This week I get to sit down with Robert Tiffin, an editor and contributor for DefendingBigD.com (DBD), a blog for the Dallas Stars. We discuss the Stars’ offseason, the Blues offseason, and Tiffin tries to troll half of the central division… enjoy!
Let’s start with a simple little bio about yourself, and how you started writing/editing DBD and what DBD is.
DefendingBigD is a Dallas Stars fan site, started back in 2009, by Brandon Worley. We cover everything Dallas Stars, including the fan experience, prospects, their AHL affiliate in Cedar Park, and all sorts of other things. I applied to write for DBD back in 2014, and started out as a daily links writer.
They haven’t kicked me out yet. As a Stars fan since the late 1990s, it’s been cool (and tough) to cover the team for the past 4+ seasons, but DBD has been especially great in how it connects fans to each other, and the team. I’ve met more cool people through the site than I ever could have imagined.
Dallas has really cultivated a great offense. Why hasn’t that translated into a bunch of playoff success, or even playoff appearances?
Well, Dallas had a great offense a couple of years ago, but things have changed in the last couple years. They were actually a much stronger defensive team last year than they were a scoring threat, by most measures. (Imagine a Ken Hitchcock team doing that, wow.)
Since Tyler Seguin came to Dallas in 2013, as part of Jim Nill‘s first big move as the Stars’ GM, the Stars had two outstanding offensive seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16), but some untimely injuries (Seguin in 2015-16) and bad goaltending (Kari Lehtonen and the dismal pool of backups, including Jussi Rynnas and Anders Lindback in 2014-15). [Those factors] have really submarined their efforts at the worst possible times.
They are now on their third coach in three years, and while the prospect pool is looking as good as it’s been in maybe a decade, they still don’t quite have the lineup depth to really be a serious threat to Winnipeg or Nashville atop the Central. They had a great run at the top of the West two years ago, but the team’s inability to coalesce on all fronts has really put them squarely in their own way at times. I’m sure St. Louis can sympathize with that.
What moves have the Stars done this offseason that have you guys talking over at DBD? What is your level of optimism for this year?
The biggest move has undoubtedly been the hire of Jim Montgomery as head coach. After enduring a plodding and listless offense and an eight-game losing streak at the end of last season that sunk their playoff hopes, Ken Hitchcock retired (again) and the Stars looked to reinvigorate their team with a more dynamic coach, as Jamie Benn prepares to hit 30 next summer. Ben Bishop and Jason Spezza aren’t getting any younger, and Tyler Seguin (as of this writing) has not re-signed with Dallas, who absolutely have no one to replace him at the top center position should he depart next summer.
Outside of the coaching change, elite prospect Miro Heiskanen looks ready to make his NHL debut, Valeri Nichushkin is coming back from the KHL, and Roman Polák is going to definitely be standing on the ice in front of the net on occasion. Blake Comeau and Anton Khudobin were grabbed in free agency, so unless the other Erik Karlsson shoe finally drops in Dallas, it might be with rather cautious enthusiasm that Stars fans enter this October.
So, the optimism level is somewhere between “how will they screw it up this time” and “Someone else! Someone else!”
The Blues have been pretty active this offseason how has it looked from your perspective?
It looks like the Blues have done just enough to keep being marginally interesting while Jake Allen continues to get increasingly paranoid about what insane thing he’ll get blamed for this year. When the housing bubble bursts again, will a soft Allen goal be to blame? It’s not not possible that he will. Also, probably Tyler Bozak will exist, so that’s something, I guess.
What is your way too early look at how this division plays out?
You have Nashville and Winnipeg at the top and everyone else after them. I don’t see Colorado making the dance again, but honestly, who knows? The Wild probably don’t get 40 (FORTY?!) goals from Erik Staal again, Chicago probably isn’t quite dead yet, and St. Louis always tends to hang around, then trade some pending UFA right before the playoffs just because we all know there’s no point hoping anymore. Let’s say, something like:
- St. Louis
- an old spare tire that needs air
The Stars and Blues have a pretty good rivalry going: it stems back from the North Stars days. Both teams had their fair share of successes over the other. How would you describe this rivalry from your perspective?
From my perspective, most fans don’t care too much about the North Stars/Blues rivalry anymore. The NHL has changed divisional and playoff formats far too much in the last couple decades to get many solid rivalries going, but the seven-game series in 2016 certainly helped. Jamie Benn definitely doesn’t like David Backes, so maybe if no one told him Backes is in Boston now, he’ll continue to get angry at the Blues, and fans will follow suit. Also, Joel Edmundson seems overpaid to me, but that wasn’t the question, sorry.
HockeyReference.com has Kari Lehtonen as your guys’ 5th best player of all time. What is the cringe level of that? They have him higher than Hatcher… I hated Hatcher.
I don’t know what they’re basing that on, but Lehtonen did spend nearly a decade in Dallas. He put up some really good seasons with bad teams in front of him before a concussion at the hands of Erik Haula right before the 2014 playoffs. I’d probably put Lehtonen somewhere around 10th on my personal Stars Mt. Rushmore, but if you’re talking in terms of WAR or its equivalent, Kari has got to be way up there. He lost his fastball the last few years, but he was a good-to-great #1 goalie for this team when it had little else. Fans should always appreciate him for that.