The Dallas Stars were one of the best teams in the NHL last season and look to build off of that in 2017.
Last season the Stars finished with a 50-23-9 record which was the best record in the entire Western Conference and second in the league only behind the Washington Capitals. Along with being one of the best teams in the league the Stars were also the highest scoring team with 267 goals scored. This offense was spread throughout the lineup, but most credited to the Stars’ incredible top six forward group.
Leading Dallas’ offense is their captain, Jamie Benn. Benn has become of the most talented players in the National Hockey League over the past three seasons after coming into the league in the 2009-10 season. Benn has had back to back 80 point seasons winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15 season and hitting the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career at the end of this season. In 2016 Benn recorded 89 points in 82 games consisting of 41 goals and 48 assists leading the Stars in scoring and finishing second in league scoring only behind Patrick Kane. Benn has one year remaining on his current contract and will then begin a new eight year extension following the start of the 2017-18 season. It looks like Benn will be leading the charge in Dallas for quite some time.
Along with Benn is 24 year old Tyler Seguin. Seguin was acquired in the summer of 2013 as part of a trade that sent Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to Dallas from Boston for forwards Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser. Seguin has been excellent for Dallas recording at least 70 points in each of his 3 seasons with the team. In 223 games for the Stars Seguin has amassed 234 points and has hit the 30 goal mark each year. At 24 Seguin hasn’t even hit his prime and will be a staple in the Stars core along with Jamie Benn for years to come. In his mind, the Stars window to win a Stanley Cup has just opened.
“(It’s a) young man’s game now. I’m starting to feel a little bit old turning 25 with all of these changes, but I think our team has been great the last couple years,” Seguin said, according to Mark Stepneski of the Inside Edge. “Our window just opened, and I think every team’s got kind of that window that opens where you can win a championship, so that part’s exciting. Getting a veteran guy like (Dan) Hamhuis, it makes you even more excited for the season to start.”
Aside from the Stars two superstars, the team is loaded with offense also coming from players like Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Cody Eakin and Mattias Janmark. With Dallas losing no forwards in free agency aside from Vernon Fiddler and Colton Sceviour, the Stars should have no problem being one of the highest scoring teams again in 2017.
Despite having a stellar offense the Stars defense suffered some losses this offseason. Kris Russell left during free agency and Alex Goligoski’s rights were traded to Arizona before he signed a five year deal with the team. However, Dallas signed 33 year old Dan Hamhuis to a two year contract. Last season with the Vancouver Canucks Hamhuis tallied 13 points in 58 games. Although his point totals might not jump out, his defensive game can help the Stars greatly along with John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya and Jordie Benn. Along with the veteran players, newer players such as Patrick Nemeth, Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak will need to step up if the Stars want to solidify the team’s defensive core.
Dallas goaltending experiment is something that has come under question heading into the 2016-17 season. Last season the Stars goaltenders split the games almost equally with Kari Lehtonen appearing in 43 games and Antti Niemi appearing in 47 games. Lehtonen finished the regular season with a record of 25-10-2 with a GAA of 2.76 and save percentage of .906%. Niemi on the other hand finished the season with a record of 24-13-5 with a GAA of 2.67 and save percentage of .905%. Initially these numbers look impressive, but when diving deeper into their postseason stats something has to give. Niemi appeared in 5 playoff games for the Stars and finished with a save percentage of .865%. Lehtonen appeared in 11 playoffs games for the Stars and finished with a save percentage of .899%. No team with goaltenders putting up numbers like that will win a championship. All of the four remaining teams that played in the Conference Finals had goalies with save percentages above .920%. It’s still unclear whether or not there will be a trade, but the 1A-1B goalie tandem might not work as well again for the Stars next season.
PREDICTION: It’s tough to say if the Dallas Stars will repeat as the best team in the Western Conference, but they will have no problem making the postseason next year.