CEDAR PARK, TX – The offseason is a busy time for any team as general managers and coaches work to assemble their squads for the upcoming season. For the Texas Stars, this offseason has been no different. The Stars missed the playoffs last year for just the second time in team history, and while developing young players is at the core of minor league hockey, Texas GM Scott White knows winning is also important. White, who is also the assistant GM for the Dallas Stars, opened up about the importance of mixing development and winning.
“Winning is part of it,” White said. “Winning breeds development and vice versa. It’s very important, and we’re not in Texas to lose games. We have a business to run, a business of getting our players better. That’s what our organization wants to see.”
Much like their parent club, the Dallas Stars, one of the first areas Texas wanted to address was goaltending. The Stars allowed 265 goals in 2016-17, ranking them 28th out of 30 teams in the AHL. The Stars started by adding Jim Bedard as goalie development coach, and then signed a veteran backstop they hope will help fill the void in net. Mike McKenna, who is 12th all-time in the AHL with 206 wins, and 10th all-time with 26 shutouts, signed a one-year two-way contract with the club. McKenna led the Syracuse Crunch to the Calder Cup Finals last year, and White hopes his veteran presence will stabilize the position.
“I think we’ve addressed some of the needs and issues that we’ve had,” White said. “Goaltending, I think, is a check box that I wanted to check down there and we’ve done that.”
With the addition of Bedard and McKenna, the Stars hope their experience will help aid the development of goalie prospects Landon Bow and Philippe Desrosiers. Having a solid mix of veterans and prospects is key for development, and to that end, the Stars have also added some veteran skaters to the roster for 2017-18. Brian Flynn, who played in 56 NHL games for the Montreal Canadiens in 2016-17, and Brent Regner are now in the fold, and Greg Rallo is returning to Texas after a year in Germany. White believes these additions will help the young players and strengthen the team as a whole.
“Those older guys have been through it usually,” White said. “They get it. They’re at a point in their career where they know they need to help the young guys, and that’s how their bread is buttered too. They get it. I think the guys we have down there are good character players that can come up here and fill in and, more importantly, help our young players get better.”
Another change that has happened is one you may not usually think of, terminology. Dallas fired head coach Lindy Ruff and hired Ken Hitchcock, and when the parent club changes bench bosses, the move filters down. Hitchcock wants any young players coming up to be familiar with his terminology, and so Texas head coach Derek Laxdal and assistant coach Karl Taylor will implement a system with language that closely mirrors Hitchcock’s.
“In talking with Derek Laxdal and Karl Taylor, the biggest difference is terminology,” White said. “They’ll have a few tweaks to the system, but Ken Hitchcock wants the terminology the same when the guys come up and down so it will be a seamless transition.”
Now with training camp just over a month away, the Stars look to September and the chance to get on the ice and put the plan into practice. Fans in Austin will have the opportunity to see how the Texas players perform with NHL players when the Dallas Stars hold their training camp at the H-E-B Center in Austin September 14-18.
The Texas Stars hit the ice for two preseason games with in-state rival San Antonio Rampage, Friday, September 29 at San Antonio and the next night, Saturday, September 30 at the H-E-B Center. The Stars open the regular season at home October 6 against the Chicago Wolves.
Keep up with the Stars all season by following @SinBinStars on Twitter.