Dallas seemed to be the most active team this summer in the National Hockey League.
For the second season in a row, the Dallas Stars didn't wait for the free agency frenzy to make their mark on their roster. They instead started it off with a big bang for another top end center, when centers are hard to come by in this league. Kind of a bit of deja vu after general manager Jim Nill did almost the same thing last summer, starting it off with the trade for center Tyler Seguin.
The moves Nill has made the first two offseasons he has been in office in Dallas drew attention from the mainstream media, with basically the same message in each article written: the man has made over this roster in the span of a short time, faster than many thought possible, and raked in some top notch talent in the process.
So what's making Dallas the toast of the town?
There is a commitment to win in Dallas
Many fan bases will say that their teams are committed to winning as well. That most certainly is true. But it's been a rarity to see the combination of owner, general manager, and head coach as in sync as the Dallas Stars front office seems to have been the past 14 or so months. However, it's possible that's just the breaking of the bankruptcy cloud that the Stars had lingering over them for so many years that has allowed the fans to see this organization differently.
Supported by an owner that has opened the checkbook since he took over, the Stars front office was structured to give the organization a strong foundation to work from. Bringing in a general manager that has a clear vision with the full backing of his head coach and scouts has built that 'commitment to win' free agents and trade targets alike have made note of in their decisions to come to Dallas.
Jason Spezza, who has been lambasted after turning down a trade to the Nashville Predators, cited being able to play for a Stanley Cup as a reason for choosing to go to Dallas.
Ales Hemsky, after signing in Dallas as a free agent, noted that "they [Dallas] showed it last year, even in the playoffs, they have a great team to compete for a Stanley Cup, so that was a big factor for me."
Vernon Fiddler, who reportedly asked for a trade after seeing reduced minutes to start the season in Dallas last year, turned down better offers to re-sign in Dallas for another two years. "There is a real attraction to playing here and playing to win, and seeing this through. I think this is going to be a really good team, and I want to be a part of that."
An attraction to playing in Dallas. A chance to win a Stanley Cup. It's certainly a different tune than we heard when top tier free agents and trade targets said a polite but firm "no" to coming here.
There is depth that hasn't been present in a long time in Dallas
Contenders are built on having depth throughout their organization to overcome any obstacle that might occur in the course of the season.
The Calder Cup run of the Texas Stars showed that Dallas has a stable of young defensemen that they can call upon in the course of the season when injuries inevitably hit. The likes of Jyrki Jokkipakka, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, Cameron Gaunce and Jamie Oleksiak are all there and knocking at the door.
Goaltending depth was secured when the Stars signed young goalies Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas to add to Dallas starter Kari Lehtonen and goalie-of-the-future Jack Campbell.
Center depth, which has for years been a spot sorely lacking in depth, has become a position of strength. The Stars are looking at icing a core of Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza - Cody Eakin - Vernon Fiddler down the middle with Ryan Garbutt, Antoine Roussel, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley and even Jamie Benn with the experience of playing center on the roster. Then there are young forwards like Brett Richie and Curtis McKenzie that are waiting in the wings to prove they're ready for the big show.
There is a level of excitement and freshness in Dallas
What a breath of fresh air the Stars' playoff run this past spring helped bring to the franchise.
Everyone around the Stars front office, coaching staff, ownership, players and fans alike felt re-energized seeing that holy land of the postseason.
And though their bid ultimately fell short of making noise in the first round against the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks, the excitement of the potential the team had to finally be in the conversation of playoff teams has carried over into the summer.
Add on the fact that the Stars traded for a second line center to address a gaping hole in the current roster construction and added a scoring winger like Hemsky, along with all of the depth signings the Stars made this summer, and that excitement has crescendoed to a new height.
It's left us all asking the same question....is it October yet?