In honor of being just two weeks away from the Stars' season opener against the Penguins, let's take a look at how a selection of the media expects Dallas to fare despite being trapped in the the very scary Central Division.
Last year, the Score jinxed Valeri Nichushkin by saying he was ready for a breakout year. This year, they've likely jinxed us by saying the Stars will win the Central. (You can thank NHL.com's Mike Morreale for last season's finish.)
1 Dallas Stars
But here's the way I see it. They'll have the best line in hockey next year with Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Valeri Nichushkin (only Perron-Crosby-Kessel is close, and I still think I prefer the Dallas trio). Their second line is a whirring blade of talent (Patrick Sharp-Jason Spezza-Ales Hemsky), and their bottom six is a mix of good, tough, and annoying. John Klingberg's emerging as a legit D-man - is 40 points in 65 games as a 22-year-old rookie blue-liner good? - and Johnny Oduya is coming on board. With the rest of the crew (Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Jordie Benn) near career primes and some good young players coming up, I think they'll be just fine on defense.
In Puck Daddy's season preview, we've got slightly less optimism on our hands for the team as a whole, but solid predictions that Jamie Benn will once again be in the mix for the league's scoring title and Tyler Seguin will contend for the Hart Trophy.
Their Best Case Scenario Is...
Their offense and possession numbers remain strong while the defense improves enough to not be as much of a hindrance. Niemi and Lehtonen could be a competent tandem in goal, enough to allow the playoffs to become a reality again in Dallas.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is ...
Their bottom two lines can't provide any depth production and the Niemi and Lehtonen flames out, as Nill. Any type of prolonged slump ends up costing Ruff his job.
We are going to have so much fun again watching the Stars, and the moves Nill has made will culminate in a return to the postseason. Seguin plays himself into the mix for the Rocket Richard Trophy, earning serious Hart Trophy consideration, while Benn finishes top-10 in scoring.
Just like last year when they predicted a 3rd place finish in the Central, the Sportsnet crew thinks the Stars are ready for the playoffs. Only they really mean it this time.
The Dallas Stars are ready to make the jump back into the playoffs.
But make no mistake — this is not a leap of faith.
The Stars had a clear vision of what they needed to do this off-season — bring in experience, defence and help in net — and they executed it to near-perfection, thanks to a focused Jim Nill (and a cap-strapped Blackhawks team).
With an emphasis on the fact that the Stars defense did, in fact, improve as the 2014-15 season unfolded, Adam Gretz at CBS Sports is confident that Dallas has what it takes to be playing hockey in May.
With the offense they are going to put on the ice every night, the Stars don't need to be one of the best defensive teams in the league to compete. And if they can continue the improvement they showed last season defensively, and can get even respectable goaltending out of the Lehtonen-Niemi duo, they should have no problem getting back into the playoffs and be a threat to make some noise once they get there.
The hype around the Stars going into this season isn't going to be new. But the results might finally be there to back it up.
ESPN wasn't nearly as kind to the Stars, slotting them into the No. 23rd overall spot on their 2015-16 power rankings.
Will Antti Niemi be enough of an upgrade in goal, or at least bring enough competition to get Kari Lehtonen back on track? And is the defense appreciably better? No way to definitively answer "yes" to any of those questions.
There you have it. Word on the street is that the Stars have the talent to be a playoff team, and even if that talent doesn't play quite as well as it's supposed to, we'll at least have a high-scoring affair to keep us entertained as dreams of a Cup go up in smoke. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)
In all seriousness, is it too early to know how this season is really going to play out? Sure. Is it still fun to torment ourselves with optimism and high expectations anyway? You betcha.
The DBD crew will be trotting out our predictions as Oct. 8th gets a little closer, but in the meantime, sound off in the comments with how you think the Stars will finish. If you're right, eternal bragging rights are yours. If you're wrong, well, just keep this page bookmarked in case you need to jet back in here in April and delete your misguided guess.