"We'll be shooting for first," says winner Kelly. And lucky to finish fourth.
MINNESOTA NORTH STARS
Nobody really knows what to expect from the Minnesota North Stars. Last year, widely favored to win the West, the Stars flopped to fifth place, missing the playoffs and bitterly disappointing the 490,000 home fans—hockey nuts all—who paid to see them. Some changes have been made. Of the 20 players invited to camp, only seven spent all of last season with the club—and, since the Stars gave up more goals than any other team, it is not surprising that none of the holdovers is a defenseman. To help clear the ice in front of the Minnesota net, the Stars acquired Barry Gibbs from the Boston chain and John Miszuk from Philadelphia. Wily old Leo Boivin, who joined the team in mid-season, is back; Lou Nanne and Tom Reid fill out the defensive roster. Coach Wren Blair still must find adequate relief for his goaltender, Cesare Maniago.
The Stars, however, should have little trouble scoring. The line of Danny Grant, who was Rookie of the Year, Danny O'Shea and Claude Larose is intact. Ray Cullen, J. P. Parise and Bill Collins also return, and Minnesota got an unexpected bonus when Pittsburgh allowed Center Charlie Burns to go unprotected in the draft.
"We played too much wishy-washy hockey last year," says Blair. "We were pushed too many times and we didn't push back. This time we've gone out and got some guys who'll crack a few heads together."
In spite of last year's debacle, fans in the north country have bought more than 8,000 season tickets, and this year they may start getting their money's worth.