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Rate of Change: How Recent Dallas Stars Roster Turnover Compares to Past Seasons

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There's been a lot of chatter about how much the Stars roster has changed over the past few seasons - is it really that different than the Joe Nieuwendyk era though?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jim Nill hasn't been one for quiet offseasons.

Even this year, when the Dallas Stars general manager laid the groundwork that the team may be quiet in an attempt to let the existing players develop chemistry, he then went out and brought in three notable parts that may have the roster looking quite different next season.

Those moves led to some questions about how much Nill has turned over the roster and, in fact, how much the Stars themselves have changed over the past few years.

But is that a new trend or one more specific to Nill? I decided to examine that by comparing the roster in each season finale from 2009 onward.

Player positions are listed as they were on the official roster report, which may very well not be how they were deployed in the game. Italics indicate the player was scratched and/or injured that game. The list does not include players on LTIR to be best of my knowledge, so the end of Sergei Zubov and the presence of Rich Peverley last season is not indicated.

This analysis has certain obvious limitations. Players who were only in green for part of a season (such as the return of Dan Ellis in 2013-14) are not counted, nor are those who came up for a short stint from the AHL but went back down before the finale. The turnover from opening day until the end of the season is also not measured, which can be sizable.

But since the data is comparable across the entire set of six seasons, it does give some idea if Nill has been more active than his immediate predecessor.

So to start, here is the lineup from April 10, 2009, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center and the final game under the two-headed GM monster of Brett Hull and Les Jackson:

Player Position
Nicklas Grossmann D
Matt Niskanen D
Mike Modano C
Brendan Morrison C
James Neal L
Brian Sutherby C
Loui Eriksson L
Tom Wandell C
Chris Conner R
Jere Lehtinen R
Andrew Hutchinson D
Mark Fistric D
Steve Ott C
Steve Begin L
Darryl Sydor D
Ivan Vishnevskiy D
Mike Ribeiro C
Fabian Brunnstrom L
Tobias Stephan G
Marty Turco G
Stephane Robidas D
Trevor Daley D
Krys Barch R
Landon Wilson R
Mark Parrish R
Joel Lundqvist C
Brad Richards C

Exactly no one from that roster is still in the Stars system, which is not really a surprise. Daley was the last man standing for a long time (and the longest-tenured Stars player by a matter of six years or so). Also, did you remember that Steve Begin was a Star at one point? Me neither.

Joe Nieuwendyk took over as general manager that summer and cleaned house in the coaching staff but not really on the player side of the equation. Here's what the roster looked like at the end of the 2009-10 season, a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild at the XCel Energy Center.

Player Position
Nicklas Grossmann D
Stephane Robidas D
Matt Niskanen D
Trevor Daley D
Mike Modano C
Brenden Morrow L
Jamie Benn L
Toby Petersen C
James Neal L
Brian Sutherby C
Loui Eriksson L
Brandon Segal R
Jere Lehtinen R
Mark Fistric D
Steve Ott C
Philip Larsen D
Mike Ribeiro C
Brad Richards C
Kari Lehtonen G
Marty Turco G
Krys Barch R
Karlis Skrastins D
Jeff Woywitka D
Fabian Brunnstrom D

This was the end of an era, the final games of Modano, Lehtinen and Turco as Dallas Stars. It also features the first appearance of the two longest-tenured current Dallas players in Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen (Benn made his debut in Game 1 while Lehtonen was a mid-season trade acquisition, so Benn holds the title).

Of the 24 players in this roster, seven were not around the previous season, a turnover rate of 29 percent. That's pretty high, but it's also worth noting most were role players. Skrastins, a defensive zone start minute muncher, and Benn, who burst out of training camp to make the roster, were the biggest pieces.

The next season finale also came against Minnesota, though we won't mention the result for fear of bringing up really bad memories.

Player Position
Stephane Robidas D
Trevor Daley D
Brenden Morrow L
Jamie Benn L
Jamie Langenbrunner R
Adam Burish R
Toby Petersen C
Loui Eriksson L
Tom Wandell C
Brandon Segal R
Jason Williams C
Mark Fistric D
Steve Ott C
Alex Goligoski D
Karlis Skrastins D
Jeff Woywitka D
Mike Ribeiro C
Brad Richards C
Andrew Raycroft G
Kari Lehtonen G
Nicklas Grossmann D
Krys Barch R
Brian Sutherby C
Brad Lukowich D
Tomas Vincour C

This time around, 7 of 25 roster players are new, a turnover rate of 28 percent, including fairly sizeable addition Alex Goligoski. Former Stars player Langenbrunner and Lukowich were also around for a second tour of duty.

That loss got Marc Crawford fired and replaced with Glen Gulatzan, who was having a fine rookie season until his team collapsed at the end. That ended with a 3-2 loss to the Blues at home on April 7, 2012, with the following roster:

Player Position
Brenden Dillon D
Trevor Daley D
Brenden Morrow D
Jamie Benn L
Scott Glennie R
Adam Burish R
Reilly Smith R
Loui Eriksson L
Tom Wandell C
Eric Nystrom L
Adam Pardy D
Alex Goligoski D
Philip Larsen D
Vernon Fiddler L
Ryan Garbutt C
Jordie Benn D
Michael Ryder R
Tomas Vincour C
Richard Bachman G
Kari Lehtonen G
Stephane Robidas D
Jake Dowell D
Toby Petersen D
Radek Dvorak R
Mark Fistric D
Steve Ott C
Sheldon Souray D
Mike Ribeiro C

(Insert Pardy Time joke here.)

This season is when we really start to see the pieces of the current Stars roster falling into place. There are a pretty astounding 14 new pieces on this 28-player roster, showing Nieuwendyk didn't only flip coaches, but he also started to move players from his development system (and especially the undrafted free agent pipeline) into the NHL.

But despite moving both coaches and players around, Nieuwendyk couldn't find success with the Stars just coming out of bankruptcy, culminating in his final game as general manager, a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings on April 27, 2013.

Player Position
Stephane Robidas D
Brenden Dillon D
Ray Whitney L
Jamie Benn L
Reilly Smith R
Cody Eakin C
Loui Eriksson L
Tom Wandell L
Eric Nystrom L
Aaron Rome D
Lane MacDermid L
Alex Goligoski D
Philip Larsen D
Vernon Fiddler L
Ryan Garbutt C
Jordie Benn D
Antoine Roussel L
Erik Cole L
Richard Bachman G
Kari Lehtonen G
Trevor Daley D
Alex Chiasson R

This season's Stars had six new players on a 22-man roster by the end of the year, a turnover rate of 27 percent (or fairly average by their standards). But as mentioned above, this was the game where Nieuwendyk was fired, or at least the news started to break, during the the game itself with new owner Tom Gaglardi embracing the idea that if you cannot beat the Red Wings, you should steal some of their best management.

That led to the first offseason under Jim Nill, which also brought along a new head coach and scouting director.

Nill's first season culminated in the Stars first playoff run since 2008, and the final regular season game was not the great win over the Blues at home but a doesn't-even-matter loss to the Coyotes out in Glendale.

Player Position
Shawn Horcoff C
Dustin Jeffrey C
Alex Chiasson R
Ryan Garbutt C
Chris Mueller C
Cody Eakin C
Antoine Roussel L
Colton Sceviour C
Kevin Connauton D
Jordie Benn D
Aaron Rome D
Alex Goligoski D
Patrik Nemeth D
Vernon Fiddler L
Valeri Nichushkin R
Sergei Gonchar D
Erik Cole L
Tyler Seguin C
Tim Thomas G
Kari Lehtonen G
Brenden Dillon D
Trevor Daley D
Ray Whitney L
Jamie Benn L
Rich Peverley L

Nill made pretty significant changes to the NHL roster immediately with 12 new players by the end of the season, a turnover rate of 48 percent. Some of these were quick trade deadline flips (see: Thomas, Tim) while others were huge, ninja-like additions in Seguin.

Another busy summer and several in-season changes led the Stars not back to the playoffs but at least to the first Art Ross Trophy in franchise history, as Jamie Benn led the team to the memorable 4-1 win over the Predators this April.

Player Position
Jyrki Jokipakka D
John Klingberg D
Jason Demers D
Trevor Daley D
Shawn Horcoff C
Jamie Benn L
Ryan Garbutt C
Patrick Eaves R
Cody Eakin C
Antoine Roussel L
Colton Sceviour C
Jordie Benn D
Travis Moen L
Patrik Nemeth D
Vernon Fiddler L
Valeri Nichushkin R
Ales Hemsky R
Jason Spezza C
Jhonas Enroth G
Kari Lehtonen G
Alex Goligoski D
Tyler Seguin C

There are eight new players on this iteration, including three high-impact ones in Klingberg, Spezza and Hemsky. With a smaller roster, the turnover rate is also relatively high at 36 percent.

Finally, to put into context just how must things have changed this offseason, here's a comparison to a possible roster from this year. Obviously, things may very well change more as the season goes on - players get hurt and get traded or promoted, after all - so the number will likely be higher by the time we reach next April

Player Position
Jamie Benn L
Cody Eakin C
Patrick Eaves R
Vernon Fiddler C
Ales Hemsky R
Curtis McKenzie L
Travis Moen L
Valeri Nichushkin R
Brett Ritchie R
Antoine Roussel L
Colton Sceviour C
Tyler Seguin C
Patrick Sharp L
Jason Spezza C
Jordie Benn D
Jason Demers D
Alex Goligoski D
Jyrki Jokipakka D
John Klingberg D
Patrik Nemeth D
Johnny Oduya D
Jamie Oleksiak D
Kari Lehtonen G
Antti Niemi G

At the moment, there are five new pieces on this roster (with a note that McKenzie and Ritchie obviously aren't new to the NHL level, but they fit the criteria of not playing in the previous season's finale). That's a turnover rate of 21 percent, which will rise but is still on track to be quite low compared to some previous offseasons, or 13 percent if you don't consider the addition of McKenzie and Ritchie to be notable. Perhaps later this summer, we'll take a look at the average change from season finale to opening night the next time around for a better comparison.

As far as overall conclusions though, the Stars have been in a team of pretty constant flux since the end of the Doug Armstrong era. You can argue if that's for better or for worse, but it's something that only accelerated under Jim Nill in the short term.

What makes Nill a little different is he appears to be targeting high-end additions rather than bit parts, which may be a difference driven by the ability to spend Tom Gaglardi's money as much as it is an organization building philosophy. Before he went shopping for former Chicago Blackhawks this summer, he and Gaglardi both paid lip service to the idea of letting the team settle a bit to try and get off to a quicker start.

While the additions this summer have been high profile, they haven't exactly been numerous just yet. When the Red Wings were at their most dominant, they were able to find that key balance of bringing in extremely talented parts while continuing to maintain stability through retention of the core group.

Only time will tell if Nill is able to duplicate that approach in Dallas and in a salary cap world. The next few offseasons will give us a better sense of how he manages a roster of his own design rather than one given to him by previous management.