The Dallas Stars were a big part of a tantalizing playoff race in the Pacific Division last year. First-year coach Glen Gulutzan did a fantastic job with a team that no one really took seriously heading into the 2011-12 season. Unlike the boom-to-bust ways of the Minnesota Wild and their first-year coach (Mike Yeo), the Stars were much more consistent throughout the campaign.
Dallas didn't make it to the postseason, losing its last five games, all to teams that made the playoffs. Despite the slide and the disappointment of not making the postseason, there were positives. New owner Tom Gaglardi took over in November, and the team's improvement -- along with some solid marketing -- helped get some butts into seats that were almost alarmingly empty early in the season.
Despite an inept power play, the Stars stayed in games and found ways to win. Kari Lehtonen played in 59 games and posted career bests with a .922 save percentage and 2.33 goals against. Loui Eriksson not only posted his third straight 70-point season (26 goals and 45 assists), but managed a career-best plus-18 rating.
However, in order to get to the playoffs for the first time under general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, the Stars knew they would have to improve their power play, and it's pretty clear they were able to do that, at least on paper.
Offseason Changes / New Additions
Dallas' power play clicked at just over 13 percent last season. The departed Mike Ribiero scored only two power play goals all season. Souray wasn't a huge factor, despite his history as an offensive defenseman.
The defensive addition -- Aaron Rome -- won't help the power play much. Instead, more is expected out of Goligoski and Trevor Daley. Instead, Nieuwendyk added two huge pieces up front, and he didn't worry about age in doing it.
While Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr aren't going to be long-term answers to the Dallas power play, they are players who can make a significant difference on a team that has most of the other pieces in place for a playoff run.
Whitney had 77 points and was good for a plus-26 for Phoenix last season. He scored eight power-play goals, which would have led the Stars had he been on that team. Jagr had 19 goals, eight of which came on Flyer man advantages, as he helped Philadelphia be one of the East's top teams last season.
Yes, the Stars spent good money to sign a pair of 40-year-old forwards. However, there is no real indication that either player has lost the ability to play at a high level. If they can make an impact on the Stars' offense, fans should be optimistic about this team's playoff chances.
Literally, the power play was about the only thing preventing Dallas from making the postseason last year. If it hits at even 18 or 19 percent, Dallas plays into April. Instead, Nieuwendyk watched the team he built miss the postseason for a third straight year.
This winter should be different. The roster is constructed in a way that the Stars should score more. Provided Lehtonen stays reasonably healthy, Dallas is among the teams in the West that should contend for a playoff spot after missing last year.