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Dallas Stars Seek To Fill Richards, Neal Departures in Shootout

Last year the Dallas Stars went 5-7 in shootouts. The Los Angeles Kings won 10 and finished 7th, just three points ahead of the Stars. To say the shootout was the difference in the two teams seasons is fallacious, to be sure, but the "skills competition," no matter how poor of a way it is to decide a hockey game, plays a vital role in playoff seeding even with the non-shootout-win tie breaker. If Dallas had won ten shootouts like Los Angeles they would have earned 100 points, finished in 4th place, and had no need for tie breakers.

Long gone are the days of Jussi Jokinen, Sergei Zubov and then... well, they usually didn't need that third guy. That's how dominant it was and we all took it for granted. The last several seasons have featured mainly Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, and James Neal. As you may have noticed two of those gentlemen have departed and taken with them the bulk of the Stars recent shootout attempts.

In Brad Richards' three full Dallas seasons...

Goals  Attempts  Perc.
2008-2009 2 7 28.5
2009-2010 4 16 25.0
2010-2011 5 12 41.7
Total: 11 35 31.4%

He led the team in attempts in each of the last two years and likely would have in 2008-2009 if not for the double wrist injuries.

James Neal leaves a similar hole, being a nearly "every shootout" kind of guy in 2009-2010 with his infamous 0-10 that carried into an 0-2 this last season before he was moved. He had some success in a Penguins uniform with this in the spring (despite not scoring any goal-goals) and hopes to regain the 5-of-7 form he had in his rookie season.

The answer to everything these days is, of course, "Jamie Benn."

Jamie Benn took over third on the team in attempts last year but scored on only two of his seven chances. If this seems odd to you in light of his plethora of breakaway goals last year you're not alone, but real hockey situations and the forced pageantry of the shootout (including mental preparation time for goaltenders) are two different animals. Nevertheless, one would think he'll be counted upon in this capacity.

If Mike Ribeiro can carry over his stellar 6-of-10 performance from last season then that leaves one spot open in the regular rotation. Michael Ryder brings with him a 2/10 performance in 2009-2010 and a 1/5 performance last year, so not much help there. The most obvious choice is Loui Eriksson, though he is only 5/21 (23.8%) on his career.

Steve Ott could be an option and is a relative unknown with only three career attempts and one goal. One of his misses last year, against Colorado I believe, was a slapshot off the crossbar that went higher than any puck I've ever seen at American Airlines Center. Alex Goligoski might be worth a look as well, being a skill-guy. He is 1/4 in his career.

What say you? Who shall carry the torch in this wretched but necessary exercise?