Around the league, it seems to be a consensus that the moves that Dallas has made to their offense in the off-season will go a long way to help the team but that their lack of improvement to the defense will be the bottle neck that keeps them out of the playoffs for a 5th (!) straight year.
But is Dallas' defense really worse than last year?
Since the trade deadline last year, the Stars blue-line has said goodbye to Sheldon Souray and Nik Grossman(n). These losses were not terribly hard to take, seeing as we got a 2nd round pick last year and a 3rd round pick in this coming draft for him, and his salary demands would have precluded him from being re-signed and although we might have loved to have Souray for another year, it wouldn't be worth it to lock him up for 3 at his age. But still, have we made up for the losses? The only addition we have made is Aaron Rome, who is only mediochre.
Here are some reasons why the Stars Defense will be just fine
1. Phillip Larsen: Larsen impressed in his rookie year, and although he didn't score much, he proved that he can be an effective defender and is no push-over either. The teams trust in Larsen is one of the main reasons why they thought it would be OK to trade Grossmann. With a whole year of NHL experience under his belt, and an impressive start to the season in Finland, Larsen is poised to be a breakout player on this team this year.
2. Depth on the farm: I would have put #2 as Brenden Dillon, but it seems like he will have some competition from Oleksiak and Jordie Benn. Whichever one of these players makes the squad (and they could rotate players in and out of cedar park depending on who is hot, and what type of player they need) any one of them would be an improvement in the mobility department. Although all three or generally considered defensive defensemen, They all are much better skaters than Souray and Grossmann, and better puck handlers as well. Our defense will be better able to get the puck out of their own zone and onto the stick of the offenders.
3. Departure of Mike Ribeiro and Improved Offense: I loved Mike Ribeiro, but our forward group was difficult to manage with his defensive short comings. With him gone, and the addition of Roy, Jagr, and Whitney, the forward group should be more balanced with players playing the roles that suit them. The forward group will be better able to get the puck, hold onto the puck, and will be less of a liability for the defense behind them.
4. Goaltending: Kari is a monster out of the gate but seems to wear down after the first 60 games. Luckily there are only 48. Of course the schedule will be condensed so it still might be difficult on him but we won't have any Raycroft troubles at the beginning of the season as we did last year. A full (48 game) season of Bachman (or Nihlstorp if he proves to be a better option) should leave no question marks about the position. The goaltending will be a point of strength that will calm the defense and make them better.
Of course we would love to have a true #1 guy (who wouldn't love to see a Goligoski/Edler pairing in 2013-14?) But the defensive responsibility of the forward group and the strength of the goaltending position along with steps forward from some of the younger defensemen will make our blue line much more effective this season