The Dallas StarsWe'll take the high road and refrain from all the jokes we could make about Texas.
|They can feel me but they can't see me LOL|
37 wins, 31 losses, 14 OTL, 88 points, 22nd overall in the league
The Dallas Stars have had a rough go in the last two years. Going from perennial playoff team, to the Sean Avery Sideshow, to a team that finds itself in a rebuild. Rookie GM Joe Nieuwendyk has instituted a youth movement in Dallas by letting his four oldest players walk while significantly reducing the team's average age in his short tenure with the Stars. Nieuwendyk also hired head coach Marc Crawford last season in what can only be described as a masochistic move. All of this with strong rumors about the Stars ownership having financial problems forcing them to sell the team. It's a difficult time for the Stars faithful as the team will look for it's youth to carry the load and hope this team can rise above it's internal turbulence.
Up front the Stars boast a talented group led by former Conn Smythe trophy winning center Brad Richards who tied his career high for points last season. Richards scored 91 points in 80 games for the Stars last season and will again carry the first line in Dallas. Opposite Richards will likely be 25-year old right winger Loui Eriksson who had a career year last season. Eriksson emerged as a legit first line talent scoring 71 points in 82 games while receiving rave reviews from Stars fans last season. Playing on the opposite wing will be 23-year old power forward James Neal who became notorious last season for destroying Blue Jacket youngster Derick Brassard in a fight last season. Neal offers a rare blend of size, grit, skill, and tenacity that will make him a favorite in the league once fans discover him. The young power forward scored 55 points in 78 games in his sophomore campaign last year and will look to solidify himself as a top line NHL talent this season.
The Stars have one of the better second lines in the NHL. Leading the way is captain and Olympic Gold winner Brenden Morrow who's considered one of the best two-way players in hockey. Morrow had a disappointing season by his standards scoring 46 points in 76 games last year after returning from a season ending injury the previous year. It wouldn't be hard to imagine Morrow improving on those numbers given his track record and the talent around him this season. Centering Morrow will be talented pivot and Passion of the Christ understudy Mike Ribeiro who's been impressive in his time in Dallas. Ribeiro scored 53 points in 66 games last season and will look to be the key set-up man behind Richards. Last season saw the surprise emergence of former 129th overall pick Jame Benn. The 21-year old made the Stars straight out of Juniors last season impressing with 41 points in 82 games in his rookie debut. Benn will be another young forward to watch as he'll look to improve on his numbers this season and compliment the second line. The emergence of Jamie Benn has given the Stars an interesting problem. Fabian Brunnstrom became one of the most highly sought after free agents in hockey after a THN article fluff piece (do they get anything right?) drove the hockey world insane. Brunnstrom wound up in Dallas after being pursued by several teams and has promptly dropped off the face of the earth. The 25-year old Swede scored 11 points in 44 games in Dallas last season and has been given a commitment of playing time by the Dallas management. Look for the Stars to work Brunnstrom into the line-up when they can.
The third line will be carried by talented pest Steve Ott who's gained the label of "elite agitator" in his time in Dallas. Ott scored 36 points and tallied 153 penalty minutes in 73 games last season and will look to anchor what will likely be a rotating cast on the third line. Centering the third line will likely be 23-year old Swedish import Tom Wandell who scored 15 points in 50 games last season. Wandell at the time of this writing remains questionable for training camp with a knee injury and would seem to be doubtful for any kind of consistent season this year. Occupying the right wing on the third line will likely be 27-year old Brandon Segal who bounced around the minors for several years before finding a home in Dallas. Segal is something of an enigma scoring 12 points in 44 games last season but going through a serious six points in six games hot streak to close the season. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Segal's future is right now.
The fourth line in Dallas will likely feature three talented role players and two former Stanley Cup winners. Brian Sutherby was on his way to becoming an elite grinder in the league before a streak of injuries derailed his career. The former 26th overall pick only managed 8 points in 46 games in another injury plagued campaign last season. The main question for Sutherby who offers a sublime blend of grit and tenacity in the bottom six is can he stay healthy through an entire 82 game schedule? Defensive center and Craig MacTavish's BFF Toby Petersen will look to anchor the fourth line this season. Petersen turned in a respectable bottom six performance last season scoring 18 points in 78 games. Former Blackhawks fan favorite and Jerry Springer security Adam Burish will likely occupy the right wing on the fourth line this year. Burish scored 4 points in 13 games last season and was general manager Joe Nieuwendyk's only significant skater signing this off-season. Gritty tough guy Krys Barch will also look to get time on the fourth line this season. Barch got 6 points and 130 penalty minutes in 63 games last season.
The Stars' blueline is led by unheralded veteran Stephane Robidas who quietly had the best season of his career last year. Robidas scored 41 points in 82 games last season and led the Stars in ice time averaging over 24 minutes a game. Pairing with Robidas this season will likely be 25-year old defensive defenseman Niklas Grossman who averaged over 19 minutes a game last season and scored 7 points in 71 games last season. Grossman's defensive oriented game will allow Robidas to play a more offensive game.
The second pairing this season will likely be anchored by iron defensive defenseman Karlis Skrastins who was the de facto shutdown defenseman in Dallas last season. The Latvian defenseman is a shot blocking machine and is the NHL record holder for most consecutive games played. Skrastins scored 13 points in 79 games last season. Playing with Skrastins will likely be 26-year old offensive defenseman Trevor Daily who scored 22 points in 77 games last season for the stars.
The defense will be filled out by 23-year old offensive defenseman Matt Niskanen who scored 15 points in 74 games last season. This will be a career defining season for Niskanen as he will look to work his way up the depth chart in Dallas. Likely starting with Niskanen will be 24-year old Mark Fistric who's quietly become one of the better defensive defensemen in the game. Fistric scored 10 points in 67 game last season and offers a gritty tenacious game while facing challenges with his skating. The Stars seventh defenseman this season will be NHL veteran Jeff Woywitka who scored three points in 36 games last season.
One has to wonder if the Stars have anything in common with a certain metal battlefield vehicle with how Nieuwendyk has handled the goaltending situation in Dallas. Nieuwendyk made an eye brow raising decision to bring in former second overall pick Kari Lehtonen to be Dallas' starting goaltender. Lehtonen who's showed flashes of brilliance over his rocky career has only been able to play one complete season in the NHL tenure. Lehtonen would get injured walking against the wind and has had strong criticism for not taking his conditioning seriously. It has to be a serious question mark whether Lehtonen will be able to carry the bulk of the work load in Dallas. Likely platooning with Lehtonen will be former Calder Trophy winning goalie Andrew Raycroft who had a career renaissance in Vancouver last season. Raycroft despite being cast in bad light unfairly from a hellish tour in Toronto will be an adequate 1B in Dallas and will likely get 30 or more games in Dallas this season.
With only a vague concept of what defense is (a hallmark of Crawford teams) and some serious questions in net for the Stars it's hard to imagine this team being on the rise. This year will likely be about the youth in Dallas improving and for this team to assemble more building blocks in the rebuild they find themselves in. It's also hard to imagine with this team's upheaval in the ownership and management that this team will add much to improve. Look for the Stars to come in somewhere between 25th and 30th this year.
BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up
Brad Richards - 25 G/55 A 80 P
Loui Eriksson - 27 G/40 A 67 P
James Neal - 32 G/30 A 62 P
Mike Ribeiro - 20 G/42 A 62 P
Brendan Morrow - 28 G/30 A 58 P
Jamie Benn - 26 G/20 A 46 P
Steve Ott - 16 G/23 A 39 P
Tom Wandell - 7 G/13 A 20 P
Fabian Brunnstrom - 6 G/10 A 16 P
Toby Petersen - 7 G/5 A 12 P
Brian Sutherby - 5 G/9 A 14 P
Adam Burish - 5 G/5 A 10 P
Stephane Robidas - 9 G/27 A 36 P
Nicklas Grossman - 1 G/12 A 13 P
Trevor Daley - 8 G/21 A 29 P
Karlis Skrastins - 1 G/10 A 11 P
Matt Miskanen - 5 G/14 A 19 P
Mark Fistric - 2 G/12 A 14 P
Kari Lehtonen - 20-18-6 | 3.05 GAA | .907 Sv%
Andrew Raycroft - 15-19-4 | 3.30 GAA | .896 Sv%