STARS MAILBAG: Stars on the diamond? Can Heiskanen make the team?

Sometime within the next week Adrian Beltre will become the 31st player in MLB history with 3,000 hits.

It’s a milestone that often punches a one-way ticket to the Hall of Fame. Of the other 30 players with 3,000 hits, 25 are enshrined in Cooperstown, two are locks for the Hall of Fame when eligible, while the other three are blackballed for steroids or gambling.

Covering the Rangers this past week (and watching one of the most bizarre games I’ve ever seen on Wednesday) got me thinking. What is hockey’s equivalent of 3,000 hits?

What statistical number should make a player a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame without looking at any other credentials?

How about 1,300 points? Jarome Iginla became the 34th player to reach 1,300 points this past season. Of the 33 players ahead of him on the list 30 are in the Hall of Fame, while Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr are both still active players. Pierre Turgeon is the one outlier in the 1,300-point club who isn’t in the Hall of Fame despite scoring 1,327 points in 1,294 career games.

Let’s get started…

The Stars would actually have the makings of a fairly decent team.

Jamie Benn is considered the second-best left-handed hitter ever from Victoria (after Toronto Blue Jays’ Michael Saunders) and believes he could have pursued a career in baseball if hockey didn’t work out.

The Stars also acquired a big bat this summer when they traded and signed Ben Bishop. Bishop showed off some of that natural power when he took batting practice with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Stars also have a trio of Finns on the roster, which is a good thing for this exercise. Baseball might not be popular in Finland, but Pesäpallo is considered one of the national sports. Pesäpallo is similar to baseball in that it includes a bat and a ball. The ball is pitched vertically and the rules are slightly different.

Check it out:

So, let’s set the Stars lineup for opening day:

1. Jamie Benn, P
2. Devin Shore, 2B
3. Ben Bishop, 3B
4. Stephen Johns, RF
5. Tyler Seguin, LF
6. Julius Honka, SS
7. Kari Lehtonen, C
8. Esa Lindell, 1B
9. Adam Cracknell, CF

Ideally the top-six defenders in camp will be the top-six defenders on NHL opening night.

However, we know that’s not how these things work in reality. Contracts and other factors come into play.

So with that in mind, I don’t see how Miro Heiskanen makes the team out of training camp even if he’s one of the top-six defenders, it’s just an unfortunate reality.

If Heiskanen makes the team I think the Stars would try and move Dan Hamhuis via trade, however I don’t expect that to happen.

And Esa Lindell is part of the long-term plan. Ken Hitchock is a big fan of Lindell, so is Jim Nill.

Of the four younger defensemen expected to play on opening night (Lindell, Klingberg, Honka, Johns) Stephen Johns could ultimately be the one not part of the long-term plan, which we will discuss in a moment…

Stephen Johns could be a very good NHL player.

He has good size and uses it, skate well, and he can move the puck. Johns also has a nice shot, which is sometimes forgotten within his game.

There are two things stopping Johns from becoming a very good NHL player: hockey sense and confidence.

You can tell when Johns isn’t confident in his game. He looks like a shell of himself and his tools are diminished. He has to have the confidence that he’ll be able to play through mistakes and that he’s not going to be benched for a minor miss-step or penalty.

Hockey sense is a bit trickier. Players do grow with the game and learn from coaches in their careers, so there is a chance Johns will improve this season under a better defensive coach. But there is also a natural element — some player are just smarter and “get” the game better than others.

So that creates the biggest question (or issue) with Johns. Is his hockey IQ high enough for him to succeed? I’d like to think it will reach an adequate level under the new coaching staff, but we will have to wait and see.

He’ll be welcomed back. If the Stars were going to bring him back just to trade him or move him they would have made a move with Valeri Nichushkin around the expansion draft.

Remi Elie’s future is in the NHL, not the KHL.

Ideally all seven players you mentioned will be part of the long-term plan in Dallas.

Jason Dickinson would have been an NHL player last season if he wasn’t coming off of hip surgery. He would have battled with Devin Shore in training camp and he may have won a full-time job.

When Dickinson came up last year he was still feeling the effects of the surgery. By the time he was truly back to 100 percent the Stars were out of the playoffs and it seemed like Dallas was fielding an AHL roster (which they basically did in the season finale).

Dickinson is one of the Stars best prospects. He’s a good two-way forward, and he’s one of the best penalty killers in the system. He should be the first call-up this year from the AHL, and would be on the NHL roster if the Stars didn’t add so many players in free agency.

If the Stars have a major turnaround, Jamie Benn could be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Julius Honka could be in the conversation for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year this season.

Probably won’t happen this season, but Radek Faksa could turn into a Selke Candidate as one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards under Ken Hitchcock.

I can see that situation, but it would make the team worse.

Ben Bishop. Having the goaltending situation settled can have a calming impact on a team.

Bishop will be a real asset as a puck handler in 3-on-3. That’s an underrated part of 3-on-3, having a goalie that can help control possession and allow for more controlled line changes during sudden death.

Adrian Beltre is one of the most under-appreciated players of all time, with both his play on the field and his antics. He’s arguably the best third basemen of all time and he’s closing in on 3,000 hits.

With that in mind let’s go with Joe Thornton. He’s one of the best passers in NHL history and somehow he was left off the NHL’s list of it’s top-100 players.

I’ve seen much worse offenses in hockey games. Can you imagine what would happen if NHL referees had the ability to eject a coach or player for a negative comment or look?

You’ll have answer to this much sooner than later.

The QMJHL in general has struggled lately at the draft. This year there were only 14 players drafted from the QMJHL.

Denis Gurianov has a very high ceiling and he can be a star in the NHL. However, I don’t know if he’ll ever be in the conversation for best player in the world (like Jamie Benn was closer to the 2014 Olympics) or if that’s a fair expectation.

Something that brings this type of response from the players.

“It’s stylish,” Stars goaltender Marty Turco said. “It has a great western feel to it, and I think when accompanied with the whole uniform and player it will look really good.

“It is one of a kind. I think this jersey will be a trend-setter.”

Oh wait.

I didn’t know he had a Spotify list until this question, in fact I didn’t even have a Spotify account.

At a quick glance, it’s great to see Brass Bonanza on the list. However, there is a severe lack of Bruce Springsteen.

I’m probably not the best judge of a music library, but Michael “Grubes” Gruber does a great job with the in-arena music.

To get into those marquee games you have to move the needle. So the Stars have to be successful, they have to be exciting, and they have to turn into a team that non Stars fans want to watch on a frequent basis.

Once they’ve done that a marquee outdoor game (which I think would just be at AT&T Stadium with the windows open) could be a possibility.

Jamie Oleksiak needs to be signed to attend training camp.

The details just haven’t been hammered out yet, I wouldn’t be overly worried about it.

Since it has to be players on AHL-only contracts, the only real option is Travis Morin from the Texas Stars.

My GM rankings at this moment:
1. David Poile
2. Jim Rutherford
3. Ron Francis
4. Stan Bowman
5. Jim Nill

I will let others debate the top-five Swedes and Finns, let me know what you think in comments.

1. Hartford Whalers
2. Quebec Nordiques
3. Edmonton Oilers
4. Kansas City Scouts
5. Winnipeg Jets (not current rendition, old one)

This is not scientific in anyway.

All practice jerseys would be better if they had numbers on the back. Would make life a lot easier when covering morning skates for visiting teams and trying to identify all the players.

The Stars, a playoff run is better for my overall work. Rangers making or missing the playoffs doesn’t really impact my bottom line.

Maybe a depth scorer having a surprising season? Depends on how things pan out.

My gut says Quebec City, but that’s just a gut feeling.

Ken Hitchcock was David Backes coach, that should tell you everything you need to know about captains and fighting.

I have a feeling it will be a relatively open competition for gold. The Americans and Canadians both have talented players overseas, while the Finns, Swedes, and Russians should be able to draw from a strong talent base in their home countries.

If you are handicapping the Olympics, I think Russia would have to have the best odds for gold.

Unfortunately not.

Ear.

August is rather slow. A handful of players will skate in Frisco, typically those with families who move back before the school year. But in a formal capacity nothing happens until September.

I tend to go on vacation in August each year, so it’s not all bad.

Replacing a goalie with an actual brick wall seems like the easiest answer.

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