STARS GUEST MAILBAG: Ryan chats lineups, expectations, and his first mailbag

Editor’s note: I’m on vacation for a couple weeks, but I’ve asked Ryan Satkowiak, my podcast co-host and lifelong Stars fan, to fill in on the mailbag this week. I’ll be back with the traditional mailbag on Aug. 25, but Ryan did a real nice job filling in this week.

I’ve been bugging Sean about letting me do a mailbag since at least February, and (seven months after the fact) here we are!!!!

On the real though, one of my favorite things about journalism that I dearly miss is the platform it gives you to interact with people that you’ve never met before. Positive, negative, whatever it may be. It’s awesome, and honestly humbling, to have people you don’t know talking to you about sports. Doing this podcast with Sean has been a great way for me to kind of maintain that sort of connection to my old life, and has honestly been one of the main reasons I haven’t gone off the deep ends starting grad school this summer. To all those who have listened to the podcast, or reached out, my sincerest thanks will never be enough to properly convey my gratitude. It’s been so much fun to watch this grow with all of you.

But that’s not why we’re here today, I’m here to answer your questions! I’m sure you’re all aware that I’m not even remotely plugged in the way Sean is with the team, and I’m glad no one asked me any sort of questions that assumed I was (that would’ve been awkward). But I have been a fan of this team for as long as I can remember, so hopefully my inexperience in one area will be made up for experience in another area, as a way to sort of provide a different perspective than the one Sean provides.

I swear…. I didn’t….. kill Sean….. and steal his website…… Identity theft is wrong and murder is also wrong and I don’t condone either action.

But for real though, check out Sean’s Instagram to see all the cool stuff he’s been doing the last couple days in the UK. I didn’t even know that’s where he was going until I saw the first picture. And I may or may not have asked him to provide proof of life pictures so that no one gets suspicious.

If you look through past mailbags, I’m sure Sean and I are just about on the same page on this one, with maybe a minor tweak here or there. This is what I have penciled in:



With McKenzie, Cracknell and Pateryn being the extras.

A couple of areas I think can changes: I’m not sure that anyone really knows yet what the deal is going to be at center. Hanzal isn’t going to the wing, and I’m not totally convinced yet that Spezza is earmarked for that either. If they want to keep Spezza at center, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him centering Janmark and Ritchie or Dickinson, then Hanzal between Roussel and Shore. There’s a lot of moving parts that we won’t really get answers to until camp. I, personally, like Spezza at wing due to his age and his proclivity to not really give a care on defense. But this isn’t like a videogame where you can just plug and chug and roll with it; the fit has to make sense.

On defense, I’m assuming that Oleksiak gets dealt and Nemeth gets sent down and not claimed. That could change, obviously. Another change: if Dickinson isn’t clearly one of the best 12 forwards, he’s going to the AHL, not the press box. I think (hope) Nill has learned his lesson that keeping young guys in the press box doesn’t help their growth. But I do think that, coming into camp healthy, Dickinson is going to impress a lot of people.

I’m going to avoid the obvious answer of “Radulov.” I’m excited to see a healthy Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. When Erik Karlsson suffered the same type of Achilles injury that Seguin did, it took him about a full year to regain that same level of explosiveness. Same thing with Benn (obviously with a different injury). You could tell that something wasn’t quite right with him last year.

Kind of along the same vein, I’m excited to see what Seguin can do when he’s solely playing in the middle, and isn’t being yanked between wing at center. That kind of continuity certainly can’t hurt.

Most offensive odor is 100 percent an embalmed body. What’s even more offensive is how used you get to the smell. I’d have anatomy lab for two hours on Friday, then drive three hours back to Bowling Green, and my girlfriend would not hug me because “you smell like formaldehyde.” I would sit in a car for three hours and half no idea. However, since the vast majority of the people reading this will not ever experience that, I have a story about terrible odors on a hockey bench:

My sophomore year at Bowling Green, it was the spring session of the rec hockey league. Sean was on this team, but he was playing goalie so he didn’t see this go down. For whatever reason, my roommate ate a huge pasta dinner before the game. No clue why. But after a shift, he back to the bench and yacked up mostly unchewed pasta behind the bench. One of the other guys came back, saw it and said, “oh spaghetti, my favorite!” And I lost it. Then I smelt it and it wasn’t funny anymore. Sorry Brian, I hope you’re reading this.

As for part two of the question, you’re asking the one guy who would do that instead. I think Dan Hamhuis has a relatively high trade value (compared to the Nemeths and Pateryns of the world), and Jamie Oleksiak has been generally mismanaged during his time up in Dallas, and his inability to break out has as much to do with that as it does with him. Obviously he bears responsibility here (if he were good enough to consistently crack the lineup, he would have). But I see him as a guy like Joel Edmundson, who quietly had a really strong year for St. Louis. I think that Ken Hitchcock and his system could have a similar impact on Oleksiak.

That being said, there’s no guarantee that slotting Oleksiak into the every night lineup would pan out, and for a team with playoff aspirations, you put your money behind the safe bet. Dallas tried to hedge on the young guys last year and it failed pretty spectacularly. I hate the thought of selling Oleksiak for 25 cents on the dollar, because I think that he can be a very good bottom 4 guy in the NHL, I just don’t think he gets that opportunity in Dallas.

I absolutely hate the adductor muscles (for lay-people, those are what you’d associate as your groin muscles). It’s already a big enough pain in the ass having to learn muscle attachments, innervation, blood supply and action, it gets even worse when those muscles do different actions at different angles of leg flexion and extension. To actually answer the question, I’d assume it could only help? But I’ll get back to you after we take tissue mechanics in the fall.

Realistically, I’d say top three in the Central with at least a playoff series win. As a ceiling, I have no problem saying the Stars are Stanley Cup contenders. I also have no problem saying I could see the Stars missing the playoffs again. I know it’s kind of a cop-out answer. But until I see what Ben Bishop looks like, and how the team reacts to Ken Hitchcock and his system, I don’t feel comfortable in defining a narrow range of outcomes for this team. A lot went wrong last year, that even by simply not being catastrophically bad on the PK, and getting crushed by injuries again, the Stars should turn into at least a playoff team. But this team has, in the last two years, drastically exceeded and drastically failed to meet expectations, so who really knows anymore?

Side note: for as daunting as the Central was a couple years ago, who can you say is legitimately better than Dallas? Nashville probably, just because of their depth at win and those defensemen, but Pekka Rinne, at least for me, remains a huge question mark, and behind Ryan Johansen, their center depth is yucky. Chicago? Perhaps based on history, but that’s a train that’s already starting to come off the tracks. St. Louis? You could make a case, but I feel that case hinges on how you feel about Jake Allen. Minnesota? If Devan Dubnyk continues to be out-of-his-mind good, they’re probably the best team in the division. But they were also 20th in the league in corsi, and second in the league in shooting percent (10.41 percent) and PDO (shooting percent plus save percent, 102.1). If there’s any sort of regression there — and average PDO is generally around 100, so there might be — then you could make a case that they, in fact, aren’t best in the Central. Point is, the division is more than up for grabs depending on breaks teams get and whatnot. Speaking of Ben Bishop….

This is a tough one to answer, because we’re talking about a guy who turns 31 in November who has only three times surpassed 60 games in his career. Some of that was because, yeah, he was more of a late bloomer. But there is some past injury issue there, which was kind of seen this year. Assuming he stays healthy, I’m guessing he’s gonna be penciled in for 55-60 starts, depending on how well Kari Lehtonen/whoever else is playing behind him. Let’s say he gets to 60 starts, my guess is he’d need somewhere between 35-38 wins for the Stars to be a non-wildcard playoff team. This assumes you get a 10-10 or better record in games the backup starts, which isn’t unreasonable if the team in front of these two is better (remember, Lehtonen and Antti Niemi each had 25 wins a couple years ago). So that puts you between 45-50 wins, which depending on OT losses, will get you around 95 points, at worst.

So I’ll set the over/under at wins for Bishop at 37 and we can work from there.

I was gonna say Sergei Zubov, hands down. But I’d nominate the entire Cup winning team of ’99. There were some badass names on that team. Langenbrunner, Matvichuk, Lukowich, Skrudland, Benoit Hogue, Brent Severyn, Roman Turek. I miss late ‘90s and early 2000s Stars teams.

Another side note, I loved Jon Sim when I was a kid. I have no idea why. But he was probably my favorite player that no one really had any business liking. Whenever I’d play NHL Faceoff 2000 for PS1, I’d do two things: trade for Rob Blake, and put Jon Sim on my top line with Mike Modano. It makes no sense to me looking back on it.

So I actually stopped studying to work on this mailbag almost solely because of this question, because it combines my two favorite things in the world: prospects and indiscriminately skipping large chunks of time. I like this one a lot, because with only one goalie, three defensemen and eight forwards currently on the NHL roster under contract for 2018-19, there’s a lot of ways this can go. We’ll break this down line-by-line


Assuming this trio finds chemistry this season, there’s no reason to doubt that they aren’t playing together for a long time (assuming…gulp…Seguin signs an extension after 18-19). The other two are both under contract until 2022, so hopefully they like each other.


We have some fresh blood here! All reports seem to indicate that Val Nichushkin intends on returning to Dallas after his KHL deal expires after this season. If he grows off is performance from last year, he’ll come back to Dallas as one of the five best forwards on the team. On the other wing, I love what Denis Gurianov brings to the table. He’s a strong two-way player, and I feel playing with a guy like Martin Hanzal will help foster that, but he also has high-end skill. This is a big year for him. If he continues to improve like we saw in the second half of last season, I think he’ll be set up nicely to have a big part on the 2018-19 Stars roster.


Spezza slides further down in the lineup in the last year of his deal, as he heads firmly onto the last couple of holes for his career. He’s had success with Janmark in the past, and if Janmark is able to return to full health this year and they find similar chemistry, keeping them together would be an attractive option.


All three of these guys I have making the team this year. Both Shore and Dickinson are RFAs following 17-18, but assuming they don’t absolutely fall off the table, I think it’s a no-brainer both are back.

Extras: McKenzie, Pitlick

You’ll notice a couple of guys are gone. I think Antoine Roussel ends up seeking a raise that is too rich for the Stars’ taste, particularly with the depth they have on the left side. He’s a good player and fan favorite, no doubt, but unless he finds a different offensive gear this season, it’s not smart asset management to sink $3.5-4 mil annually for a guy who turns 29 during that season who hasn’t cracked 30 points in his career, especially when you have guys on entry-level deals who could slide into that role. As for Adam Cracknell, I think he just falls victim to the numbers game.

As for defense I think we can have a little more fun:


I wouldn’t be surprised to see Esa Lindell back on the top pairing with Klingberg by this point, especially if Methot and Klingberg don’t mesh this season. But my bet is that they will.


This pairing will be fun to watch. Lindell reminds me a lot of a guy like Mattias Ekholm in Nashville: steady, who can jump into the rush if needed. Honka, I wouldn’t be surprised if by 18-19, he’s playing the most minutes per night on this team


Extra: Dylan Heatherington

With Dan Hamhuis’s contract expiring, a spot opens up in camp, and Gavin Bayreuther’s full season of AHL experience gives him the edge over Miro Heiskanen, who gets a season of top-line minutes in the AHL, while Bayreuther provides a nice foil for the hard-hitting Stephen Johns on the third pair, and a lethal power play specialist. Greg Pateryn isn’t brought back, and I believe after signing an RFA deal after this season, Heatherington will no longer be waiver eligible (but I could be and probably am wrong), so he slots in as the seventh guy.

Finally, in goal:

Who knows?

Unless he takes less than a million a year, I doubt Lehtonen comes back after his contract expires. Unless Landon Bow or Phillippe Desrosiers unequivocally distinguishes himself this season, I’m betting Jim Nill looks to free agency for a backup next season.

I think that Riley Tufte had a nice camp to kind give himself a leg up for World Juniors in the winter, while Jake Oettinger was as expected. I talked about him a couple weeks ago being a sleeper guy in the system, but Fredrik Karlstrom leading the Swedish team with six points. He had a really strong year playing in Sweden’s men’s league, and I’m intrigued to see what kind of steps forward he is able to take this year.

The answer to this question depends on your streaming service, I suppose. I’m not sure what’s on Netflix these days, but Fringe (featuring a grown-up Charlie Conway from Mighty Ducks as one of the main characters) is probably my favorite show of all-time. It’s like Lost, while simultaneously being more unbelievable, but not as ridiculous, at the same time. But currently, if anyone asks me what TV show to watch, my automatic default is to point them to Letterkenny ( It’s kind of like Trailer Park Boys meets hockey dude bros, and I promise you will not regret watching it.

Jiff is peanut butter. GIF stands for graphics interchange format. Unless you’re a monster, it’s hard-g sound GIF.

I really think the only real answer to this question is if the Stars have a defensive pairing that is clearly not working, yet the coaching staff continues to try to force that pair (like we saw at times last year with Klingberg-Lindell). If we’re operating under the assumption that they’re gonna run three rightys with three leftys, and go Klingberg, Honka, Johns, Methot, Hamhuis and Lindell, I could see any of these guys interchangeably being paired with each other and it not really make any difference.

But let’s a Hamhuis-Honka pairing isn’t working out, what becomes the solution then? Does someone get scratched, do you shuffle the pairs? What if the other two pairs are playing well? Do you rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak? I like this question a ton, because I think this could end up being a real concern for Stars fans this year.

The other answer to this question, that I don’t even want to consider, is if Nill decides to keep eight defensemen on this roster. Then everything is terrible and we’re all dead. So let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

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