[Ed. Note: For those anxious for the Jamie Benn impact profile, it will be published first thing tomorrow morning. Real life intervened on my blogging time for a few days.]
The Dallas Stars are preparing to to take the ice tonight for their fifth preseason game under new coach Glen Gulutzan, who has so far turned in a 3-1 preseason record and has given Stars fans some hope that perhaps not all is lost following the departure of Brad Richards. It's been a very interesting training camp so far, especially when you consider the difficulty we've had in covering and accurately evaluating the players and the team with limited exposure to the games.
This is the reality of the NHL preseason, however, and in just a little over a week the Dallas Stars will kick off the 2011-12 season with a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks. After tonight's game, I'd expect to see the Stars try to start locking in on the actual opening night roster and to build some chemistry -- something that may be difficult as the team fights to maintain some top players healthy.
I do have some very specific thoughts on the preseason and what I'm suspecting we'll see from the Stars once the season begins, after the jump...
**The Dallas Stars are going to be a completely different team than what we've seen the past few seasons. While the coaching change and roster turnover say that this is something we should have expected, I don't think fans realize just how different things might be.
The Dallas Stars are still going to be a very aggressive and energetic team on offense and I look forward to seeing the offensive creativity of Goligoski, Ribeiro and Benn let loose. What I'm looking forward to the most, however, is how much the defense has changed in their approach -- something that appears to be completely different than what was used under Crawford.
We've talked about it all summer but it seems that Gulutzan is using the "play them to their strengths" approach, something that any sports team should adhere to. The Stars were not successful consistently trying to fit these players into an uncomfortable scheme and so far we're seeing the players respond much better to what Gulutzan is coaching.
All in all, I'm expecting a team that looks much more solid overall which perhaps is not as dynamic as we'd had expected the past few Stars teams to be -- although we've shown how the offense wasn't much more prolific than when Tippett was coaching anyway.
** Gulutzan is allowing his young players to have a chance at proving themselves. We asked going into the preseason and training camp whether there were any spots open for a player like Fraser, Dillon or Vincour to force their way onto in the NHL and so far the answer appears to be: yes.
The Stars went ahead and put Eric Godard on waiver in preparation of perhaps sending him to the AHL should the team decide to roll with a young forward instead of the pugilist. Like we talked about a few weeks ago, this is a sign of a coach wanting his best players and his best team on the ice regardless of contract and veteran hierarchy. He's putting players like Tom Wandell and Vincour on the top lines and seeing what they can do and then making roster moves accordingly.
Nothing creates a better team better than accountability and competition on the roster.
** Kari Lehtonen looks to be just as good, if not better, than last season. The problem is that we don't know what to expect when he's not playing.
Last year Lehtonen played in way too many games and wore out down the stretch. The Stars showed little faith in Raycroft and they rode on Lehtonen's back for far too long. So far in the preseason, Raycroft hasn't exactly shined and forced the Stars to take notice that's the solid backup they desperately need.
The question is whether the Stars have the ability or the guts to roll with someone like Richard Bachman, taking the chance at losing Raycroft for good when he's at least shown the ability to be solid as a backup while Bachman is completely unproven.
** Adam Pardy has been more solid on the blue line than any of us could have predicted, although we should have expected it given what our friend from Calgary were telling us. This is proof that just because we aren't familiar with the name doesn't mean we should be quick to judge. Between Pardy and Grossman, the Stars suddenly have a pair of very large shut down defensemen that should open things up for Robidas, Daley and Goligoski.
** All in all, I'm still encouraged by this team. Perhaps more so. We still have no clue if this is a playoff team and I doubt we really see this team's true potential until later in the season. With so many new players and a new coach, I'd expect to see some bumps in the road early in the season. Judging by the way this team is competing overall and responding to the coach, I'm not expecting too many issues right away.