After an offseason for the ages, the stars are aligning in Dallas.
Despite winning the Central Division title and accumulating a 50-23-7 record, the Dallas Stars fell back to Earth in the 2016-17 season. The Stars ended up missing the playoffs entirely and changing quite a bit of their roster in the following offseason. For starters, the Stars fired head coach Lindy Ruff bringing in the legendary head coach, Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock began his NHL coaching career with the Stars in 1995 and in the process has become the head coach with the fourth most wins in NHL history (781). With the late Al Arbour sitting at third with 782, it’s likely that Hitchcock overtakes this milestone next season. Hitchcock was also at the helm when the Stars won their lone Stanley Cup in 1999, and management is hoping to recreate some of this magic in 2018.
The Dallas Stars had one of the best offenses in the league in 2016, but the same can’t be said about last season. Last year the Stars finished around the middle of the pack with 222 goals scored. Although many of the players had down years offensively, General Manager Jim Nill has made some key additions to attempt to jump start the team’s offense. For starters, the Stars signed Russia forward Alexander Radulov to a five year contract with annual average value of $6.25 million. Radulov had spent last season with the Montreal Canadiens after spending the previous four seasons in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. While with Montreal, Radulov proved to be one of the Canadiens’ most dominant forwards tallying 18 goals and 54 points in 76 games played. Although it’s uncertain where exactly Radulov will slot into the lineup, imagining him on the powerplay unit with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin will be a nightmare for other teams.
Speaking of Benn and Seguin, they again will be the backbone of the Stars’ offense. Benn, 28, has been with Dallas since the 2009-2010 season and has been one of their most consistent scorers. Benn has never scored less than 20 goals in any full season and won the Art Ross for totaling the most points in the league in 2014-15. However, last season, like most of the team, Benn had a down year. In 77 games played, Benn tallied 26 goals and 69 points. Although this may sound like a great statistical season, for Benn this is his lowest total since 2012. Regardless, I do believe that Benn will have a bounce back year and return to scoring 30-40 goals once again.
Seguin on the other hand has been consistently getting better since he arrived in Dallas. Being one of the more underrated centers in the game, Seguin has scored no less than 72 points in a season since being traded to the Stars. Seguin may have the advantage of playing with one of the better snipers in the league, but he can still light the lamp himself, tallying at least 30 goals in every season with Dallas excluding last season. Seguin had another successful campaign last season despite a disappointing team effort. Last season Seguin lead the Stars in scoring scoring 26 goals and 72 points in 82 games. Although those numbers are quite impressive, additions like Radulov could boost his production back to the 80 point range and potentially 90.
Dallas’ defense also got some help during this offseason. After having the second most allowed goals last season (260), Jim Nill knew he needed to improve his team. Thanks to the team winning the Draft Lottery, the Stars were given the third overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. With this selection Dallas picked Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen, 18, spent last season playing with HIFK Helsinki where he amassed 5 goals and 10 points in 37 games. Although it’s unclear if Heiskanen will make the team directly out of camp, he does have the potential to be one of the Stars’ defensemen for a very long time.
Along with Heiskanen, Dallas traded for Senators’, and for about a day, Golden Knights’ defenseman Marc Methot. Compared to what Methot could have been acquired for, Nill paid almost nothing to get the defenseman, trading Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 third round pick. Methot, 32, spent the past five years of his career with the Ottawa Senators primarily playing with Erik Karlsson. In his time playing with Karlsson, his defensive game allowed Karlsson to play more offensively helping him become the two time Norris Trophy winning player he is today. By bringing in Methot, Dallas is hoping Methot can recreate some of this magic with their offensive minded defenseman, John Klingberg. Klingberg, 25, has been one of Dallas’ best defensemen since joining the team in the 2014-15 season. In his 221 NHL games played, Klingberg has registered 34 goals and 147 points recording a career high 58 points in the 2015-16 season. With the addition of Methot, Klingberg should be able to continue his offensive abilities and registering around 50-60 points.
The Stars’ goaltending also got quite an upgrade. After experimenting with the tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the Stars have realized they need a clear number starter and backup to find success. In realizing this, Dallas bought Niemi’s contract and traded for Ben Bishop’s rights before signing him to a $29.5 million contract. Bishop found himself a home with the Tampa Bay Lightning tallying multiple 30 win seasons and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015. Although he had much success, Bishop struggled with injuries in the last two seasons and Tampa Bay did not have the cap space to commit to him long-term. This led him to be traded to the Los Angeles Kings as they made a last effort playoff push, before ultimately signing with Dallas. At 30 years of age, Bishop is in the prime of his career and with a stacked offense and solid defense, he can do great things in net for the Stars.
PREDICTION: With the revamped lineup the Dallas Stars have, I can’t see them missing the playoffs unless they get decimated by injuries. This team could even push for the Central Division title.