While many Dallas Stars fans are looking forward to what they hope will be better days in the Central Division (or whatever it will be called) starting in 2012-2013, the Pacific gauntlet must be navigated once more. It's been the best division in hockey, top to bottom, for a number of years now and it didn't get much softer this summer.
We'll take a look at them one by one and ponder what life will be like this upcoming season as these games drag on into the late night on the west coast. First up is the Phoenix Coyotes: the one team you might argue actually got worse
Obviously the glaring loss here is what many felt was the MVP of the league in 2009-2010, and we waved a hearty goodbye to him as he went to the East. It is not entirely crazy to ponder if his departure means anywhere from 2-4 additional points for Dallas next year.
As for Vernon Fiddler, new Dallas Star, I'll take a few words from Five For Howling's Jordan... "Honestly, of all the players that are leaving, the one I'm most upset losing is Vernon Fiddler, who was a battler and grinder on this team, playing important minutes on the PK and as a defensive shutdown center - and he punched home a few goals as well." ...Which is just what we've been telling you about him. Their loss is the Stars gain.
As you can see, they went ahead and replaced Bryzgalov with three guys. Maybe they can all stand in the net at the same time. We know Mike Smith well around these parts (I have his signature on a hat, I saw the other day). He handles the puck well, as he learned from the master, but has been somewhat inconsistent since leaving the Stars, never really nailing down that Tampa job in an authoritative way. He'll have strong defensive play in front of him in Tippett's system as per usual, and that will help him.
However, Ilya Bryzgalov, he is not.
Jordan from Five For Howling... "In net, Mike Smith is ready for the challenge and I think will be a decent Bryz replacement. He is an excellent puck handling goalie (which we haven't seen in the valley in a very long time) and that could help with our transition play which may be a key to this team considering our youth and speed advantage that we should have over many other clubs."
The rest is of little consequence and on paper it certainly doesn't seem as though the Coyotes were able to replace what they lost. People are saying similar things about the Dallas Stars, of course, so we take it all with a grain of salt. They will be looking for some youngsters to step up contribute more and they just may get it, like we're hoping for here.
*Today they signed Patrick O'Sullivan, who they had bought out a year ago. He's a former 20 goal scorer with the Kings but then suffered a huge downturn for whatever reason and has bounced around a lot.
After reaching the playoffs two years in a row and stalling there, as that style of play will nearly always do, can they get back a third time? The Bryzgalov argument is oversimplification in the eyes of a Coyotes fan, but it is what it is. My guess is no, and that at least bodes well for the Stars because like last year they're going to need to finish ahead of the Coyotes and Ducks to make the playoffs.
What do you think? Will Dave Tippett's style give the Stars fit no matter who he rolls out there?