SB Nation is showcasing a special feature for the next week or so as every site manager in the network will be writing a season preview for their respective teams. James Mirtle will also review each team over at his site, From the Rink. It is Dallas' turn today, so be sure to head over there to see what James has to say and to vote where you think the Stars will end up in the Western Conference this season.
The Stars will also be featured on SB Nation's NHL page, which features updated, breaking hockey stories all day long. If you have not checked that out yet, it is worth a look see. (Shameless plug: I'm one of the editors for the new SBNation.com)
Most of the following information we have been discussing all summer, but it's time to put it all together for an official preview.
Season preview after the jump.
Last season the Dallas Stars failed to make to make the playoffs for the just the third time since moving to Dallas, and the first time since 2002. A team that had entered the season with high expectations faltered out of the gates, leading to a deep hole in the standings the Stars fought to get out of all season. The Stars rallied around each other and behind some magical play by Marty Turco, made a big run in the Western Conference going from 15th to 4th in a matter of two months. Yet injuries and an exhausted and overworked Turco ultimately led to a late-season collapse, and the Stars found themselves watching the playoffs in April.
Owner Tom Hicks, acting on his own and determined to get things turned around, hired Joe Nieuwendyk to replace Les Jackson and Brett Hull as the General Manager of the Stars. It was a decision that caught everyone by surprise, but it was Nieuwendyk's first move that really shook the organization to its foundation. Believing that sweeping change was needed Dave Tippett was fired and replaced with Marc Crawford, a coach whose style was nearly the opposite of his predecessor.
Now the Stars face a season with more questions to be answered than they have in a long time. Can the Stars improve and succeed with a more uptempo offensive system? Will Brenden Morrow be healthy and ready to lead his team again? Is Brad Richards ever going to live up to the high standards set forth by his salary, and what the Stars gave up to get him? How will Marty Turco perform following the worst NHL season of his career?
In a few weeks, these questions will begin to be answered.
Goaltender: When he is confident and focused, Marty Turco is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. Two seasons in a row he proved that he is capable of carrying a team in the playoffs, and is still the best puck-moving goalie around. His ability to negate the opposition's forecheck, while firing a long and accurate pass up ice is a level of play every team wish they had.
Alex Auld provides the most proven backup Marty Turco has had in a very long time, and will provide the Stars with the ability to rest their starter and not overwork him like last season. He also has the ability to push Turco to play better, since the team will feel confident riding him for several games in a row if Turco falters.
Defense: The Stars will continue to have a young yet talented group of defensemen that played incredibly well two seasons ago. Despite a rocky season one year ago, this defense should improve and become more consistent under the tutelage of Charlie Huddy. Karlis Skrastins provides great veteran leadership on the blue line and is one of the more underrated defensemen in the leage. Many have compared him to Richard Matvichuk in his ability to block shots, a trait this Stars defense has lacked for several years.
Forwards: The biggest strength of this team, the Stars have a stable of solid and talented forwards. Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro form one the most dangerous tandems in the league, while Mike Modano is perhaps the best third line center in the Western Conference. Yet it's the proposed second line combination of James Neal, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson that will really give the opposition the most trouble. This preseason the trio has terrorized opposing teams and is improving their chemistry daily. A revitalized and healthy Richards will provide great motivation and energy for those around him.
Special teams: This team has the ability to have several shutdown units on the penalty kill. Steve Ott, Toby Petersen, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen provide excellent defensive play among the forwards, while Skrastins brings experience and leadership to the PK among the defensemen.
Coaching: Currently, its unknown what this coaching staff can do. So far in the preseason, we've seen some good signs. The Stars rebounded from a poor showing in Colorado to get a solid road victory over a very good St. Louis team. The Stars seem willing and ready to play hard for their new coach. Overall though, this grade is incomplete.
General Manager: Joe Nieuwendyk has shown that he will not hesitate to do what he thinks is right for this organization. He made a very tough decision to not re-sign Sergei Zubov, who was a former teammate and great personal friend. He fired Dave Tippett, which was not a popular move among the Stars faithful earlier this summer. Both tough, but what he felt were needed decisions to make.
Goaltender: Marty Turco is coming off his worst season in his NHL career, in which he was worn down and reportedly had several feuds with goaltending coach Andy Moog. It's unknown how he will respond, especially considering he is the final year of his contract. At 34, he is nearing the end of the prime years of his career.
Defense: Young, inconsistent and now learning a new system. The Stars failed to significantly upgrade their blue line this summer and the defense will be their biggest question mark all season long.
Forwards: Mike Modano is in what is most like the final season of his NHL career and while he's still healthy and able, he's not the prolific player he once was. Jere Lehtinen has also had trouble staying on the ice in recent years and with the Stars having a lack of right-handed wingers, his health is key to a well-rounded group of forwards.
Special Teams: Without a true power play "quarterback", the Stars have struggled mightily to score with the man advantage. Crawford will try to strategies and systems on the PP, but until the Stars prove they can sore consistently when given the chance this will remain the team's biggest weakness.
- Morrow, Ribeiro, Brunnstrom
- Neal, Richards, Eriksson
- Ott, Modano, Lehtinen
- Sutherby, Petersen, Barch
- Benn, Wandell, Sawada
- Daley, Robidas
- Skastins, Niskanen
- Fistric, Grossman
- Woywitka, Hutchinson
- Vishnevskiy, Larsen
There is no way to accurately predict this team will respond to a new coach, a new system and a brand new atmosphere being implemented by Joe Nieuwendyk. On one hand, this is a talented and driven group of hockey players that can win on any given night and be dominant, especially with Marty Turco in net. On the other, this is also a team that is not overwhelmingly deep on defense and has many questions to answer after such a disappointing season last year. With Anaheim and San Jose doing their best to improve, the Stars will have nearly the same team on October 3, 2009 as the did one year ago. Whether that's good or bad is the big question.
If this team stays healthy and Brenden Morrow continues to be the leader we all know him to be, this team has all the ability to make the playoffs. My prediction: 5th in the Western Conference.
What do you think?