It's finally time to start moving on from the disappointment of the 2010-11 season for the Dallas Stars, and look once more to the future. This is a time when we can once again have some hope about the future, to think about the improvements that can be made over the summer for the team and the organization and finally get back to wondering if this team has the ability to make it to the postseason.
Unfortunately, the progress that could be made this summer is being overshadowed by the continued mess that is the ownership situation. It's true that there has been significant progress in the sale of the team, with Tom Gaglardi currently working on an exclusive offer for the team, yet until the sale is absolutely and completely final the Dallas Stars will be unable to make the decisions truly needed to improve this team enough to reach its ultimate potential.
While these limitations are definitely going to affect free agency the good news is that with the NHL Entry Draft, Joe Nieuwendyk has no such limits and can improve the depth of the organization as he sees fit. While there's a good chance he'll be headed to Minnesota next month without a head coach, Nieuwendyk has a chance to continue to rebuild this franchise through the draft -- and there's going to be some very interesting decisions to be made.
After the jump, we take a look at what needs the Stars currently have in their system and look back at Nieuwendyk's first two drafts as the team's general manager, as well as kick off our coverage of the top prospects in this year's draft.
2011 NHL Entry Draft - Dallas Stars picks:
Round 1 - 14th pick
Round 2 - 44th pick*
Round 3 - 75th pick*
Round 4 - 105th pick
Round 5 - 135th pick
Round 6 - 165th pick
Round 7 - 195th pick
*Either the second or third round pick will belong to the New Jersey Devils depending on what the Stars do with Jamie Langenbrunner between now and the draft. See comments.
2010 NHL Entry Draft - Dallas Stars picks:
Round 1 - Jack Campbell - G
Round 2 - Patrik Nemeth - D
Round 3 - Alex Guptill - LW
Round 4 - Alex Theriau - D
Round 5 - John Klingberg - D
2009 NHL Entry Draft - Dallas Stars picks:
Round 1 - Scott Glennie - RW
Round 2 - Alex Chiasson - RW
Round 3 - Reilly Smith - RW
Round 5 - Tomas Vincour - C
Round 6 - Curtis McKenzie - LW
What needs do the Dallas Stars have in the system?
If asked this question, many Stars fans will instantly answer "defense". There's a general consensus that the Stars are woefully lacking talent and skill at the position, with the exception of Philip Larsen, and that the decision to pick Jack Campbell over Cam Fowler last summer will haunt this team for years to come.
It's true that before last season , there was only one truly promising defensive prospect in the system and the Stars were looking at a tremendous need to rebuild at the position in the organization. A year later, and while the Stars still have some needs on the blue line, the situation isn't nearly as dire as it has been.
Last summer, after passing on Fowler in the first round, Nieuwnedyk drafted three defensemen and helped to bolster a position of need in the system with two players that are showing tremendous potential while playing at a high level in Europe. Patrik Nemeth has the potential to turn into another steal for the Stars after the first round and John Klingberg shows the 5th round promise that the Dallas Stars have a great track record in finding (Jamie Benn, Philip Larsen, Tomas Vincour, Tom Wandell).
The previous summer, the Stars entered the draft with a dire need for skilled right wingers. Nieuwendyk responded by selecting three right wing players with his first three picks. Glennie is showing the first round promise that many were skeptical he possessed and Alex Chiasson and Reilly Smith are coming close to dominating in the NCAA.
It's true that the Stars still need defensemen in the system, yet the biggest need headed into this draft is at the center position. The Stars have very little to show when it comes to playmaking centers in the system, and with Brad Richards potentially departing and Mike Ribeiro progressing in age, the Stars are going to be needing true centers to start making the jump to the NHL at some point in the future.
Unfortunately, "true centers" are something the Stars are woefully lacking. In the system, the Stars have players like Sean Backman, Aaron Gagnon, Tristan King, Ondrej Roman and Perttu Lindgren as the only true, natural centers and none are exactly tearing down the doors to the NHL. Gagnon and Backman have shown great promise at the AHL level, yet the Stars still do not possess the true "blue chip" prospect at the center position that all teams need in order to continue to improve year after year.
Currently, the Stars have Jamie Benn and Tomas Vincour as wingers who have been semi-converted to center -- yet whose true talent is on the wing. Tom Wandell has shown flashes of brilliance, yet just 9 points this past season doesn't spark much confidence he's ready to step up take on an expanded role on a second or third line. Scott Glennie has apparently been playing center in the WHL at times, yet he was drafted for the wing and that's likely where the Stars will want to use him the most.
The Stars have great, young potential and will likely be getting even younger this summer. Alex Goligoski, Philip Larsen, Nicklas Grossman, Mark Fistric and Trevor Daley will all likely be on the roster to start the season. With Karlis Skrastins moving on (it appears), the Stars will have some spots to fill -- whether that's through free agency, trade, or through the system.
While drafting Nemeth and Klingberg last summer -- as well as signing Brandon Dillon this season -- helped to fill a vast void in the system when it came to the blue line, the Stars are still looking for that "number one guy" to step up and take over on defense.
The good news is that while there might not be the "can't miss" prospects from last summer, the Stars will have a number of very capable and talented defensemen available at #14 as well. Whether it's the big, physical defensemen that we've been clamoring over for nearly four years now or another skilled, puck-moving defenseman -- the Stars will conceivably have their pick of a number of promising young players that could be ready to head to the NHL much sooner than later.
The question becomes do the Stars focus on the defenseman or the center in the first round, and that decision likely comes down to who the Stars believe is the best player available on the board. Would a talented center like Mark Scheifele or Mark McNeill be more valuable both short and long term, or would a defenseman like Jamieson Oleksiak or Nathan Beaulieu be the target.
We still have a month to sit down and figure this out and if the past two years have been any indication, no one truly knows what Joe Nieuwendyk plans on doing. He might decide that Samu Perhonen is the best pick available and stun the world by picking him in the middle of the first round.
Samu Perhonen is a goaltender.
Keep in mind:
The Stars currently possess seven picks in the draft, a product of Joe Nieuwendyk's insistence at holding on to as many draft picks as possible as he attempts to revamp the organization from the ground up.
Nieuwendyk has also shown that he is more than willing to lean toward players in the NCAA and from the US development programs.
The Stars could potentially be trading the rights to Brad Richards during the draft and could receive a significant pick in return.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - C
Adam Larsson - D
Gabriel Landeskog - LW
Jonathan Huberdeau - C
Mika Zibanejad - C
Jonas Brodin - D
Dougie Hamilton - D
Joel Armia - RW
Nathan Beaulieu - D
Sean Couturier - C
Dmitri Jaskin - RW
Oscar Klefbom - D
Sven Baertschi - LW
Mikka Salomaki - C
Ryan Strome - LW
Joachim Nermark - C
Ryan Murphy - D
Markus Granlund - C
Duncan Siemans - D
Rasmus Bengtsson - D
Mark Scheifele - C
Nicklas Jensen - LW
Jamieson Oleksiak - D
Zach Phillips - C
Joseph Morrow - D
Phillip Danault - LW
Boone Jenner - C
Jonathan Miller - C