2012 NHL Free Agency: Dallas Stars Looking To Add Center; Jamie Benn Back To Wing?

When Glen Gulutzan was hired last summer as the successor to Marc Crawford for the head coaching position with the Dallas Stars, it was with the expectation that there would be some stumbles along the way for the young coach. Gulutzan, one of the youngest head coaches in the NHL, had just two years of experience above the ECHL level before getting the job in Dallas and it was unkown how he would adjust to the higher levels of talent, skill and strategy used in the NHL.

After his first full season, the results were certainly mixed but positive overall. The Stars likely overperformed over the course of the season and while the late-season "collapse" was frustrating, the Stars ended the season about where most expected them to be while showing good potential for the future. While the Stars showed growth as a team and it was good to see certainly strategical adjustments over the course of the season, the historically-bad power play and defensive issues with the forwards are major concerns moving forward.

Talking with 620 CKRM radio up in Saskatchewan, Gulutzan talked about his first year in the NHL and what it was like making the jump from the AHL.

"There is a big adjustment period," said Gulutzan. "If I look back at my ten-year coaching career, it was probably in year three that there was a big learning curve for me. That's when I hooked up with Darryl Sutter and Jim Playfair up there in Calgary and those guys knda helped me along and I felt I made a big jump.

"Now, going through this first year I felt this has been a bigger jump. It wasn't a steep curve but it was a slow, steady curve that someone has to live through in order to understand it. At the end of the day I'm glad I had the opportunity to go through it. There's certainly some areas where I need to improve but there's some areas where I felt I did a good job. Certainly where you want to go is up, right?"

After the jump, we get to the biggest reveal by Gulutzan, however: That the Dallas Stars might be looking to move Jamie Benn back to the wing.

The big news for the Dallas Stars right now is how the Stars are approaching free agency and the draft, especially with an owner on board who is apparently willing and able to spend as much as is needed -- wisely -- in order to build this team. The Stars have made it clear they are targeting one and possibly two top-six forwards; it's been speculated that the Stars are also going after a center as well, something that Gulutzan discussed during the show.

"I think going forward, we've got Tom Gaglardi now as an owner and that's going to be the first step towards really helping us," said the Stars coach. "We're not that far away, I don't think. What we really do need here is probably another center to help us out, you know, a guy that come in here and win faceoffs and really help us. We went and got Vernon Fiddler and he was a good guy, we've got a top guy in Mike Ribeiro and we played Jamie Benn at center. I think though, we need a center that can help the Morrows, the Erikssons and the Benns of the world. Take some pressure of some other guys."

According to Gulutzan, the Stars need someone that can help out Eriksson, Morrow and Benn and "take some pressure off the other guys." It's been speculated almost all season and this summer as well that Jamie Benn is best suited moving back to the wing where his natural offensive prowess can truly be set loose, but with the Stars lacking depth up the middle the possibility currently doesn't exist.

Yet the Stars have made it known that they are likely targeting a center high in the draft and now the coach says that getting one in free agency is also a priority. It's clear that the Stars acknowledge where the shortcomings on this roster lie and for the first time in a very long time will be aggressive in addressing those issues.

The question, of course, is whether Jamie Benn's value truly does lie on the wing or at center. He's proven over the past two years that he can be one of the most effective two-way forwards in the NHL and had some of the best production in the NHL when facing top competition. Playing at center, however, also seemed to inhibit his offensive aggression at times and there is a question as to whether that was a factor of the minutes he was playing or whether it was due to who he was playing with on the ice.

Is moving Jamie Benn back to the wing the right idea? Is it encouraging to hear the Dallas Stars at least discussing the possibility?

We'll dive more into this debate next week.

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