We finish our look at the Western Conference by taking a look at a team that had a chance to do something all Wing fans wanted: cause the Blackhawks to miss the playoffs. Unfortunately, Dallas wasn't that great a team last year, and they lost a great opportunity to do something hilarious by losing to the Wild.
To say the Stars have had a troubling offseason would be a disappointment: they lost their best player to the New York Rangers in free agency, and the team is now dealing with bankruptcy proceedings. The start of the preseason and training camp means that all Stars fans can put this summer behind them and focus on their favourite players returning to the ice.
Should they be excited for this year, or is it going to be another disappointing season in Dallas? Follow the jump to find out.
The Stars had an up-and-down season. A strong start put the Stars in first place early on, keeping them ahead of the underachieving Sharks and Ducks. However, the Stars began to fade midway through the season, and an injury to Brad Richards left the Stars floundering. A win on the final game of the season against the Wild would have catapulted the Stars into the 8th and final playoff spot, but the equipment manager shrunk the collars on the Stars' jerseys and they lost, allowing the Hawks the privilege of facing the President's Trophy-winning Canucks in the first round. In the end, Chicago making it in was for the best, as they were a better team than the Stars last year. Still, it was a heart-breaking way for the season to end for Dallas.
Pertinent Stats in 2010-11
Points: 95 (16th NHL, 9th West)
Goals For: 222 (17th NHL)
Goals Against: 226 (15th NHL)
Power Play: 18.0% (14th NHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.1% (23rd NHL)
Offense: The Stars lost one of the premier centreman in the NHL when Brad Richards signed a monster deal with the New York Rangers. Losing Richards and his 77 points (in only 72 games) will be virtually impossible to replace, especially considering the Stars did not sign anyone who would even remotely take his place. Therefore, Dallas will turn to noted sushi-enthsuiast Mike Ribeiro as their number 1 center. Ribeiro is a player with a lot of offensive skill, even if he spends most of his time flopping around like the dead raw fish he so loves to consume.
However, the most important offensive player on the Stars is also one of the league's most underrated forwards. Loui Eriksson finished 2nd on the Stars in scoring last season, the third straight season he scored at least 25 goals. He's going to be relied on heavily to be Dallas' main goal-scorer, but he's got the talent to rise to the occasion. Captain Brenden Morrow has always been a player known to play with an edge, but he's coming off a 33-goal season and can play with skill.
Beyond the big 3 at forward, the talent level drops off. Jamie Benn has scored 22 goals in consecutive seasons, and provides a legitimate scoring threat beyond Eriksson, Ribeiro and Morrow, but the Stars are hoping that Michael Ryder can build off his Cup-winning season in Boston and re-connect with former Canadiens teammate Ribeiro. Ryder can score, but he's one of the streakiest players in the NHL, and when he's cold, he's pretty much useless.
On the blueline, the Stars will reap the benefits of having Alex Goligoski for an entire season. He was obtained from the Penguins for James Neal and Matt Niskanen in February, and he immediately found a place in the lineup, kicking in 15 points in 20 games in a Dallas uniform. Goligoski will spend the year quarterbacking the power play and being the team's top offensive threat from the back end. Sheldon Souray, should he make the team, also gives the Stars a chance to get more scoring from the defense should he be able to return to his previous form.
Defense: The Stars have one of the league's more underrated defense corps, and although there aren't any real studs there (outside of Goligoski), they are a tough team to play against. Hard-nosed Stephane Robidas plays a tough game, and he can chip in offense at times. Trevor Daley is a smooth-skating d-man who can move the puck well.
However, the Stars have a few guys who are good in their own end. Goligoski is no slouch in his own zone. Mark Fistric has a great name, and he can eat up minutes playing against the other team's top forwards. He's a big man (6'3", 234 lbs), as is new Star Adam Pardy, although the scouting report on Pardy is that he's not a guy to use his size all the time (Dallas' version of Jonathan Ericsson?) The Stars went for defense in the draft, taking huge Jamie Oleksiak in the first round of the 2011 draft. He's a darkhorse to make the team this year, but he's not far away from being in the NHL.
The Stars have a lot of players who are extremely tough on the opposition. Steve Ott, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Godard and Adam Burish are all players who make life difficult for the other team, and are the types of players that we all love to hate (or in Ott's case, just plain hate).
Goaltending: After a bad start to his career in Atlanta, Kari Lehtonen was moved to Dallas, and he seems to have finally regained the form that made him a top draft pick by the Thrashers. I have personal experience watching Lehtonen as I saw him play a couple of years here in Chicago for the Thrashers' AHL affiliate, and he was an extremely athletic goaltender who could move very well for a big player. However, injuries were the biggest factor in his struggles, and he is finally healthy. Last year was a strong one for Lehtonen, posting a 34-24-11 record with a 2.55 GAA and .914 SV%. He gave the Stars a chance to win a lot of games, and he faced the most shots in the NHL last season.
It remains to be seen whether Jack Campbell will make the team as a back up to Lehtonen next year, but the highly-touted American prospect is the Stars' goalie of the future.
Player to Watch: Alex Goligoski is one of the real underrated defenseman in the NHL, and this year could be a year where he takes a big step forward and gets noticed as one of the better puck-moving defenseman in the NHL. Playing big minutes on the power play could see him break the 50-point barrier.
Player With Something to Prove: Mike Ribeiro, this is your team now. After years of good production while being the #2 guy behind Richards, he's now the undisputed #1 centreman in Dallas, and he's got good wingers in Eriksson, Morrow, Benn and Ryder to work with. He's going to have to show he's up to the task of being "the guy" in Dallas.
The Skinny: The Stars hung around all season last year, and as Wing fans can attest, they are a tough team to play against. Only a Patrick Eaves hat trick prevented the Wings from being swept by the Stars last season. However, the loss of Richards is going to be pretty crippling to an offense that was mediocre with him in the lineup, and if there's a single injury to an important player, the Stars are going to be in serious trouble in a difficult Pacific Division. I think that they will not be able to overcome Richards' absence, and they just barely miss the playoffs.