Chemistry is hard. Whether in a high school AP class or looking for it on the ice, the right answers can be hard to find even if they are right in front of your eyes. The difference is in class the correct answers cannot be disputed. Science is science and H20 will always be water, whether you believe it or not.
For those who make a living coaching those who play on frozen H20, the search for chemistry is never ending. There are educated guesses about which players will click, but no set formula as whether they can create magic together.
For example, take the best line currently in the NHL. No one I asked in the Stars organization can remember the exact moment Rick Bowness and his staff decided to try the combination of Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski. The consensus is it happened during the 2020-21 season. The Stars were running a gauntlet of a schedule. Four games in six nights were the norm, with no practice due to fatigue and a struggling offense missing Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Joel Kiviranta due to injury. Hintz was gutting his way through the season, battling a chronic injury. Robertson had been a healthy scratch for several games early in the season while Pavelski was approaching his 37th birthday.
Penicillin was discovered accidentally by Alexander Fleming. Similarly, Rick Bowness not knowing the full repercussions of what he had done, had found the ultimate cure for the Stars offensive ills.
The Numbers for the “Avengers” line since October of 2021:
Jason Robertson 98 GP 63-55-118
Joe Pavelski 106 GP 37-69-106
Roope Hintz 103 GP 45-53-98
Another chemical reaction may have happened less than 10 games into the current season when Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer placed Ty Dellandrea on a line with veteran Jamie Benn and rookie Wyatt Johnston.
Since November 1, the players on that line have contributed 18 goals in 15 games. Dellandrea is quick to point out that they now have a sixth sense on how to play together. “You see us crisscrossing in the zone and making drop passes because we know where the other guy will be,” he said. The Stars 1st round pick in the 2018 draft is also very impressed with the youngest member of the trio saying, “He’s the real deal. Just watch him out there.” Johnston is impressed with the line’s elder statesman too. “Jamie is such a force out there. You feel it every shift,” he said.
Between “Bennie and the Kids” (copyright pending) and The Avengers, Dallas has two potent line combinations capable of creating sustained offense every shift. Fine art and chemistry on ice have one thing in common: They are very difficult to describe, but you know it the minute it is witnessed.
And now, for some random thoughts.
- As mentioned above, chemistry can be fun to watch but hard to achieve. The combination of Tyler Seguin and Mason Marchment know that better than anyone. Since the beginning of the season, Ty Dellandrea, Denis Gurianov, Jacob Peterson, Matej Blumel and now Radek Faksa have attempted to complete the line. If DeBoer can ever find the missing ingredient, the Stars top 9 forwards would match up with any three-line combination in the NHL
- The answer to the question above, may be playing in Kamloops. Logan Stankoven continues to add to his impressive resume. He’s played in 18 games this season and scored in all 18. He leads the WHL in points per game (2.22) and is third in scoring (16-24-40) despite playing fewer games than EVERY player listed in the top 30 in points. Am I wrong for wanting the Memorial Cup to be moved to February so the Stars can add Stankoven for the playoff run?
- Jason Robertson won the NHL’s #1 Star for the month of November. That was no surprise. What is kind of surprising, is there is no award that goes with the honor—no plaque, no smoked glass engravement, no trophy. When asked what he received for winning the accolade, Robertson replied with his dry wit, “More media requests.”
- Robertson’s image is also showing up all over the place. From billboards around DFW to prominent display on the NHL league website and twitter account. Robo’s response to being the face of the league, “I better get a good haircut.”
- Don’t underestimate the value defenseman Joel Hanley provides to the team. It’s a skill to sit out 11 of 13 games and then jump into the lineup, performing like rust is not an issue. Hanley makes it look easy.
- Another Stars prospect having an outstanding year is Francesco Arcuri. The Stars sixth round selection in the 2021 draft leads the OHL in goals, scoring 22 in 25 games for the Kingston Frontenacs.
- Arcuri is tied for 10th in the OHL in overall scoring. Also at 10th is the Stars 2nd round pick of 2022, Christian Kyrou. The defenseman already has a Hat Trick and is the 2nd highest scoring blue-liner in the league with 31 points (8-23-31).
- Mavrik Bourque who led the QMJHL in points per game in 2021-22, has six points in 20 games this season. Antonio Stranges, who had multiple highlight reel goals in juniors last year, has only played in 5 games due to injury and coach’s decision. This is not meant as a putdown of either prospect, just a reminder that making the jump to the professional ranks is much harder than imagined. A deep pipeline and patience are needed to create prospects who turn into NHLers.
- Finally, with the rare Cowboys-Stars home doubleheader, Jeff K will be replaced, for one day only, as Game Operations PA man by Michael Taylor. While Jeff will be missed, I know Michael will do a great job. After all, he crushed the role as our in-arena voice for the Dallas Freeze 30 years ago. Has it really been 30 years since we were in “The Cooler?” Gee, I’m getting old.