Heading into last year, it was pretty clear that the Dallas Stars were a team on the upswing. With an overhaul in the front office, as well as a change behind the bench, in addition to an already impressive farm system, they had the ability to make some noise in the Western Conference, though a playoff appearance seemed unlikely. They did actually crack the postseason eight, however, and did push back quite a bit against a superior Anaheim Ducks club, even if they didn’t ultimately prevail in the series.
With training camp and the preseason set to get underway in the very near future, the Stars have their sights set on larger things. They improved an already solid roster, with a great mix of emerging young talent and complementary veterans set to take the ice in the upcoming 2014-15 campaign. Given the way their roster is taking shape for the new season, many are wondering just how dangerous this team has the ability to be this year.
One thing working in their favor is their 1-2 star punch of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. As things stand right now, the Stars look like they absolutely fleeced the Boston Bruins in acquiring Seguin, as he had a terrific season last year, as he finished with 84 points in 80 games. He’s certainly making the transformation into a franchise player. Add him to Benn, and the Stars have a top three or four pair on their top line, with the dominant, yet underrated, wing.
While Seguin and Benn will grab the headlines, there are some other young players that will grab some attention. Valeri Nichushkin has good size, a great skill set, and major upside. He showed some flashes of being a big-time offensive threat, particularly in the second half of the year after a rough start to his NHL career. A top line of that trio has the ability to be among the best units anywhere in the league. Other young notables, up front, include Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin, along with some role players mixed in there, such as Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole.
What has many people excited about the Stars’ chances in 2014-15 is the pair of additions they made up front, in acquiring Jason Spezza and signing Ales Hemsky. Those additions give the Stars a very potent top six, and those two will likely take advantage of the fact that it’ll be Seguin, Benn, and Nichushkin drawing the top defenders from the opposition. Or even if it ends up Hemsky up top, with Spezza and Nichushkin on the second unit, you’re still looking at a very good top six. Keep in mind, this was already a top ten team, in terms of scoring, last year. They’ve added another 36 goals to the mix.as
As far as keeping the puck out of the net, the Stars were right about middle-of-the-road there last year, ranking 17th in the league in goals against per game, at 2.72. There’s a solid mix on the blue line, with the underrated Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley leading the defensive corps. There is also plenty of room for a young defender to make an impact, with names like Julius Honka and big Jamie Oleksiak hovering around the system, in addition to many others. However, while this is a decent group overall, they’ll have their work cut out for them if they’re to keep the likes of Chicago and Los Angeles off the scoreboard.
In goal, Kari Lehtonen is probably overlooked as a top ten goaltender. However, he’s had no shortage of health issues in recent years, so it’s always going to be a question as far as whether or not he’s a guy the Stars could truly lean on to carry them deep into the postseason. When he’s healthy, he’s a top tier netminder. However, that health does represent an issue. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays behind this defensive group in the upcoming season.
The long and short of it is that the Dallas Stars are going to be a very, very fun team to watch in 2014-15. They have some elite offensive talent, which is what is going to carry them into the postseason for a second consecutive year. Their blue line has plenty of youth to work with, and should improve over the course of the next couple of years. Add that to a capable veteran goaltender, and there is a solid formula in place. Are they an elite team in the Western Conference? Not with the presence of clubs like Chicago, LA, or Anaheim. However, they’ll be in the conversation throughout the season and should be dancing come playoff time next year, perhaps for a little longer than they did last season.