Dallas Stars Line Combinations: Bevy of Centers Gives Lindy Ruff Options

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Nill has given Lindy Ruff the gift of options. How will the line combinations shake out to start the season with all of the new centermen?

The Dallas Stars' makeover is complete. Stylist General Manager Jim Nill put down the scissors, took one last look at his freshly coiffed lineup and spun the chair around to give the team and fan-base a peak in the metaphorical mirror.

And most like what they see. The additions of Tyler Seguin, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, Dan Ellis and Sergei Gonchar bolster the team's skill and depth across the board.

Now how to arrange the pieces to best achieve victory on the ice?

First consider the lines to start last season in October of 2012 January 2013:

Eriksson-Roy-Jagr
Whitney-Wandell-Ryder
Morrow-Fiddler-Nystrom
Garbutt-Eakin-Smith

Obviously Jamie Benn would come back soon from a minor contract negotiation kerfuffle, but look at that top six. Look at the top nine, even.

Derek Roy(30), Loui Eriksson (27), Jaromir Jagr (41), Michael Ryder (33) and.. err, Tom Wandell (26), are all gone. Enter Tyler Seguin (21) and... well, uhhhh.... Hmm.

That's the question. Enter who exactly into that top-six?

That's what Stars fans must ask themselves for the next 61 days or so until the first glimpses of training camp give us a better idea of what's being thought by Lindy Ruff and his yet-to-be-completed coaching staff. It's easy to make assumptions in the off-season but the reality is that they have options.

Generally the DBD staff will hash things like potential line combinations out in an email thread or on the site. I asked all of our contributors individually to project what lines could look like to start the season and got nine different answers from Brandon, Erin, Josh and all the gang...

Benn-Seguin-Cole
Whitney-Horcoff-Chiasson
Eakin-Peverly-Nichushkin
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel

Benn-Seguin Chiasson
Whitney Horcoff Nichushkin
Eakin Peverley Cole
Roussel Fiddler Glennie

Benn - Seguin - Peverly
Whitney - Horcoff - Chiasson
Cole - Eakin - Nichushkin
Roussel - Fiddler - Garbutt

Benn-Seguin-Chiasson
Whitney-Peverley-Cole
Eakin-Horcoff-Nichushkin
Roussel-Fiddler-Garbutt

Benn-Seguin-Whitney
Chiasson-Peverley-Horcoff
Nichushkin-Eakin-Cole
Roussel-Fiddler-Garbutt/MacDermid

Benn - Seguin - Peverley
Whitney - Horcoff - Chiasson
Cole - Eakin - Nichushkin
Roussel - Fiddler - MacDermid/Garbutt

Benn - Seguin - Chiasson
Whitney - Peverley - Nichushkin
Eakin - Horcoff - Cole
Roussel - Fiddler - Garbutt

Benn - Seguin - Whitney
Eakin - Peverley - Chiasson
Nichushkin - Horcoff - Cole
Roussel - Fiddler - MacDermid

Benn-Seguin-Nichuskin
Whitney-Peverley-Chiasson
Eakin-Horcoff-Cole
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel

So we've got that Benn-Seguin duo down. After that things get a bit foggy for anyone trying to prognosticate, and the problems start with an abundance of centers and a lack of right-wingers.

What problem? Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Chiasson, right? No problem.

Except that between the two of them they average 20 years-old and 3.5 NHL games of experience. Is that what Lindy Ruff will want making up 100% of his right wing scoring threats on the team? Maybe. If they're as good as fans hope that they are they may just force a veteran coach's hand in that regard.

Or maybe Erik Cole and Rich Peverley are better, safer choices. Both have played right wing before.

Then you get to the centers. Is Horcoff the "third line" center? Is Eaking the #2? Is Peverley? Will one of them move to wing? Is that completely wrong? Is it Horcoff on the second line, Fiddler on the third and Eakin on the fourth with Peverley on the wing? Don't scoff. It's not crazy.

We don't know. We don't know Lindy Ruff. We don't know what he thinks of these players.

We do know that while he likes to match-up at times, he has shown a propensity to expect all his players to play in all situations - Meaning zone starts and "easy" or "hard" minutes may not apply. Does that then change how one draws up the lines?

Does something like this start to look good in the face of being balanced offensively and defensively throughout?

Benn - Seguin - Peverley
Whitney - Eakin - Chiasson
Cole - Horcoff - Nichushkin

That's the fun of it. We just don't know.

Consider the following from Mike Heika:

"Peverley appears to be the most likely candidate to move to the wing, but he's also been consistently the best faceoff guy. There are some who believe his faceoff ability and his defensive awareness make him a perfect fit on the right wing on the top line with Seguin and Jamie Benn." [Dallas Morning News]

The KHL factor where Nichushkin is concerned makes it difficult to place him. With Nill and Ruff you would expect for them to demand that younger players force their way into the lineup rather than handing them a primo-spot and saying "Well, let's see how you do with it." Having no reason not to, Stars fans can trust the new leadership to strike a balance for the time being, but don't expect him to start with big minutes.

The good news? Spot the slow players on the roster. Jagr? Roy? Ryder? Ribeiro? Even Loui Eriksson was no speed demon. They're gone. Is Jamie Benn now the slowest in the top three lines? That's not a bad problem to have.

However it shakes out, Stars fans have plenty to contemplate, as does Lindy Ruff. Line combinations change. Coaches hate to be asked about it. But what else are we supposed to discuss in mid-July?

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