The Dallas Stars are looking to get back into the playoffs after missing them last season despite having 92 points.
The Stars finished 10th in the Western Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot. The Western Conference had 12 of its 14 teams finish with 85 or more points. The team scored as many goals (257) as their opponents scored. Special teams were in the middle of the pack, with the power play ranked higher and with a higher success rate than the penalty kill. The Stars made a couple of key additions in the off-season, but also lost some players.
In the off-season, the Stars acquired goaltender Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks. The offense was improved next with the addition of Patrick Sharp via a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, sending defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt to the Blackhawks. The defense needed to improve and that’s where the free agent signing of Johnny Oduya came into play. The Stars lost Jhonas Enroth and Shawn Horcoff to free agency, while Rich Peverly retired and took a job within the organization. Jeff Reese took over as the goaltending coach, replacing Mike Valley.

The biggest x-factor for the Stars season is going to be what type of defense the team plays. They are known to go out and play a pond hockey style, which is wide open with little to no defense. If they continue to play that style, then more goals will likely be scored against them, making it harder on the offense who might have to come from behind to try to tie or win a game. If the Stars play team defense with everyone playing the right role, then it’ll be harder for the opponents, who will have to work for their goals. This will also be easier on the goalies because they won’t be facing as many good scoring chances.

The key players for the Stars this season will once again be Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The duo combined for 72 goals and 164 points last season. Jamie Benn finished the season with 87 points, which earned him the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. Seguin finished with 77 points, which was good for seventh in the NHL. If Jamie Benn and Seguin can keep producing like they did last season, then the rest of the league will have a hard time trying to defend against them. We’ll have to see how Jamie Benn plays after having hip surgery in the off-season and whether he starts the season on the ice or as a scratch.

Valeri Nichushkin will be the surprise player on the roster. He missed a majority of last season because he had hip surgery, but did come back to play in the final four games of the season. In his rookie season, he had 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points in 79 games played. Nichushkin has the size and skill to put up some points. He also played on the power play in his rookie season so he could add some goals there too.
The Stars didn’t have any problem scoring goals last year and upgraded the offense with the addition of Sharp. Sharp adds some depth to a lineup that already has Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza in it. He also has the ability to play on either the first or second line. The team is also pretty good on face-offs, which will help to gain possession and get setup in the offensive zone. The bottom six forwards will have to pitch in some too because the defense isn’t a particularly offensive-minded group, but will pitch in once in a while.
The defense got a boost with the addition of Oduya, who brings experience and leadership to the Stars blue line. The defense as a whole has some size with a good mixture of young kids and veterans. The Stars do have depth on the back end, but lack that true number one defenseman like so many other teams in the NHL. The Stars also have youth on the blue line and that includes John Klingberg, who had a solid first year in the NHL last year. In 65 games played, he had 11 goals, 29 assists and 40 points. The defense needs to tighten up because too many goals were given up last season.
The goaltending was improved in the off-season with the addition of Niemi. He can be the steady backup or jump right into the starting role should Kari Lehtonen get hurt or struggle during the course of the season. Lehtonen was 34-17-10 last season, to go with a 2.94 goals against average and .903 save percentage. He needs to have a bounce back year, but the teams needs to play better defense in front of the goalies too. Does Lindy Ruff just go with the hot goalie or does one of these guys emerge as the number one keeper? Only time will tell.
The Stars’ power play was ranked 12th in the NHL last season and was tied for fifth in goals with 55. The Stars also gave up seven short-handed goals. The Stars need to be better on the power play at home this season than they were last year. They only converted on 15.5% of their power play chances at home last season. Sharp will add more depth and the Stars will have two solid power play units, but they still need put the puck in the net at a better clip while on the man advantage especially at home.
The penalty kill was ranked 19th in the NHL last season, which is middle of the pack. The Stars did score nine short-handed goals. The home penalty kill was the problem where the Stars were ranked 25th at 78.9%. The Stars were short-handed 254 times last season, which was the eighth most in the league. This season the team needs to be more disciplined and stay out of the box. Sharp can also be used on the penalty kill along with Oduya.
The Stars will miss the playoffs for a second straight season. The Central Division will be tough once again this season, and other Western Conference teams got better in the off-season. The Stars tend to play a wide open style of hockey, which will make it difficult on the goalies and the team to not allow goals.


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