Kidding aside, the end of the pre-season means the beginning of games that actually matter. A whopping 82 of them at the very least, though most have the Dallas Stars pegged for a few more than that. Trouble is, the supposedly re-vamped squad did not do much in September to suggest they were ready to ascend. The defense was still touch and go, the goaltending just flat out gone, and if anybody catches the powerplay wandering around the Metroplex, please direct it back to the American Airlines Center. Even the announcers had turnover.
This is going to be a big year, no doubt about it. Let's take one last look at how things stand amongst the Stars.
Ready to Roll
Tyler Seguin - One of the few Stars to emerge from the pre-season in anything resembling regular season form. This kid is L.E.G.I.T. legit.
Jyrki Jokipakka - One of the few Star defenders to emerge from the pre-season with optimism intact. Take it from a guy that saw plenty of Joki in Cedar Park, this kid is better than you think, and at more than just stopping goals.
Jamie Benn - He played games. After a summer spent recovering from surgery, that's a win for Dallas' sixth most impactful player.
Cody Eakin - For the most part, Eakin looks like a more experienced player in a more comfortable role. Without meaningful stats either way, The Committee gets one more week to wax hopeful.
Patrick Sharp - Looks good on the top line. For now, that's more than enough.
Mattias Janmark - The youngster is still on an NHL roster, given how few players the Stars can send down without risk, that's a big freaking deal.
Valeri Nichushkin - Scored a goal, looks healthy, all signs point to a big season from the big Russian. #WeareValNichushkin.
Stumbling Out of the Gate
Jason Spezza - Possible injury baggage plus a bad pre-season powerplay. Listen, Spezza has been a pro way too long to care about games that don't count. That said, he'll likely have some new linemates, and probably needs to improve upon last season's point totals. A quick start would be nice.
Jordie Benn & Jason Demers - The well-oiled mustache of defensive pairings. Was last season an underground fad, or will this duo dot the upper lip of a much improved defense this season?
Patrik Nemeth - He was supposed to be fully back and the bedrock of the backline. Well, one of those is true so far. It's been rough sledding, here's hoping the young man gets back into some kind of groove.
Jamie Oleksiak - People are worried about Nemeth back-sliding and excited about Jokipakka. What have you heard about the Big Rig lately? No news is not good news for a guy that needs to fight for every minute.
Kari Lehtonen & Antti Niemi - A few flashes when the games didn't count might have given either a bit more leash once they do. Trust is something you earn, and right now, both guys are running a zero balance.
Wait and See
Alex Goligoski - Critical-if-underrated piece of a defense that might have improved last season? Check. In the last year of his contract? Yup. Stable of youngsters presumably ready to take his spot? Bingo. The Great Goose Prove It Year begins.
John Klingberg - He's got to top that rookie season? Yeesh. Maybe this is the year NBC finally learns his name.
Johnny Oduya - The new guy, the big free agent, the capstone of the Much Improved Dallas Defense. Also a player in an expanded role with a brand new team. We'll see.
Patrick Eaves - Is there room on the scoring lines? Can he stay healthy? That's two pretty big questions.
Vernon Fiddler - The Committee loves him, and the Stars need him. It's just that nobody knows exactly what they need, or how much.
Ales Hemsky - So why doesn't he get the same pass as Benn? Because last season was marred by both injury and inconsistency.
Antoine Roussel - What I said about Hemsky? Replace injury with even more inconsistency. He lost his running mate, my money is on that being a good thing, but he'll need to show it on the ice. Roussel lacks the track record for assumptions.
Colton Sceviour - With a few contract decisions coming, Sceviour may well be playing for a spot on the team (or some other team, for that matter).
Travis Moen - Still serious questions about the role he'll play next season.