For years the Stars have been a strong contender, and a regular participant in the NHL playoffs. Then, the last two seasons the Stars have stumbled. They’ve missed the playoffs, and unfortunately for Dallas fans, don’t look like they’re on their way out of the Pacific Division cellar any time soon. Unfortunately for the Stars, they play in what might be the most competitive division in hockey, with the Sharks, Ducks, Kings and even Coyotes coming on strong recently. Such intense competition means it may be a long road back to prominence for Dallas, especially if they can’t get their financial situation straightened out in a hurry.
This is potentially Brad Richards’ final season in Dallas, if he can’t get a new contract worked out, and with the financial situation the way it is, I don’t see it happening any time soon. Unfortunately, the looming contract negotiations can’t possibly help a team that needs everything to go right if they are going to make a realistic run at a playoff spot.
Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow, Kari Lehtonen, Loui Eriksson
The offense in Dallas won’t be lighting the league on fire, but they should score their fair share of goals. Led by (obviously) Brad Richards, the team managed to post the 11th best offense last season, and while I don’t see a real high chance of that getting better, it shouldn’t get much worse either. The Stars have been kicking the tires on Jonathan Cheechoo, and if he can regain some of his early career form as a Rocket Richard Trophy winner, that offense may pick up. I think the Stars can pencil Ribeiro for around 20 goals this season as well, which can’t hurt. In all, the offense looks solid if unspectacular. They have a bit of upside, but I don’t see them cracking the top 5 offenses, and should hover right around #10.
The defense is a whole different can of worms. Starting from the back out, Kari Lehtonen was an acquisition last season that stumped me just a bit. There’s no doubt that Lehtonen has some real skills. In fact, he may even posses the potential to be a game-breaking elite goaltender. Unfortunately, he also seems severely injury prone. If he can bounce back from yet another injury, he could be a real dangerous weapon in the back. In front of Lehtonen, the Stars have an underwhelming core of players.Trevor Daley, Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, Nicklas Grossman, Stephane Robidas, Jeff Woywitka, Karlis Skrastins? Which of those names strikes fear into your heart? Congratulations, if you answered “None of them.” You win. Robidas is a steady player, and Fistric, Daley and the others are not exactly embarrassments to their jersey, but it’s a weak spot to be sure. If the Stars are forced to rely on a backup keeper (if Lehtonen gets hurt), this defense is probably not going to cut it.
I don’t see it happening this season for the Stars. It’s possible that Lehtonen stays healthy, the defense plays over their head and the offense becomes even more lethal than expected. The problem is, in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, even that might not be enough. Assuming the Coyotes don’t suffer a significant regression, it looks like the Stars are stuck at the bottom of the division with Anaheim, and out of the playoffs for the third straight season.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks Brad Richards Brenden Morrow Dallas Stars Jeff Woywitka Jonathan Cheechoo Kari Lehtonen Karlis Skrastins Los Angeles Kings Loui Eriksson Mark Fistric Matt Niskanen Mike Ribeiro Nicklas Grossman Phoenix Coyotes San Jose Sharks Stephane Robidas Trevor Daley