Friday, May 28, 2010

Who are the Texas Stars?

The Texas Stars are in the inaugural AHL season and are the first AHL team since 01-02 to make the Calder Cup Finals in their first season.

They finished the regular season in 2nd place in the West Division behind Chicago. After sweeping Rockford in the first round of the playoffs they have since gone to 2 game 7s in beating the league's #3 team in Chicago and the league's #2 team in Hamilton.

And now they get the league's #1 team in Hershey.

If they do end up winning the cup at least you know they earned every bit of it by playing the top 3 teams in the league in the playoffs.

During the regular season they scored 238 goals (Hershey had 342) and allowed 198 goals (same as Hershey). Not exactly an offensive juggernaut but definitely played well at the defensive end.

In the playoffs to date they have scored 56 goals (Hershey has 55) and have allowed 47 (Hershey 39). They have also played 3 more games than the Bears this postseason.

Their regular season scoring leaders were:
  • C Aaron Gagnon with 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points
  • C Travis Morin with 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 points
  • C Perttu Lindgren with 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points
Overall they had 9 players with double digit goals and 6 players with 40+ points. Like I said...not an offensive juggernaut but they got the job done.

The postseason has been a bit different though:
  • F Jamie Benn has 14 goals and 10 assists as he leads the Stars and the AHL in goals and points in the postseason.
  • D Andrew Hutchinson is 2nd on the team in points with 15 (4g and 11a).
  • C Perttu Lindgren is 3rd with 6 goals and 8 assists.
  • C Travis Morin is 4th with 3 goals and 10 assists.

You might recognize one name on that list. Travis Morin is a former South Carolina Stingray who played 5 games for Hershey over the previous two seasons. He was picked up by the Stars this past summer and played well for them all season. I always wanted Travis to get his shot in Hershey but unfortunately the center depth in the organization worked against him.

Another former part-time Bear is RW Mathieu Beaudoin who played 7 games during the 07-08 regular season and added a playoff game that year as well.

And former Bear forward Paul Jerrard who played parts of 3 seasons for the Bears from 94-97 and was on the 96-97 Calder Cup winning team. He is currently the assistant coach for the Stars.

Here are a few other players you might recognize from Calder Cup Finals past...
  • D Maxime Fortunos played for the Manitoba Moose last season and faced the Bears in the Calder Cup Finals. He will surely be called upon over the next week to help dissect exactly what the Bears do.
  • RW Raymond Sawada also played against the Bears during last seasons Calder Cup Finals as a member of the Manitoba Moose. He scored 1 goal in the series.
  • C Greg Rallo was yet another of the 08-09 Manitoba Moose. He played in 4 games against the Bears in the finals but did not record a point.
  • D Dan Jancevski was a member of the 06-07 Hamilton Bulldogs team that beat Hershey in 5 games.

That is who the Stars are.

So how will the series go? How do the Bears match up?

Check back early next week and I will have a good series preview ready to go. I will say this...I want Hershey to win in 6 because I want to see a clinching game on home ice.


Your Nation's Capital said...

An important footnote to Jamie Benn's impressive playoff numbers is the fact that he did not play a single regular season game with the farm team - he played all 82 games with the NHL Dallas Stars.

Due to some quirk in the complex maze of player assignment rules, Benn was able to be included on the Stars' clear day roster and assigned to the team without going through waivers.

Ross said...

It's not a quirk. When Jamie Benn (a fifth round pick) attended Dallas' camp over the summer, there was every intention that he would play in Cedar Park, so much so that he was included in their original rosters. He had a great camp, and thanks to an injury or two, wound up with the parent club in Dallas. Texas included him in the Clear Day roster in the event Dallas didn't make the playoffs.

There is no AHL rule preventing him from playing. There is no rule saying a player must play an AHL game prior to appearing in the playoffs. His appearance doesn't even violate the spirit of the rules.

There is not a single team in the league who would have passed on having Jamie on their team.

So far Hershey fans are the only ones in these playoffs who haven't screamed and moaned about Benn. Of course the series hasn't started yet and that may change, but for now it's refreshing.

He's barely 20 years old.

GM said... are absolutely right...we would love to a player like that in Hershey and any fan that says otherwise is lying.

The confusion comes in because for years the assumption has been you have to play in the AHL. We here in Hershey have watched the Caps send players like Fleischmann, Green, Schultz, Carlson, and Alzner to Hershey during the season so they would be eligible to play in the postseason.

Not sure if there is a rule about it or not BUT I can say that as a junior eligible player Benn was NOT ALLOWED to play for Texas during the regular season as players drafted out of juniors in Canada must be I think its 21 before they can play in the AHL or another minor league. However they can play in the NHL.

So maybe it had something to do with that.

Either way it will be good to see a talented player like Benn against the Bears.

Ross said...

First off, I admire the Caps organization for having the foresight-- and caring enough about their AHL team-- to send guys down and make them eligible.

Second, you're right about the junior eligibility, but junior-age players are 18 and 19; Benn was born in July of 1989, making him 20 last summer when he went to camp; already signed to an entry-level contract by Dallas in 08 and no longer junior-age would seem to exclude him from the rule that junior age players with NHL contracts can't play in the AHL.

Don't get me wrong, as a Texas Stars season ticket holder this past year, I wasn't overly pleased with the Clear Day Roster decisions (and I was hardly alone), nor do I think it's all that great to see Jamie double-shifting. I'd like to say we'd be this far with or without him, but I can't because I don't know. I know what the obvious answer is, but while this team isn't stacked with star players, it is deep with role players who can all contribute, and we ended the season with the 3rd best record in the West and 6th best overall without Jamie.

We led our division for the first third of the season because we played a very strict defensive game; it was smart coaching because we were able to stay afloat when things bottomed out for us over the winter. But we had only two hat tricks all season (neither at home) and I think our game high for goals was 6 against the Heat.

At any rate, I agree that it will be fun to watch - from my end - what Jamie can do against the Bears' tough D. I disagree with the notion that Hamilton would have given the Bears a better series (which I read often) although I understand that it all comes down to match-ups.

At any rate, I do understand the frustration of people like the two guys who call games for Hamilton, who, after Benn scored the OT winner in game 4, could be heard shouting, "Final score, Jamie Benn 2, Hamilton 1" (although you'd expect a little more professionalism from broadcasters) but I think Hershey will be surprised by this team's depth- on offense and defense- their resilience, and their relentless physical game (Texas is a big team that finishes every check).

That said, personally Hershey scares me. Their reputation- and their record- precedes them.

GM said...

Ross...I just looked it up...players drafted out of Canadian Junior leagues must remain in juniors for 4 years or until they are 20. They are allowed to play in the NHL but not the AHL.

Obviously it is irrelevant though because Benn is playing. Whatever the reason he is on the roster is what it is and I am sure it is all legal.

I didn't look into Hamilton at all so I can't say whether or not they would have presented a better matchup. They were the #2 overall seed which is why I think people assume that.

Texas is a deeper team than most people realize. They have multiple players that were on Manitoba's team last year so they have some experience.

I have not seen a Stars game at all so I am going by stats and other analysis but it seems that Texas (minus Benn) is weak at wing. Down the middle and on the blue line they seem strong though.

Really it comes down to...can the Stars defense shut down a healthy Hershey offense? And if not can Climie win some games?

Hershey has the best offense in the league. And depth wise there probably isn't anyone better...there are multiple former 20+ and 30+ goal scorers playing on the Bears 3rd and 4th lines. And on the 3rd defensive pairing Sean Collins spent considerable time in Washington last season.

I think the games will be close but after all is said and done I think Hershey wins in 5.

Ross said...

I hear you. The issue of depth is a big one, and assuming our game plan doesn't change, I don't know that we're going to be able to keep up with a team that can cycle four good lines, because lately we haven't been playing four ourselves.

So can our D shut down a healthy Bears offense? Our defensive core is going to be the best the Bears have seen in the playoffs. I realize that may not be saying much, and I don't know if it'll be enough. Can Climie steal a game? A hot goalie can always do that. Will it be enough? Well I don't have it in me as a fan to say No, I have to believe that we have what it takes to beat you guys, otherwise what kind of fan would I be- a realistic one? That's no fun.

All told, it's certainly hard to argue with the stats. On paper this series might not even go 5 games. Lucky for us it's not played on paper. Mightier teams than the 09-10 Bears have fallen short of a championship.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's a reliable correlation here; rather I think I'm trying to take comfort in things that favor Texas.

I would rather have the stats on my side, but when you don't have them you look for other things and you hope that they matter. As you pointed out in your blog, it's not like we had a cakewalk getting to the finals- we had to go through #s 3 and 2. The Bears' President even referred to us as "a team that seems to be destined." (Then he added, "We’re just going to have to break that destiny").

Looking at the Cup preview the AHL just published, there's no reason to think the Stars have a chance in hell, but I do think they have a chance, and I hope they pull off an upset.

At least this much we know: unlike virtually everywhere else this post-season, at least we can count on both teams' arenas filled to capacity.

Ross said...

Forgot to add a prediction: Stars in 5.

Not only that, but Hershey won't win a game at home.

Thanks for the good hockey talk.

GM said... should definitely be a good series. While I think Hershey does win in 5 I don't think you will see any blowout victories.

It is always good to hear from fans of opposing teams and to have good friendly discussion about a series.

Good luck and enjoy the games...only 45 hours to go!!

Ross said...

Same to you and your Bears, GM, and thanks for engaging me on this message board. And I agree, I don't think we'll see any blowouts. Finally, from the perspective of an opposing team's fan, I really appreciate your balanced preview of the series.