As the battle for the West continues in 2015-16, the Dallas Stars feel they're prepared to go up against their conference rivals and emerge victorious. Mike Heika, however, is quick to point out that the Stars will once again be facing stiff competition.
Knowing your enemy is important, and this season, we've got three categories to watch out for: improving teams, the ones standing strong, and those that are sliding back. The Stars themselves slot into the first category.
Stars (92 points): The Stars are hoping internal improvement and veteran goalie Antti Niemi fix a lot of problems. Many NHL experts have their doubts about that plan, but Dallas was one of the better possession teams in the West in the second half of the season.
Familiar foes Chicago and Minnesota are both among the teams expected to stay near the top of the conference.
Chicago (102 points): Losing Brandon Saad and Brad Richards will hurt. Making room for $8 million in raises to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will gnaw away at the depth. But this still is a team with five or six All-Stars.
Minnesota (100 points): There is some question as to whether Devan Dubnyk can repeat his performance in goal, but the Wild play a steady brand of hockey and have added a nice piece in defenseman Mike Reilly. Probably not pushing up but also not falling back.
And then, there are three teams that might find themselves sliding down the standings: St. Louis, Vancouver, and Arizona.
St. Louis (109 points): The Blues could collapse from high expectations. The T.J. Oshie for Troy Brouwer trade probably doesn't make them better, and Ken Hitchcock is coaching for his job, so this is one team that might slip.
There's still plenty of time this offseason for moves to be made that could affect the Western Conference's power rankings, but which teams are you all most nervous to see in the fall? [DMN]
I hope everyone had fun celebrating the Fourth of July, the Tyler Seguin Trade Anniversary, and the USWNT winning the World Cup!
And speaking of, the Blue Jackets made sure to ask the important questions about that victory.
Philippe Desrosiers (@pdesro30) July 5, 2015
Good news, the Edmonton Journal thinks the Stars are poised to snag a free agent at a bargain price. Whether they actually decide to do that, though, is another story. [Edmonton Journal]
The Washington Capitals signed former Stars backup goaltender Dan Ellis to a one-year deal on Saturday. This comes on the heels of the T.J Oshie trade, which sent Pheonix Copley—the Caps' AHL affiliate's likely No. 1 goalie—to St. Louis. [Penn Live]
Cody Franson, Christian Ehrhoff, Johnny Oduya... there are still plenty of appealing free agents out there, and you can read up on them over at Sportsnet. [Sportsnet]
The NHLPA announced that 23 players, including Braden Holtby, Derek Stepan, and former Dallas Star Alex Chiasson, have filed for salary arbitration. [Puck Daddy]
With Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly both on board in Buffalo, does new coach Dan Bylsma have a playoff team on his hands? [TSN]
And finally, the weekend may be over, but you can relive some of the fun with this festive video from the Stars. Jamie and Jordie Benn can also help you out if you want to reminisce about holiday spirit.