This is going to be an interesting year for the Dallas Stars, as the franchise charges forward with renewed sense of beginning and an eye on a fresh start for the organization. Ever since Tom Gaglardi purchased the team in November of 2011 it seems we've been waiting for a summer like this one, where the Stars franchise goes hits the reset button and moves ahead with the goal of escaping from the stifling mediocrity of the past five years.
At the heart of this change is the radical turnover we've seen this summer in the front office and behind the bench. Gaglardi and CEO Jim Lites sensed an opportunity and jumped on it, hiring the highly-sought Jim Nill as general manager -- a move that completely altered the course of the franchise. Glen Gulutzan was replaced with veteran head coach Lindy Ruff and suddenly this is a team with a wealth of experience leading the way.
Where change and improvement is truly seen, however, is on the ice -- and that begins and ends with the roster at hand. The theory of just how much coaching can effect change on a hockey team will truly be put to the test this season and moving forward with the Dallas Stars, but it's also important for teams to take a good and hard look at their roster construction and what it means for the franchise in the short and the long-term future.
In light of all of the criticisms and restrictions placed on Joe Nieuwendyk during his four seasons as the Stars GM, it can't be said he wasn't afraid of making changes. This new path for the Stars didn't just start being laid down when Jim Nill was hired; Nieuwendyk kicked off the changing of the guard two years ago when he started to really break apart a core of players that had increasingly disappointed as each season concluded.
The reasons for the methods of change used by Nieuwendyk have been well documented. Bankruptcy, limited finances, a weak prospect pool and the inability to truly improve via free agency all severely limited the ways that Nieuwendyk could try and improve the team. It was almost an impossible task, as this was a franchise that could not afford to scrap everything in a full rebuild -- the Stars were desperate to try and hold onto any potential for success while also attempting to build for the future.
So, the focus became on asset management and retention as well as rebuilding a horrendously shallow prospect pool through smart drafting. This strategy was successful in some ways and a failure in others, but overall most agree that the Stars are set up well for the future with plenty of assets with good potential and most of that is due to what Nieuwendyk was able to accomplish.
Part of that long-term plan included not getting saddled with overlong, expensive contracts. We'll explore this separately, but the Stars are set up very well in the coming seasons to be able to retain the budding young players that will be ready for their second contracts and with the salary cap expected to expand -- the Stars are in a very good place when it comes to the cap and the payroll of the team.
It's easy to discuss all of these factors in how this current roster was built, but it's another to see just how much turnover there really has been on this roster the past two years. The Dallas Stars team that will take the ice in October will barely resemble the team that debuted under rookie head coach Glen Gulutzan way back in October of 2011.
Below, I've taken the projected roster and lineup for the start of the season and compared that with the lineup for the Stars in the middle of October in 2011, just after Eric Nystrom was acquired via trade in order to get back over the salary cap floor.
|Two-year Roster Turnover|
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Rich Peverley|
|Ray Whitney||Shawn Horcoff||Alex Chiasson|
|Erik Cole||Cody Eakin||Valeri Nichushkin|
|Antoine Roussel||Vern Fiddler||Ryan Garbutt|
|Lane MacDermid||Scott Glennie|
|Alex Goligoski||Brenden Dillon|
|Stephane Robidas||Sergei Gonchar|
|Trevor Daley||Aaron Rome|
|Jordie Benn||Kevin Connauton|
|Brenden Morrow||Mike Ribeiro||Michael Ryder|
|Steve Ott||Jamie Benn||Loui Eriksson|
|Adam Burish||Vern Fiddler||Radek Dvorak|
|Kris Barch||Jake Dowell||Toby Petersen|
|Eric Nystrom||Tom Wandell|
|Alex Goligoski||Mark Fistric|
|Niklas Grossmann||Trevor Daley|
|Sheldon Souray||Stephane Robidas|
|Philip Larsen||Adam Pardy|
I've highlighted the players that appear on both rosters and it's clear to see just how much things have changed in just a short amount of time. Only two forwards from the start of that season remain with the team, and only one player from the top six. This also isn't counting players added last summer that have since moved on, like Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy.
If I had more time I would see how this compared to other teams around the NHL, but this is an incredible amount of turnover in such a short amount of time. The beginning of the 2013 season in January was met with a lot of "who is this guy" by the fans and should be even more pronounced as this season starts with Rich Peverley, Shawn Horcoff and Tyler Seguin taking the ice along with what will likely be a number of rookies and young players throughout the season.
Whether this change will result in actual improvement on the ice is impossible to determine at this point, although on paper this appears to at least be a deeper and more well-rounded roster compared to what we've seen in the past. Two years ago we were calling that 2011 roster deeper and more well-rounded than the one previous, and last season the feeling was that the top six would be much more dangerous offensively than the one that struggled in 2011.
So, the past few years have taught us that change -- at least on the surface level -- does not always equal the results we're expecting.
Where the big change has now come, however, lies in the "core" of the hockey team and the approach the franchise will take from the very on top all the way down. Jim Nill has spoken of this change of culture at length, although he's wont to call it that precisely, and you could see that desire in the type of head coach he pursued.
Perhaps it wasn't just coaching that doomed the Stars the past five years and perhaps it wasn't just roster construction; the Stars decided to address both issues in one fell swoop, almost entirely over the course of one summer, and now we really see just how much of a fresh start we're going to see with this hockey team.
The big question, of course, is just how much the roster will continue to change moving forward. This isn't the long-term roster that spells the beginning of a long and prosperous run in the NHL, but it certainly appears to have the building blocks of one. The Stars, over the course of two years, have completely rebuilt their depth up the middle and have transformed an older and frustrating team into one that is built around youth, speed, skill and most of all -- potential.
More from Defending Big D:
- Dallas Stars Make Several Number Changes; Valeri Nichushkin To Wear No. 43
- Examining the Dallas Stars Dynamic Pricing & 9-Game Ticket Plans for the 2013 Season
- Getting to Know Dallas Stars' New Division: Nashville Predators
- Dallas Stars Hoping Coaching, Forward Depth Can Improve Team Defense
- Dallas Stars Hire James Patrick as Assistant Coach