The 2014 season is approaching rapidly. So, naturally, it's time to potentially look really stupid by making numerous predictions about the upcoming season. These could look really bad in April, but I'm not worried about April right now. I figure if I make 23 I can't possibly be wrong about all of them.
Specific details are key here. I could go the vague route and try to defend every prediction that turns out wrong, but I would rather be as specific as possible to make the realistically few triumphs even that more enjoyable.The predictions range from the mundane to the grandiose, and the order could be argued against at various points if it were vitally important.
Given that it isn't, the following is a list of 23 predictions for the upcoming season.
1. The Stars will have one of the tallest forward groups in the NHL.
I was shocked too. The Stars shortest forwards currently on the roster with realistic expectations of making the team are the 5'10 Ray Whitney and the 5'11 Vern Fiddler. Chris Mueller is also under six feet tall, but the core group is really tall all of a sudden. Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Chiasson lead the group at 6'4.
2. Scott Glennie makes the team out of training camp and scores 10 goals as a rookie
Glennie has taken a treacherous route to the NHL. He was a healthy scratch repeatedly for the Texas Stars, but as the year wore on he developed more consistency. In the multiple times I watched Glennie play it didn't take much of a leap of faith to see him as a bottom six NHLer soon. I think it happens this year as he breaks in on the fourth line.
3. There will be very few mentions of the Alex Goligoski trade with Joe Nieuwendyk gone.
It was hard to read an article about any move the Stars made without reading about the Goligoski for James Neal trade. After a while the mentions turned into attempts to discredit any move Nieuwendyk made. It was an easy talking point, but never has been the wholesale disaster most of the hockey media would have you believe. With Nieuwendyk gone I think we can expect significantly fewer references to the trade, and that alone almost makes his firing worth it to me.
4. Tyler Seguin will not cause any off ice drama.
The last year or so has not been kind to Seguin off the ice. There was the report that he trashed his Swiss apartment during the lockout. He later completely denied the story. Then there were the stories claiming the Bruins had to hire a guard to keep Seguin from leaving his room to party. THEN there was this story about Seguin throwing a party on the day he was traded.
What is Seguin? Is he the party boy that parties so hard that a guard is required to keep him from partying? I guess he could be, but some of the stories are a bit out there. The hotel guard story began appearing after the trade. Seguin was traded on the fourth of July, and had a party. Is it crazy for a 22 year old millionaire to throw a party on the fourth of July?
I don't know Seguin, but I imagine he has some smart people in his life. Given the negative publicity surrounding him (regardless of whether or not it is completely warranted) I would wager that we will hear virtually nothing from Seguin off the ice in 2014.
5. The Stars won't carry eight defensemen past the Olympic break.
Currently the Stars have eight defensemen they would need to send through waivers to get to the AHL. Goligoski, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Brenden Dillon, Kevin Connauton, Sergei Gonchar, Jordie Benn, and Aaron Rome occupy roster spots.
The Stars have put out the vibe that they will carry eight blueliners. Maybe they will, but that is also the vibe you would put out there if you were inclined to deal a veteran to fill other needs and needed to pump up said veteran's value. If I were less risk averse I would say the Stars will move one of the eight before October. Given that I want to be right about some of these I'm pegging the cut off date as the Olympic break.
6. Lindy Ruff will bring structure that will provide a more crisp brand of Stars hockey.
He should, at least. The Stars hired Ruff because he has a long track record of NHL regular season success and a wealth of hockey knowledge on which he can draw to aid the Stars development. Under Glen Gulutzan the Stars tended toward sloppiness. Some of that falls on talent, but I couldn't help but watch the Stars at times wishing for someone with an iron will to mold them into a more cohesive group. Ruff should be able to make that happen.
7. There will be at least ten articles referencing the Stars as a low attendance and/or low revenue team.
8. Brett Ritchie will begin his professional career in Austin
The Stars love Ritchie. He's huge, talented, and has enormous upside. The Stars also have a need at wing. Ritchie is going to charge hard for an NHL roster spot out of camp, but ultimately fall short. The roster spot he is competing for will come down to Ritchie vs Alex Chiasson. Chiasson, with his college background and year of professional experience, will get the nod.
9. Alex Chiasson will score as many goals in all of 2014 as he did in 2013, and a large contingent of Stars fans will label him a bust.
Chiasson burst on to the scene at the NHL level with six goals in seven games, fueling a late season playoff push. He did it on the strength of a 46.2% shooting percentage. He saw 14 minutes of ice time per game. Neither of these facts are likely to repeat this season.
When Chiasson scores less than ten goals he will immediately be labeled as a bust by a contingent of Stars fans. Those that stay calm will be rewarded when he turns into a solid NHL goal scorer, but I don't think it's going to happen this season.
10. Ray Whitney will be named captain for 2014. Dillon will take over for 2015.
Whitney was the de facto captain last season. He was the veteran who reporters sought out when they needed a quote. He was always doing the pregame interview with Razor. He has a commanding presence in the Stars locker room. The Stars have emphasized experience and leadership this offseason. Who better exemplifies those traits than Whitney?
Dillon is a natural leader. He could get the nod this year, but given the direction the Stars have taken it makes sense to give him a year of seeing how a top notch professional organization is run before naming him the captain. He will take over in 2015 after Whitney retires or moves on.
11. The Stars team faceoff percentage will not see any meaningful improvement from 2013.
The acquisition of Rich Peverley will help with faceoffs. Neither Seguin or Shawn Horcoff will help much though. Fortunately faceoffs aren't THAT big of a deal. The players the Stars acquired will help in numerous other ways. On the circles is not one of those ways.
12. Stars backup goalies will start at least 25 games.
Some combination of injuries to Kari Lehtonen or the Stars getting him necessary rest will combine to get the Stars backups into at least 25 games.
13. Ralph Strangis will get a contract extension and we won't have to worry about listening to someone else broadcast Stars games.
Ralph isn't leaving. The Stars wouldn't risk a PR hit like losing Ralph so soon after turning a corner, and Ralph can't possibly be asking for such an astronomical figure that there is no middle ground. The middle ground will be found. It. Will. Be. Found. (I think/hope.)
14. The Texas Stars will have a strong season. Willie Desjardins is then hired as a head coach by an NHL club.
The Texas Stars lineup should be loaded with talent. Ideally Jack Campbell will step forward. They should have Brett Ritchie. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth head a deep defensive group. Desjardins did yeoman's work in 2013 turning the Baby Stars around. If he is able to find repeat success he becomes a prime NHL head coach candidate.
15. Radek Faksa will complete the season healthy and be ready to be a third line center as early as 2015.
Faksa had a rough year. He ended up participating in only 41 games with point production suggesting that he doesn't have a top flight ceiling. It's way too early to write him off. The 2014 season will go a long way to restore Faksa's star. He will make it through the year both healthy and productive which will put him in line to be the Stars #3 center in 2015.
16. The prospect the Stars will miss the most from the Loui Eriksson trade in 2014 is Matt Fraser.
Fraser isn't close to a blue-chip prospect. He would have filled a valuable role for the 2014 Stars though. In the Seguin trade the Stars shipped out three wings. They're a little green on the right side. Reilly Smith has a lot of upside, but Fraser showed at times last season that he could provide solid cheap depth whereas Smith found his way into the Gulutzan doghouse. Long term the Stars will miss Smith more, but in 2014 Fraser will be missed more.
17. Stars will have no one play meaningful Olympic minutes and will be fresh for the playoff run.
Benn, Seguin, and Whitney won't be involved. Lehtonen might back up Pekka Rinne for Team Finland. Dillon, Stephane Robidas, and Alex Goligoski weren't invited to their respective camps. The Stars entire core is going to, as of right now, get a two week break.
Two weeks off from hockey could cause some rust, but two weeks of rest in the middle of the stretch run could prove very valuable in the Stars quest for the playoffs. Put me in the camp that says the break will be meaningful and help the Stars make the playoffs.
18. The Central Division will be most talented division from top to bottom.
We know about the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The St. Louis Blues are deep and coached by Ken Hitchcock. The Stars are significantly better and led by the veteran Ruff. The Nashville Predators are always annoying. The Wild spent all of that money last year on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They get another year of development from their young players also. The Colorado Avalanche, already deep up front, added #1 pick Nathan MacKinnon. The Jets are a question mark, but they do have some talent led by Evander Kane.
The point is that this division isn't going to be a cake walk. The Stars are much improved. They'll need to be to compete in this rough division.
19. The Stars will make another big trade.
The Stars still have depth on defense and could stand to add a veteran right wing. It isn't a given that this materializes, but the trade matches shouldn't be terribly hard to come by. They could use a long term answer for the second line center slot too. Opportunities will come available for the Stars to plug these holes should they choose to do so. I think they will make another significant move by the trade deadline.
20. Dillon will sign a long term contract extension.
We will dig deeper into the Dillon situation further into the season, but his entry level contract expires after this season. He was a huge part of the defense corps in 2014, and should continue to grow into a top pairing role. What kind of deal he ends up getting is a discussion for a later time, but make no mistake that Dillon will get an extension at some point. The only variable is whether both sides agree on a bridge contract or a major long term pact.
21. Daley will be bought out with a compliance buy out after the season.
This one will be slightly controversial. The Stars have a pool of talented defensemen on the way. They have two compliance buyouts available to them, and Daley has a no trade clause. He doesn't do much offensively. His defensive contributions are questionable. I suppose someone could trade for him, but his contract isn't desirable. The cap coming down doesn't help his chances of being traded either.
Someone is going to have to go to make room for the young guys when they prove themselves ready to play in the NHL. The player without a clearly defined role usually ends up being the odd man out. I think Daley will get the amnesty buyout hammer after the season.
22. Valeri Nichushkin will win the Calder.
Nicushkin is the Stars best incoming prospect since, probably, Jarome Iginla. He has a full assortment of tools and projects as a star caliber player. Maybe that doesn't happen this season. We don't know how to expect Ruff to use him just yet. Given his talent and the caliber of players I expect he will play with, I am comfortable predicting that Nichushkin will walk away with the Calder Trophy.
23. The Stars will make the playoffs.
End on a high right? The Stars roster moves over the off season make them a much more well-rounded club. Winning the division seems unlikely, but there is no reason the Stars can't settle in at the back half of the playoff clubs out West.