Matthew DeFranks, Stars beat writer for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered questions about the team in a live chat Friday. Here are some highlights.
Q: Why is John Stevens replacing Stu Barnes?
DeFranks: Barnes’ contract expired and the team chose to hire Stevens instead of renewing Barnes. Stevens and Montgomery have a long history together from playing together in the AHL and Montgomery coaching Stevens’ son in the USHL. Stevens has served as a mentor of sorts for Montgomery and was one voice that helped convince him Dallas was the right job to leave Denver for last summer. They have a deep history together and relationship that wasn’t there with Montgomery and Barnes. Plus, adding Stevens to the staff gives the Stars four coaches who have been head coaches in the NHL (Montgomery, Stevens, Todd Nelson and Rick Bowness) and that serves as a decent sounding board for a second-year coach like Montgomery.
Q: How do you see the 4th line shaping up for the season?
DeFranks: This is an interesting one because so much of it depends on what happens on the first three lines. Let’s assume for now that the top three lines include Benn, Seguin, Radulov, Hintz, Pavelski, Perry, Cogliano, Faksa and Comeau — in some combination. There is a chance (in some cases, a remote one) that someone like Jason Dickinson, Jason Robertson, Ty Dellandrea, Mattias Janmark or Denis Gurianov push their way into the top nine, but for now, let’s assume they’re battling on the fourth line.
I think a line of Janmark, Dickinson and Gurianov would be very good on the fourth line. The speed that all three of them bring would match up with the modern game, they each have offensive ability (although Janmark and Dickinson’s results have been middling at times) and two of them are key penalty killers. They could match up with a variety of opposing lines and be fun to watch. That’s what I’d like to see, but also realize there’s a chance Dellandrea or Robertson or someone else stands out in training camp and makes a strong case for their inclusion on the NHL roster.
Q: Do you ever see the NHL adding an expansion franchise elsewhere in Texas? (Houston perhaps?) Nashville rivalry is growing but feels like an in-state foe could take hockey in the Lone Star State to the next level.
Expansion? No. I think with Seattle’s entrance to the league that pushes the league to 32 teams, expansion may be quiet for a bit. So that means we’d have to look at relocation for Texas to get another team. Arizona has a new owner, and I’m not going to pretend to know all about the Coyotes’ situation under him, but Tilman Fertitta has expressed interest in the past about bringing the NHL to Houston. It would be fun, that’s for sure. But I don’t know the future.
Q: Call your shot — Who is on the brink of enjoying the biggest breakout season for the Stars?
DeFranks: Roope Hintz. You can argue that he had his breakout at the end of the season into the playoffs, but the overall stats still read 22 points in 58 games. I would think he ends next year in the 40s or 50s, points-wise, if he stays healthy.