Heading into the 2005-06 season, many members of the media
questioned the Dallas Stars’ ability to adjust to the new rules and in
particular their ability to remain competitive under the new league imposed
salary cap. The Stars answered their
critics by finishing the regular season with a record of 53-23-5, setting a
franchise record for regular season victories.
The Stars entered the postseason seeded second among all Western
Conference teams thanks to the rebirth of stars Mike Modano and Jason Arnott as
well as a strong performance by a pair of Finnish rookies that have stepped up
to fill important roles on the team.
According to Stars Assistant Captain Bill Guerin, “That’s
going to be the key to success in the future.
You can’t just go out and get the guys you feel like getting
anymore. You’re going to have to have
good prospects in your system and we’ve had a couple step up. If those guys
don’t step up then that’s two possibly three spots that we have to have filled,
but they’ve played great for us.”
Jokinen, LW, 23
In his first professional season, Jokinen was perhaps one of
the biggest stories coming out of Dallas.
“He’s not a rookie in mindset. He’s a very mature guy. He’s
adapted to North American life very well,” said Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett.
The Finnish rookie did adjust well to North American life
and to the NHL, playing on the Stars top line all year alongside captain Mike
Modano and Jere Lehtinen. Jokinen’s
speed and playmaking abilities complimented his veteran linemates and it showed
as he notched 17 goals and 55 points in 81 games. The left wing finished fourth among all rookies in points and
earned a silver medal with Finland’s Olympic team.
As a team, Dallas was able to capitalize on the NHL’s new
shootout going 12-1 in 13 games played, the league’s best record in the
shootout, and Jokinen was a big reason for the team’s success in this
area. The sixth round pick in 2001 made
headlines early in the year by going a perfect nine for nine in the shootout
before finishing the season with a record of 10 successful shootout attempts in
13 tries. Jokinen’s 76.9 percent
success ratio in the shootout completely surpassed that of the league-wide
average of just 33.64 percent. He also
notched a record of one for one on the penalty shot.
Jokinen has admitted he loves to go one on one with
goaltenders and the Stars have clearly benefited from this.
“He’s played great this year and he’s a real talented kid,”
said Guerin. “He loves playing the
game. He has a lot of fun with it and
he’s real methodical about it as far as watching tape. His preparation is borderline weird but it
gets him ready and he’s very thorough.”
Miettinen, RW, 25
Miettinen didn’t make the splash that Jokinen did but still
played an integral part of the Stars team.
According to Tippett, Miettinen really benefited from an extra year down
in the AHL during the lockout.
In 2004-05, Miettinen rebounded from a shoulder injury that
sidelined him for 45 games at the beginning of the season. He returned and played in 35 games at the
AHL level and scored eight goals and 28 points. His 28 points nearly matched his total from the 2003-04 season in
which he appeared in 48 games and notched 30 points.
The 2002-03 Finnish Elite League Player of the Year adjusted
to his first full season in the NHL by scoring 11 goals and 31 points in 79
games. The Finnish forward played
consistently on Dallas’ third line and was paired with Niklas Hagman and Niko
Kapanen throughout the season.
Miettinen was not afraid to lay the body and finish his checks and ranked
fourth among all rookies in hits with 130.
The 6’0, 190-pound forward was also a member of Finland’s silver medal
winning Olympic team. Having two young
silver medalists bodes well for the future of the organization.
Both Jokinen and Miettinen played consistently and added
skill and speed to the line-up.
According to Guerin, “They’re just real confident with the
puck. That’s probably one of the
toughest things to be when you’re a young player is to have poise with the puck
and confidence to try things and make plays. With young players they’re on a
very short leash and if you make mistakes young players are going to suffer
from that, they get benched and things like that, but they have great
Other rookies Junior
Lessard, Vojtech Polak, and Dan
Jancevski also made appearances with the team but played only a few
games. Each player finished the season
with the Iowa Stars, Dallas’ AHL affiliate, and finished the season among the
team’s top seven regular season point scorers. Depending on what happens with
the NHL club in trying to re-sign Arnott or perhaps even buy out Guerin, these
players will undoubtedly get a longer look next season.
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