iginla (along with Corey Millen). Nieuwendyk was one of the best players to take the ice for the Stars during his time with the team, and won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1999. Some say the trade that sent him and Jamie Langenbrunner to the Devils in 2002 was perhaps the worst moment in team history. He meant that much to this team.

I’d say that was a fair tradeoff.

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