Recently Mike Heika got a chance to check out some pre training camp workouts that the Dallas Stars have been doing as the team leaves for Prince Edward Island this weekend. He will look to get this team back into the post season with Modano & Turco plus Lehtinen future's uncertain, it will be up to the young guys like Eriksson, Benn & Neal to take the next step to take leadership roles this year.
He also did a Q&A with Jonathan Cheecho as well as he got an invite to training camp to possibly challenge Fabian Brunnstrom for a roster spot.
Here's Mike Heika's Q&A with Dallas Stars Head Coach Mark Crawford.
Heika: So How will this team be different this year? How will it improve?
Crawford: "I think experience will be a huge help. Our players are a year older, and they've been in this system for a year, and I do think that makes a difference. And while it maybe tough to lose some key players, I think we can look at that in a positive way. We have lost players who had a very large presence in the locker room, and now other players have to step up and fill that presence. I think we have a lot of room for growth. I think there is a freshness to our room right now. It's easy to get bogged down with negativity, but were not going to do that. We're looking at solutions and looking at positives, and were excited about the opportunity to prove were a good team. "That's all you can ask for."
Heika: How does starting training camp for three days (beginning September 18) in Prince Edward Island help that?
Crawford: "It will be fast and furious, but I also think its a great way to start the season. They do such a great job with the captain's practices and scrimmages here in Frisco, and the players are almost all here early, so that's really not a feeling that anything is different when we start camp here. But to go up there, and go into hockey country, so to speak, there is going to be real emotional boost and a real feeling that the camp has started and it's time to get serious.
Heika: What are your impressions of Kari Lehtonen so far. Do you think he's ready for a full season as a #1 Goalie?
Crawford: "He's been here so much and he's worked so hard over the summer that we do feel he's in great shape and he's ready to play. I think when you even look back at the end of last season, we were seeing a very good goalie down the stretch, and he was still just getting started. Now after a summer with J.J. (Mcqueen) and Mike Valley, I think you see a very skilled individual. He's very focused and very excited about playing here and getting the season started. I definitely think we all see that in him. He's not what you call a real emotional guy, but you see a real bounce in his step and a purpose in his preparation."
Heika: Do you have a window of how many games you would like to see him play, somewhere between 55 and 60.
Crawford: "We're not going to put that on him, because he's been through a lot of adjustments and simply want to be able to read him today. I like to look at it this way, Marty Turco played way to many games before last season and we were trying to manage him down from those games to a play where it would be better for him and better for us as a team. This year, we are trying to manage Kari up into the same area. He's our #1 Goalie, and we want to find a place where he's most comfortable, but you don't really want to put in a number one goalie on that. I will say that I have talked to him, and we have decided he will play three full games in the preseason, and that's the best way to attack the preseason. We want to get him in the game and get him used to a routine."
Heika: Defensively, you had some problems last year. How do you plan to fix those problems?
Crawford: "I think attention to detail is a big thing. I think goaltending can be a big thing. I think improving the penalty kill is a big thing. These are all things we've talked about with the coaching staff this summer. We have spent a lot of time on penalty killing. We felt that maybe we were a bit too passive at times, and we're going to make adjustments to improve our ability to play a little more aggressively when we see pressure points. I don't think you can always attack, but I do think need to recognize pressure points and force the other team to make decision. I think we will see players like Nicklas Grossman, Mark Fistric & Matt Niskanen understand their jobs better and make better decisions. We'll definitely help them with attention to detail, but I think the simple fact that they're a year older will help them a lot. And, as for goaltending, I think we will have competition throughout the org. that will really push the goaltenders to be better. I think we'll see Brent Krahn and Andrew Raycroft push each other and we'll see Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany push each other. And that will help push Kari."
Heika: How do you see a player like Jonathan Cheechoo, who is in camp on a tryout? On one hand, he's been a top level goal scorer in the league. On the other hand, two teams have not been happy with him in the past two seasons and have let him go.
Crawford: "Well, I think if you want to get the most out of him, you have to give him a chance to be a goal-scorer. We're going to try him out with Mike Ribeiro and Brendan Morrow, and allow him the chance to play on a scoring line and play on the power play. He's a right handed shot, and Ribs like a right handed shot, and we just feel his skills fit there. It's a short camp and we're not going to play every line in every preseason game, so we'll have to asses things pretty fast."
Heika: Does that mean you would look at Jamie Benn as a center instead of a possible right wing on the Riberio line?
"Well, he's definitely an option up there (on the Riberio line), but I think we'll start him as a center just to see how things look. We'll probably play him with Steve Ott and then put Tom Wandell with Adam Burish and see how that looks. But our plan right now is for the first 10 days of camp, and then we'll adjust. Nothing is written in stone, so we'll take a look at how some things and then we'll adjust where we are."
Heika: Do you have a plan for how your defense pairs might look?
Crawford: "Yeah, but again, it's just how we'll start out. We like Grossman and Robi, we thought Nisky played with Skrastins last year, and we like Fistric with Daley. Past that, we'll probably run Woywitka with Blindenbacher, Fortunas with Lukowich and Ludwig with Larsen."
Heika: Do you feel there are open jobs there and that there could be a real surprise?
Crawford: "Definitely. Every Year, there seems to be some surprise, so you have to put the players in competitive situations and just let things happen. I know in talking to players who have been around that they're excited and that more plan to be on the team then we have room for, so that's going to start the competition right there."
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