The Dallas Stars are looking to go even deeper into the playoffs this season, but there are some potential road blocks that can keep that from happening.
In the offseason, the Stars lost three veteran defenseman: Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Kris Russell. They added veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis to the blue line and will fill the other holes with some young kids. On the offensive side of the puck they added Jiri Hudler and Lauri Korpiksoki while losing Colton Sceviour, Vernon Fiddler and Travis Moen in free agency.
The key to another good season is the production and healthy of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Benn is coming off of surgery in the offseason and he skipped the World Cup of Hockey to focus on his rehab. Seguin injured his heel during the World Cupf of Hockey, but is expected to be in the lineup for the opener. Benn and Seguin have been one of the best duos in the league over the past few seasons and Dallas will need them to remain healthy since they are an integral part of the offense. Benn and Seguin have combined for 326 total points over the past two seasons.
The x-factor to the Stars getting back into the postseason will be the goaltending. Antti Niemi gets the start for the first game of the season with Kari Lehtonen backing up. Lindy Ruff showed that he wasn’t afraid to split the time between the two goalies last season. The goalies will need to be much better than they were last season at stopping the puck. If the goalies play up to their potential, make routine saves and are consistent with their play throughout the year than the Stars should finish in decent position to make the postseason.
The surprise player for the Stars this season will be young defenseman Stephen Johns. He’ll see some ice time and maybe even top four ice time, which should help him to improve his game even more. He won’t have a breakout on the offensive side of the puck because he’s just not that type of player. He should come into his own this season especially if he plays with one of the veterans like Johnny Oduya or Dan Hamhuis. He will make his mistakes, but learn from them and become better defensively as the season goes on.
Dallas will have no problem scoring goals this season. They have a balanced lineup so it’ll be hard to just focus on shutting down one line. They’ll miss Mattias Janmark, who will miss 5-6 months after having knee surgery in the offseason. Anyone in the Stars lineup can pitch in on the offensive side of things even if it’s just with a few assists here and there. They are a skilled bunch up front with decent size and, for the most part, it’s a veteran lineup in the forward positions.
The blue line has some decent size on it, but it’ll be on the younger side. The Stars will likely pair a veteran with a young kid to start the season. They’ll be a little more on the inexperienced side this year as opposed to the veteran lauded blue line that they had last season. Hamhuis is an overall up grade over Kris Russell, who specialized in shot blocking. The young kids will add some speed to the back end, and they can move the puck well. The defense will give up its chances so the goalies are going to have to be sharp.
The goaltending duo of Lehtonen and Niemi is back for another season. They had moments where they looked good last year, but for the most part there weren’t making the saves that should have been made. They’re veterans so the Stars are hoping that they can put it behind them and have a bounce back year. They both need to become more consistent and it would help if a true number one could emerge and take charge of the net for a majority of the season. This is definitely the biggest question heading into the season especially how last year ended for the both of them.
The Stars should finish in the top 10 in the NHL again while on the man advantage. They have two strong power play units and Jiri Hudler will add some goals to a power play that finished fourth last year. The Stars power play did struggle in the postseason though, but they didn’t have Seguin since he was out injured. They’ll have to take better care of the puck and not allow as many short handed goals against as they did last season. This should be a strong point of Dallas in the upcoming season.
The penalty kill needs to improve a bit, but they were ranked in the top 10 last year. They did bring in some forwards that can help like Korpikoski and Cracknell, both veteran players. The goalies will need to be better and stop the easy chances. They’ll need to make the spectacular saves to go along with the routine ones
The fate of the Stars postseason will rely on how the goalies and young defenseman play. The offense will again lead them into the playoffs, where they have another early exit.