by Taylor Baird
The Stars ranked second in the NHL in goal scoring with 257 goals (3.13 goals per game on average), only two goals behind the Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars return most of their goal scorers this season, with the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn leading the team. He pairs well with Tyler Seguin, who has scored 74 goals and 161 points since coming to Dallas two seasons ago. The return of Valeri Nichushkin from injury should bring some added depth to the secondary line centered by Jason Spezza.
Tack on a healthy Ales Hemsky (hip surgery), an acquired Patrick Sharp (who should be out to prove he still has plenty left in the tank), a young Cody Eakin, Patrick Eaves (who worked well with everyone last year) and a rookie phenom on the blueline in John Klingberg, and the Stars will have an offensive threat from multiple fronts at all times on the ice.
Not only did the Stars do well in the goal scoring department last season, they also rocked the possession statistics. The Stars ranked eighth in the league with a 52.2 CF percentage (behind only Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville out West). They ended so high even after starting off the season disastrously last year. In the last 20 or so games of last season, the Stars had a CF percentage in the 54-58 range.
3. Prospect depth.
Stars general manager Jim Nill feels he has 11 defensemen ready for the NHL in the course of the next two years. That's some quality depth to have. Whether all of them wind up in a Stars jersey is hard to predict, but inevitable injuries, trades, free agent departures and the like will make that depth enviable when it is tested. If the Stars look to add pieces to put them over the top this year, they'll have some valuable trade pieces to utilize. There's also a good crop of centers coming up that reinforce the depth the Stars have throughout their system.
by Josh Lile
This seems like it should be a strength, but recent history suggests that no backup can survive playing in Dallas. Starter Kari Lehtonen has had iffy results in training camp, including allowing six goals on 30 shots to the St. Louis Blues in the Stars' second preseason game. It’s only preseason, but the Stars will not go anywhere without at least average goaltending.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the goaltending question. The Stars have a chicken-or-egg scenario on their hands. Who is the culprit for last season? You can pick either one and be right. Defensively the Stars were atrocious for a good part of the season before settling in late. The addition of Johnny Oduya is intended to help, but the results are still to be determined.
3. Number of waiver-eligible defensemen.
The Stars currently have eight defensemen on the NHL roster they say they don’t want to lose who are all eligible for waivers. They legitimately have three defensemen ticketed for the AHL who could make a claim for a roster spot now, or by midseason. It seems absurd to suggest a team as poor defensively as the Stars were has too many defensemen, but they basically do. Something will have to give at some point, but right now the Stars are faced with carrying a set group of eight regardless of who the best players are in camp, unless they make a roster move that they don’t seem motivated to make.
1. How many games will Antti Niemi start?
2. Are the new Stars for real?
3. How quickly will Lindy Ruff settle on a lineup he likes?
Get the answers at Defending Big D.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
by Josh Lile
The best case scenario is the Stars win the Stanley Cup. Is it likely? No, not really. A reasonable expectation is for the Stars to win a playoff series. They have a veteran group that should be expecting more than just barely making the postseason.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
by Josh Lile
Everything fails horribly. The defense is atrocious. The goaltending isn’t any better with Antti Niemi supporting Kari Lehtonen. The Stars could easily miss the playoffs if the changes Jim Nill made to the roster don’t pan out like they planned.