Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Five Biggest Turkeys in Dallas Stars History
For best results, read this article while chewing on a cold McDonald's burger, crying silently and alone.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we counted down the most average players in Stars history. This week, as part of our ongoing boycott of producing any more lockout coverage, we once again open up the dusty tomes of yesteryear to bring you the Five Biggest Turkeys in Dallas Stars History.
These five walking headslaps-to-the-forehead are not necessarily the worst-ever Dallas Stars, but they are all the bad kind of infamous in their own singularly unrepeatable way.
#5: Jason Arnott
The Sizzle: When Arnott came over to the Stars in undoubtedly the worst trade in Stars history, he was a bona-fide studmuffin: 27, huge, fast and skilled. He was an up-and-coming center that had anchored the NHL's most lethal line in New Jersey, and seemed like the perfect second-line yin to Modano's yang: a physical presence in front of the net that would take the pressure off Modano and allow him to soar across the ice, the untucked tail of his jersey flapping majestically in the wind.
The Turkey: Arnott turned out to be little more than week-old unrefrigerated stuffing. His regular season point totals were decent in his first two seasons (47, 57) and he technically had a career year in his third and final year in Dallas with 32 goals and 76 points on a line with Bill Guerin and a young Brenden Morrow. His postseason numbers were quite different, with ten points in 21 mostly-blah playoff contests. Not too shabby... unless you consider the fact that he was going up against #7 and #8 seeds with no defense. Arnott and Guerin came to symbolize the Stars' complete non-effort on the ice in a pair of 5-game upsets at the hands of the woeful Colorado Avalanche, a team with so much underdog destiny that it was destroyed by the Sharks and Mighty Ducks in the following rounds. A typical Arnott-Guerin-Morrow shift was undeniably entertaining in the regular season, with the three pounding and cycling and passing their way to extraordinarily long shifts in the offensive zone, which usually amounted to one lazy shot on goal from the point before it went the other way. If ever there was a Stars player who was all hat and no cattle, it was Arnott. His post-Devils postseason career has borne this out pretty clearly.
#4: Patrik Stefan
The Sizzle: There was one year in which the Dallas Stars were like the 2011 Edmonton Oilers, in that they had three #1 overall picks playing on the team at the same time and could not hold a third-period lead to save their lives. Unfortunately for Dallas, that year was 2007, and those #1 picks were Modano (1988), Eric Lindros (1991) and Patrik Stefan (1999). While expectations for Lindros and Stefan were low to begin with --the proverbial "low-risk, high-reward" fading veteran offseason gamble-- nobody, anywhere, ever, could have predicted the hilariously unforgettable outcome.
The Turkey: Stefan turned out to be that odorless green casserole that nobody touches, finishing the year having scored 11 points in 41 games, mostly on the fourth line, where his combination of size and skill suited him well enough. But the only #1 overall pick never to play in one single playoff game in his career (Right? There can't have been more than one. Seriously, somebody look that up) cemented his status in NHL history with a single, depressingly hilarious play that will go down in blooper reel history. Not all that strangely, both he and Lindros hung up the skates (at least in the NHL) that year.
#3: Ivan Vishnevskiy
The Sizzle: In 2006, Dallas was in trouble. The greatest blueliner in franchise history, Sergei Zubov, was 36 and nearing the end of his career, and the Stars needed a replacement. So they used their #1 pick on a promising young offensive defenseman from Russia named Ivan Vishnevskiy. While he was not exactly great, or even good, in his own end (probably should have been a red flag right there), Vishnevskiy was an excellent puck carrier and passer, and desperate Stars fans immediately anointed him as the Second Comingski. A three-game stint in 2009 where he put up two assists over three games was a hopeful sign of things to come.
The Turkey: Apparently trying to replace your grandmother's award-winning fresh homemade peach jello with the gluten-free s**t from the box is a recipe for disaster. Ivan the Terrible became Ethelred the Unready, as Vishnevskiy lazily went through the motions in the AHL and managed to play his way into just two games at the NHL level the next season --one of which he promptly scored on his own empty net with less than a minute left in a tight divisional game. He was traded to a group of all-day suckers in Atlanta for franchise goalie Kari Lehtonen (a trade which is quickly rivaling the Zubov-for-Hatcher trade in terms of lopsidedness), where he wore out his welcome quickly and was subsequently dumped on the Blackhawks. He's back in Russia now, trying to live up to his legendary status as the Pseudo-Ozolinsh.
#2: Sean Avery
The Sizzle: Following the 2008 playoffs, Sean Avery had made himself a household name (in households that watch playoff hockey, at least), by clowning Marty Brodeur and forcing the league to invent a new rule just for him. Avery was a true cheap-seat fan's dream: a pest of legendary proportions who fought for his teammates, drove opposing forwards to the penalty box (generally by diving) and actually scored huge goals for his team when they needed it the most (Avery had four goals and 7 points in 8 playoff games that year). He was a hot commodity for any team with serious playoff aspirations.
The Turkey: Turns out the secret ingredients in Avery's gravy were rat feces and cold grease. While some local morons claimed the Avery signing would push the up-and-coming Stars to the next level, the exact opposite occurred: Avery pouted, dove and chirped his way out of anyone's good graces, sabotaging the team chemistry and sending them into a tailspin that resulted in four straight summers out of the playoff picture. While most of that can't be directly blamed on Sean's irritating faux-punk 'game' --see the final entry in this list for the real culprit-- Avery embarrassed both himself, his team and the league, was banished to the minors and paid millions by the Stars never to show up to work again. Since then, Avery's career has tanked, as superpests like Alex Burrows and Steve Ott continue to thrive and grow. Even Rangers fans, the one and only fanbase that ever supported his antics, have turned on the guy. His lasting hockey legacy will likely be a sigh, a rolling of the eyes and the words "Good riddance."
#1: Tom Hicks
The Sizzle: Fans love owners with deep pockets, and when Norm Green sold the Stars to allegedly-rich guy Tom Hicks in 1995 it was seen as a positive boon. And for a while, it was: Hicks was the ideal owner, rarely getting overly involved, letting the actual "hockey guys" put the team together and paying top dollars to retain top players. The result was seven divisional titles, two President's Trophies and a Stanley Cup. Hard to argue with results like that...
The Turkey: ...if the world had ended in 2003. Since then, Hicks' name has been synonymous with the worst ownership in professional sports, the equivalent of whipping out the same ice-encrusted turkey that's been in the back of your freezer for a decade. Mainly because of the way he dismantled a promising young (and totally juiced) Texas Rangers team via incredibly expensive, bloated contracts to players of marginal ability or less. Or perhaps it was the way he drove one of the most storied professional sports franchises in the world into the dirt in just three short years. Turns out the appearance of having loads of money can blind people into pretty much anything; Hicks, a master of using other people's money to make himself obscenely rich, finally had to pay the piper in 2010 and didn't have a red dime to his name. The Stars were put into three years of bankruptcy, where their top players left, the team had little to no direction and new GM Joe Nieuwendyk had his hands tied when it came to the budget. While spending gobs of money is no guarantee of on-ice success, having the lowest payroll in the four major professional sports isn't exactly a great starting line. Fans avoided the team in droves, dropping the Stars from one of the most profitable teams in the NHL (and yes, that includes some sad-sack hoser teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks) to just another Southern expansion market on life support from the league. A fake-rich Texas Republican leaving a once-strong entity saddled with crushing debt? Could be the first and only time in history such a thing has happened.
That's it for this week's Cupcheck. Tune in next week when we break down the positives and negatives of the league's proposed 18-game NFL-style season.