Every year, we here at Defending Big D try to take what we've seen in the offseason and the preseason and in a very unscientific manner predict where the Dallas Stars will end the season.
This year is quite different, as realignment goes into effect and the way you get into the playoffs changes. To remind everyone: the top three teams in each division earn an automatic playoff spot. The eight playoff spots are then filled out with two wild card spots, awarded to the two teams with the highest point total, regardless of division.
The playoffs will follow this format:
#1 seed vs Wild card team
#2 seed vs #3 seed
#1 seed vs Wild card team
#2 seed vs #3 seed
Second round (division championship):
Central Division - Winner of #1 vs wild card plays winner of #2 vs #3 winner
Pacific Division - Winner of #1 vs wild card plays winner of #2 vs #3 winner
Third round (conference championship):
Winner of Central Division vs Winner of Pacific Division
Fourth round (Stanley Cup Finals):
Winner of the Western Conference plays the winner of the Eastern Conference for the hardest trophy to win in sports
The Defending Big D staff put together their thoughts on where the Dallas Stars will end up this season. And here we go...
Brad Gardner: Hawks, Kings, Sharks, Ducks, Blues, Wild and Canucks. Then there's everyone else fighting for the last spot. With a nearly unchanged blue line and completely changed everything else can the Stars limit chances against and find some consistency on special teams? Can they win the dog fight to claim the eight seed? This looks like a transition year. A learning year. 2014-2015 is when they get serious. 4th in the Central, 10th overall in the West
Erin Bolen: The Stars' finish this year will depend on the impact of Sergei Gonchar and any young kids who step up on defense. While I'm not sure they will be significantly improved, they've been right on the cusp the past several years with more obvious flaws. In a strong division, they're not going to fight for the top couple of spots, but I think they'll sneak in via the West's final Wild Card spot.
Josh Lile: The only teams in the Conference that clearly appear to be better than the Stars are the Hawks, Blues, Kings, Canucks, and Sharks. Assuming another team gets some favorable bounces we have 6 teams ahead of the Stars. So, 7th in the West.
Taylor Baird: The Stars' offense should be better this season, and with an improved backup goaltender the team should win a few more of those back-to-backs that have been a sore spot the last few seasons. The Central division is tough, however, so I'm taking 4th in the Central and 7th in the West. They'll make the playoffs as one of the bottom two seeds in the wild card spot.
Trevor Tsudbury: I like the potential firepower that the offense can bring this year. It should help to offset the lack of changes that were made to the defense. They've been a borderline playoff team the last few years, and I think that they can finally make the jump with the changes to the team as well as the divisions. Being ever the optimist, I believe that they can finish 3rd in the Central division, and Stars fans will finally get to see them in the playoffs once again.
Derek Neumeier: With new players, new coaches, and a new GM comes new hope for the Stars. The forward group has depth, Kari Lehtonen is in his prime, and Sergei Gonchar gives the team five defenders capable of playing 20 minutes a night, so the potential for success is there. However, with so much change team chemistry is uncertain, and whether it develops will dictate how the Stars will fare.That being said, I think the fresh faces will gel and the team will sneak into the playoffs in the 7th spot.
Huw Wales: Despite the improvements up front it's clear that the blueline still needs some work. Everything still needs to come together and mesh well so things are very much in the air. There are too many things that have to go the Stars way to compete near the top of the West. I'll be a pessimist and predict the Stars finish 9th.
Ismael Hammoudi: St. Louis and Chicago are the only locks. The rest of the division is up in the air; but the Stars will have a very good offense and a great Kari Lehtonen. Other than that they are the most balanced team of the rest of the division; none of their weaknesses are as glaring as those of Minnesota, Colorado, Nashville or Winnipeg.
David Wilson: In the Central, I'm gonna give Stars top billing out of all the teams not named Blackhawks or Blues. They may not be primed for a run at the Cup just yet, but by God they'll be in the playoffs! For the Pacific, I like Battle of Cali for the top three spots. So Stars as 6th in the conference, or grabbing the top wildcard if Minnesota sneaks in ahead.
Brandon Bibb: For the first time in a long time, the Stars do seem to have a certain sense of direction on where they want to go as a team and an organization. All of which leads to getting an identity. But a playoff spot? That's still up for debate in the first year of major NHL realignment since the Stars' first year in Dallas. Chicago and St. Louis are demonstrably better, leaving the third automatic spot up for grabs. I'm not sure the Stars are quite ready to outgun Nashville or Minnesota. But the lack of Detroit in the West along with an up and coming Columbus team should help the Stars slide into the 8th seed where they'll probably become mince meat for a legit Cup contender like the Hawks. But at least they'll finally be back there after a 5 year absence. This time, I really mean this prediction.
Where do you think the Stars will finish? Will they make the playoffs this season to end the five year drought?