We have a long ways to go until the full Stars team takes to the ice in September. Until then, we can have bunches of speculative fun trying to guess how new combinations will play together or how different players will step up if given more minutes and a slightly different role on the team.
A couple of days ago I relayed my proposed line combinations, putting Steve Ott on the second line with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson. I also had Vernon Fiddler playing on a line with Adam Burish and Tom Wandell. Mike Heika revealed his early combination proposal yesterday, with a slightly different take:
Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Michael Ryder
Steve Ott-Jamie Benn-Loui Eriksson
Jake Dowell-Vernon Fiddler-Adam Burish
Toby Petersen-Tom Wandell-Radek Dvorak
Alex Goligoski-Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman-Trevor Daley
Adam Pardy-Sheldon Souray
After looking at it, I tend to prefer Heika's combinations. With Ott and Benn anchoring that second line, the Stars have a very versatile and defensively-capable line that is also able to counterpunch with the best in the NHL. This allows the Ribeiro line to be freed up a bit and not have to face the top line of the opposition every shift, as that will be Benn's and Ott's role (more on this later).
It's the third line that is most interesting. For many of you, it seems that Jake Dowell is nothing more than a depth player to compete for ice time with Krys Barch. Dowell has been a late bloomer of sorts, however, and last season had six goals and 21 points while playing in limited minutes with Chicago. Dowell is a faceoff capable winger, as is Fiddler and Burish. This would be a very physical and versatile third line, and also allow the Stars to play a combination of speedy and defensive players on the fourth line.
I'm not sold on Goligoski playing with Robidas just yet, however. I know they had some success last season, but I'd also like to not have both my top, undersized defensemen playing together on the top pairing. We'll see.
What are your ideal combinations, knowing of course that with a new coaching staff anything can happen?