Texas Stars Mailbag: Fighting in hockey and questions about the Texas blue line

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Texas Stars mailbag.

If you have questions about the team, a certain player, or anything else that comes to mind send them my way. I’ll be fielding questions via Twitter, the Wrong Side of the Red Line Facebook page, and via email at sean.c.shapiro@gmail.com.

Let’s see what we’ve got for this week:

On Sunday I was on panel at South By Southwest called Punch Drunk: Hockey Fighting at a Crossroads with Yahoo Sports Greg Wyshynski, HockeyFights.com’s David Singer, and former NHL enforcer Brad May.

The panel was pretty heavily pro-fighting, and I stand by that view. I believe it’s part of the game, not a necessity, but something that doesn’t need to be legislated out like it has.

If you’re interested, you can listen to the full audio of the panel here:

The panelists also sat down and recorded a podcast with All the King’s Men for the blog The Royal Half. You can check that out here, including my joke about the use of Flonase in the Olympics.

In the interest of Dallas Stars fans, I have to share the following story about this fight between May and Krys Barch from March 19, 2008.

This was the fourth fight of the year between May and Barch, and before that final bout the duo talked about being the top-ranked rivalry on HockeyFights.com.

During the fight May started to tire, but Barch yells at the Anaheim Ducks enforcer, “Come on Mayday! We want to be number one!”

The fight then continues for another 30 seconds and the players had a similar conversation in the penalty box. May looks over to the Dallas penalty box, Barch is raising his arms, in triumph, and is yelling over to May, “Mayday, we did it! We’re number one! We’re number one!”

Enough about fisticuffs, onto other topics…

Ok, Let’s start the Texas Stars topics with this one.

Esa Lindell joined Texas on Thursday and is expected to play five games with the AHL club before joining Finland’s 2015 World Championship camp.

While he’s in a Texas uniform, I would expect defensive pairings to turn into a revolving door in an effort to share playing time. I would also expect Texas to frequently dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards, like it did Thursday against the Chicago Wolves.

On Thursday, the defensive pairings were pretty fluid. Julius Honka was typically paired with Derek Meech, but the other three pairings typically changed based on time and situation.

Now, let’s move onto Devin Shore.

He had his first professional point Tuesday and he’s impressed both myself and the Stars’ brass.

He plays a simple game right now, but you can see flashes of brilliance that made him a second-round pick in 2012.

He’s also been very good on face-offs and hasn’t been a defensive liability.

As I said before, Texas will probably utilize seven defenseman whenever possible and Derek Laxdal seems comfortable with dressing 11 forwards.

For the next four games, Esa Lindell will be a mainstay in the lineup. Once he heads back to Europe for the World Championships Laxdal will have a difficult decision to make.

Maxime Fortunus, Derek Meech, Cameron Gaunce, Jamie Oleksiak, Julius Honka, and Ludwig Bystrom make a formidable defensive corps. Ideally, that’s the group Texas would like to roll with late in the season for both wins and prospect development.

You also have Matt Mangene and Scott Valentine on the roster, and both have been key cogs for Texas this season.

Eventually Patrik Nemeth will join Texas for the playoffs (if the Texas makes it, of course), creating an even more crowded blue line.

Ok, let’s keep rolling with the defensemen questions…

If needed, I believe Julius Honka could play in an NHL game tomorrow. It wouldn’t be the most successful event, but if Dallas was pressed due to injury the 19-year-old could hold his own if he had sheltered minutes.

Realistically, Honka is probably a season away from NHL consideration. He’s an exciting player in the offensive zone, but he’s also been prone to rookie mistakes — that’s expected with a 19-year-old.

With a full year under his belt, I think Honka could be poised for a breakout 2015-16 AHL season. That could build to an NHL roster spot during the 2016-17 season.

Let’s stay on the blue line…

We could spend hours breaking down potential free agents, so I’ll just focus on Cameron Gaunce.

Gaunce is a restricted free agent this off-season, so it would be easy to sign him. However, it might be in the best interest of both Gaunce and Dallas for the 25-year-old to sign elsewhere.

I don’t think Gaunce has an NHL future with Dallas. There are too many young defensemen in the organization, and Dallas will expect more playing time for Ludwig Bystrom and Esa Lindell as they make their full-time transition to North America next season.

Yes, and it’s going to help the Idaho Steelheads in their quest for a Kelly Cup Championship in the ECHL.

Jesse Root is likely on the way out. He’s a solid player, but his playing time has dwindled and he could be headed to Idaho soon. Texas could also potentially send Taylor Peters back to Idaho once Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie return for the AHL playoffs.

On defense Scott Valentine could eventually be headed back to Idaho, depending on how healthy Texas stays on defense.

Now let’s look ahead to the playoffs…

Oklahoma City. Plus those two teams have to meet in the playoffs one last time, right?

Stars are 5-3-4 against the Barons, and those overtime losses won’t be an impact in the playoffs. Oklahoma City is built for 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 overtime, which isn’t used in the postseason.

Texas will be better built for 5-on-5 overtime. Look at what the team did in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.

“Repeat” is a dangerous word for a team that’s still fighting to even be in the playoffs.

But I will say this. If Texas reaches the postseason, gets back Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie, and Patrik Nemeth, they instantly became a very dangerous contender advance deep in the Western Conference Playoffs.

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