By Martin Iheke
Oh, is it not pleasant to be a Dallas Stars fan right now. Losers of six straight and seven out of their last eight will make things certainly unpleasant. They are nine points back of the Minnesota Wild for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with only nineteen games left. Because of this…. right before last Sunday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Stars traded veteran forward Erik Cole and a conditional third round draft pick in this year’s draft to the Detroit Red Wings for two prospects in defenseman Mattias Backman, forward Mattias Janmark-Nylen and a second round pick in this year’s draft.
General Manager Jim Nill talked about the two prospects during the game against the Ducks. “Yeah, Backman, I was with Detroit when we drafted him,” Nill said according to dallasnews.com. “He’s a defenseman, a good puck-moving defenseman. He came over and played a few games at the Grand Rapids start of the season and went back to Sweden. But he’s very close to being an NHL-ready defenseman, just needs to gain strength in that but real good skill, good hockey sense. Janmark, real solid, all-around typical Swedish forward. He plays the game the right way both ways; good defensively, good offensively and we look forward to getting him over and seeing where his development’s at.”
Without Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin, Patrik Nemeth and Travis Moen, and with this trade, it does look like the Stars are throwing up the white flag on the season. The last two weeks have pretty much been a microcosm on the season. They have had leads going into the third period only to fall apart and lose. They cannot seem to catch a break after countless opportunities with a chance to tie the game or further expand their lead. Whatever the issues are, this team is finding ways to lose games and that is something that has to change moving forward.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen is struggling right now and that is also adding to the team’s problems. He has had a rough season and does not appear to have the confidence to get back to playing the way he did last season. Head coach Lindy Ruff has called him out a few times already to see if he can snap out of whatever funk he is in. That has not worked. The Stars brought in goalie Jhonas Enroth to not only be the backup behind Lehtonen, but also push him. That too is not working. Enroth has yet to win a game for the Stars since he was traded here. In fact, it has almost been a year since the Stars last won a game when their backup goalie has started a game. That is mind-boggling.
Good teams find a way to win when their backup goalies start games. The Stars do not appear to be one. With the trade deadline upon us, what other moves will the team make? I am sure general manager Jim Nill will keep all of his options open. This season is a lost cause and now it is just about finding out if some of the younger players can continue to get better and make a case for being on the roster next season.
Enroth is an unrestricted free agent after the season. I would not be surprised if we see him get more starts as the season winds down. The Stars need to know if he is someone they could bring back for next season. What about Lehtonen? Right now, he might be the biggest question mark. If the Stars are going to take that next step as a franchise, they have to have a goaltender who is not afraid of melting down under pressure. I do not think Lehtonen is that goalie.
3/3 vs Islanders 7:30 pm
3/5 @Panthers 6:30 pm
3/7 @Lightning 6:00 pm