Welcome back to Season Primers, today we’re going to look at the Dallas Stars. The Stars had a disappointing season, missing the playoffs despite adding Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky to their roster last off-season. The decline was mostly due to poor goaltending, with starting goalie Kari Lehtonen posting only a .903 SV%, backup goalie Anders Lindback posting a .875 SV%, and other backup goalie Jhonas Enroth putting up a .906 SV%. The Stars addressed this by adding former Sharks starter Antti Niemi. The Stars also landed Patrick Sharp via trade, and added Johnny Oduya through free agency.
Key Additions: LW Patrick Sharp, LD Johnny Oduya, RD Stephen Johns, G Antti Niemi
Key Subtractions: C Shawn Horcoff, LW Ryan Garbutt, LD Trevor Daley, G Jhonas Enroth
If I’m a Stars fan, I’m excited about this season. This team has made improvements in every position. Up front, Sharp will provide more offense than Ryan Garbutt. On defense, Johnny Oduya replaces defensive disaster Trevor Daley:
In net, Antti Niemi replaces Enroth and creates some competitions for Kari Lehtonen.
The Stars also added a promising young defender through the Patrick Sharp trade in Stephen Johns, who has a chance to crack the roster.
Projected Lineup (All Players Healthy):
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Patrick Sharp – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Brett Ritchie
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jordie Benn – Jyrki Jokipakka
Roster Contenders: C Radek Faksa, C Travis Morin, LW Curtis McKenzie, LW Brendan Ranford, LD Esa Lindell, LD Mattias Backman, LD Ludwig Bystrom, RD Stephen Johns, RD Julius Honka
This is a really good roster, up front the Stars are led by the tandem of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who are obviously very good players. Valeri Nichushkin was injured for most of the 2014-15 season but will now look to bounce back, he could excel on that top line. The second line could also be very good, with the veteran trio of Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, and Ales Hemsky. Brett Ritchie replaces Ryan Garbutt on the third line alongside Roussel and Eakin, a duo that have shown very good chemistry. Moen, Fiddler, and Eaves form a solid 4th line.
On defence, there is a good mixture of offense and defense in the top 4, with Goligoski and Klingberg being good offensive defencemen and Oduya and Demers being reliable defensively. There will be quite a bit of competition for a spot on that third pairing, with the defensemen I have on the roster plus a bunch of young defencemen in the system clamoring for a spot. I have the underappreciated Jordie Benn along with Jyrki Jokipakka, who quite possibly has the best name ever.
Finally, in goal, Lehtonen and Niemi should be a reliable tandem. They will be the key to the Stars’ success this season.
As mentioned, the Stars have great defensive depth with a lot of good prospects in the system, but the depth at forward and goal isn’t as great. I think it’s quite possibly that Dallas looks at trading someone like Jamie Oleksiak for a younger forward.
All in all, I expect that Dallas will make the playoffs this season, and could be another top 9 forward and a little bit of time away from being a cup contender. If Dallas fails to make the playoffs, it could mean the end of Lindy Ruff’s time there as a coach.