Rookie defenseman Brenden Dillon is leading a youth movement in Dallas. - Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Ahead of tonight's Predators/Stars game, we checked in with Defending Big D Managing Editor Brandon Worley on what's going on in Dallas...
After reading this Q&A below, make sure to check out Defending Big D's game preview as well for more info about how the Stars are approaching tonight's tilt.
1) As a fellow fan of a Southern market team that tends to get out-shot and relies on its star Finnish goaltender to save the day, how would you assess the mood of the fan base in Dallas, given their long absence from the playoffs?
I'd say the best way to describe the mood is one of tepid optimism. The Stars are in a state of transition, which most fans seem to recognize and understand, while there is also a very real sense that the Stars almost certainly need to make the postseason or risk completely falling off the cliff in the Dallas sports landscape.
That being said, attendance this season has been very good and the Stars have shown improvement with each passing week -- for the most part. It's going to be interesting to see just how pressured the team will feel in regards to the postseason and how much fan pressure plays into that -- I don't know if fans can accept another No. 9 finish and talk about "moral victories" about coming so close with a valiant effort.
2) In stark contrast to the Predators, Dallas hasn't been shy about bringing in older veterans like Jaromir Jagr & Ray Whitney to play leading roles up front. What's the outlook for 2-3 years down the road? Do the Stars have young forwards on the rise who are expected to step up?
There has been a lot of talk about the older veterans the Stars have signed recently but that has glossed over the reality about the team; this is a very young and very inexperienced hockey team and perhaps the greenest hockey team the Stars have ever put on the ice in Dallas. That inexperience, however, is what has Stars fans so excited for the future.
The Stars will be playing three rookie defensemen tonight against the Predators and possibly four if Trevor Daley is unable to play. Brenden Dillon has certainly been the biggest surprise of the season and has locked down a top-pairing spot with Stephane Robidas, while Jame Oleksiak is showing the potential to be the elusive No. 1 defenseman the Stars have desperately been searching for.
The Stars also have Cody Eakin, Reilly Smith and Antoine Roussel getting big minutes at the forward group, with Eakin proving to be an incredibly well-rounded two-way center that gives fans a lot of hope for the future.
Looking a bit further into the future, the Stars have Matej Stransky, Brett Ritchie and Alex Chiasson all waiting in the wings. Chiasson could make the jump as early as this season while Ritchie and Stansky will be in the AHL to start the season next year.
3) What are your thoughts on Dallas joining a conference with Nashville, St. Louis, Colorado, etc. as has been discussed over the last few days? Are there any particularly significant rivalries that would be missed by leaving the Pacific Division behind?
While I think Stars fans will lament the loss of the rivalry with the Sharks and perhaps the Ducks, I don't think anyone is going to be that upset about it. Being able to actually watching divisional games on the road that finish before midnight? That's going to be such a big change for Stars fans I don't think anyone realizes just how tremendous it really is.
I also think that the rivalries in the new conference will actually be a bit more...legit. The Stars are already creating one with Nashville and games against Colorado are always spirited. Frankly, it's going to feel a bit more like coming "home," a return to where the Stars never should have left.
Thanks a ton to Brandon for his insight, and make sure you give him a follow on Twitter @BrandonWorley.