While the Texas Rangers failed to bring home another World Series title and the Dallas Cowboys were destroyed by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, another team in North Texas is quietly becoming one to watch. The Dallas Stars have put together an impressive start to the season and have become the first team in the NHL to collect 10 wins, sitting at the top of the league now with an 11-3 record. During the off-season, the team lost one of the most highly touted free agents in recent history, Brad Richards. Richards took a lucrative deal to head to one of hockey’s original six, the New York Rangers. All summer, critics speculated that the Stars would not be able to replace Richards and as a result, would linger near the bottom of the Pacific Division. Instead General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk stealthily assembled a team of free agent additions that would prove to be invaluable as the season got underway this fall.
Nieuwendyk invested in a veteran blue liner, Sheldon Souray, a guy many considered washed up, or at very best, a project. With Souray, the team got a solid contributor on defense with a monster shot from the point – something that had been missing for quite some time on the Dallas D. Known as “The Hammer,” Souray has collected 4 goals and 8 assists in 13 games played and is a +10. Richards by comparison, also has 4 goals, but only 6 assists and is a -1. And that is just one player. For the money the Rangers are paying Richards, Dallas also signed defenseman Adam Pardy, another big presence on the blue line, and five other guys up front.
The biggest addition at forward for the Stars when it comes to the stat sheet is Michael Ryder, signed from the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. Ryder has 6 goals and 5 assists on the season. Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak have been great pickups on the checking line and Jake Dowell has added some depth to the fourth line.
Due to a cruel twist of fate, in which Sean Avery somehow finds a way to pester the Dallas Stars yet again (the Stars are still paying half of his salary as he was claimed off waivers by the New York Rangers when the team dumped him in 2008), his demotion to the AHL caused Dallas to be under the salary cap floor, and the team had to make a move. The Stars received Eric Nystrom in exchange for “future considerations,” from the Minnesota Wild. Nystrom had a rough start to the year with the Wild, but has made an immediate impact in Dallas, with goals in each of his last 4 games. Nystrom has also been a big hit off the ice with his Movember fundraising efforts, single-handedly already raising almost $5000 for the cause.
Of course the NHL season is long, and there are almost 70 games remaining before the post-season in the spring, but the Stars are steadily proving everyone wrong in the league. They jumped up to #2 in ESPN’s power rankings this week and faced a true test tonight on the road against the Washington Capitals, turning in another impressive victory. Hockey fans can always catch their favorite game at any of Third Base’s locations, all of which carry the NHL Center Ice package. Bring your friends and wear your favorite hockey sweater!