Last season when the Dallas Stars took the practice ice in Charlottetown, PEI the most interesting stories centered around the backup netminder battle, Philip Larsen, and the outside chance that Jonathan Cheechoo might make the team and revive his career. Fast forward a year and things have changed a little.
Things we didn't have to talk about last season but do now include a new head coach, over 30% roster turnover from September to September including a slew of free agent signings, a more competitive prospect system, and a sale that could see the bankruptcy court proceedings begin at any second now in Delaware.
It's quite a change from the last two years that saw virtually the same roster return (particularly on defense). Without knowing how Sheldon Souray, Adam Pardy, Eric Godard, Vernon Fiddler, Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak and Jake Dowell fit with the existing (remaining?) pieces, it's impossible to prognosticate anything this season. Throw Alex Goligoski in there as well, as a full year of his contributions will no doubt make a bigger splash than any of the aforementioned additions.
The truth of the matter is that we don't know who's going to own the team on Christmas day. We don't know how Glen Gulutzan's system will affect things. We don't know how he's going to fix the power play. We don't know how new assistant coach Paul Jerrard will run the penalty kill. We don't know how eight new players will fit into the roster. We don't know what the defensive pairings will be, etc...
This is all to say that this year's camp and preseason present an enormous amount of intrigue for a group of fans starved for news all summer long. Which one are you most interested in?
1. The Sale Of The Team...
Ultimately most fans will keep their attention on the ice, and with the roster set and the budget already increased from last year's, ownership could be said to be a bit of a moot point for the 2011-2012 season. That being said, the sale of the team is about the next five to ten years. Or even twenty. It's about the big picture and whether or not the Stars get off to a good start in October, the sale of the team will be looked upon years from now as the most significant Dallas Stars event in 2011.
Not to mention that the departure of the previous owner could potentially provide quite the psychological jolt to the fanbase...
2. Glen Gulutzan's Influence on the team...
Those keen on keeping their interest squarely on the ice will have their opinions on what happened last year under Marc Crawford down the stretch and be very interested to know where Glen Gulutzan will deviate from that path...
Continued after the jump
Will he play Kari Lehtonen less than Crawford did? Will he implement a defensive oriented system to protect the team's perceived lack of elite goal scoring talent in the absence of Brad Richards? (debatable...)
Will he be able to raise the team's power play percentage? Will he get them ready to play in first periods where they were so deficient last year? The argument can certainly be made that a new head coach will have the single biggest influence on the only thing that really matters to hockey fans: the club's chances of making the playoffs.
3. The Addition of Seven Free Agents and Alex Goligoski...
The heck with the coaches and the owners, right? Those voting this way may say "it's all about the talent on the ice."
Preseason publications lament the loss of Brad Richards and James Neal but usually add that the team is deeper overall. Compare the point production potential of players like Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak and Jake Dowell compared to that of forwards like Jason Williams, Brian Sutherby and Brandon Segal and you'll find the reasons why.
The majority of attention, of course, is centered on Sheldon Souray and Michael Ryder: Both of them were hot names in the summer of 2008, but their stars (so to speak) have fallen since, as we've chronicled ad nauseam. Many at American Airlines Center this fall will be looking for the Souray slapshot and for Ryder's name on the scoresheet.
4. Young Player Development...
Still, for others, training camp and preseason are a chance to see the youngster in the organization. Scott Glennie, Matt Fraser, Brenden Dillon, Jack Campbell, Jamie Oleksiak, Ondrej Roman... they'll all be suited up in Dallas Stars uniforms and on display at the American Airlines Center.
Last year Severin Blindenbacher, Tomas Vincour and Aaron Gagnon stole our attention nightly as each posted impressive displays and stuck with the big club into October before being sent down. Talk that any one of them could stay up with Dallas was common.
Who will it be there year? Will an injury force Brenden Dillon or Philip Larsen's name into contention? Can Vincour earn back the spot he occupied so regularly down the stretch last year?
Other story lines will emerge...
Will the team be able to generate sufficient offense without Brad Richards fingerprints on everything? What will the defensive pairings be? The list goes on and on. Where does your interest lie primarily as we barrel toward the weekend and the start of camp?
What story line interests you most this coming training camp/preseason?
The free agent additions and how they fit (70 votes)
Glen Gulutzan: His systems and adjustments (78 votes)
Young players making a push for roster spots (44 votes)
The sale of the team heading to bankruptcy court/auction (39 votes)
231 total votes