And we're back. Ish. Mostly. With training camp officially open and pre-season games already underway, it's time to dust off the tried, true, and trusted Defending Big D Up/Down player rankings. This column will once again be your north star, the guiding light to show you which Stars are shining brightly, which Stars are flickering, and which Stars have collapsed into a black hole from which there is no escape.
Have no fear, the committee that oversees these rankings is all-knowing. With but a look they can separate the John Klingmans of the world from the John Klingbergs. Armed with the latest and greatest in analytical insights, they aim to take the guesswork out of watching the team you love so dearly. Just not this week.
Think of pre-season as the Plus/Minus of the NHL year. Sure it looks like it should matter, they are playing hockey, and sure, you'll hear a lot of people talk about the significance of what's going on out on the ice. Thing is, it's all crap. Pre-season is for long looks at prospects that will ultimately go back to the minors, limited ice-time for guys that actually matter, and hoping against hope nobody important actually gets hurt.
Jamie Benn - Rumors of practice participation and even hitting.
Tyler Seguin - The knee looks good, and he scored against the Panthers.
Jack Campbell - I like that Lindy gave him the entire Florida game. Experience can only help.
Cody Eakin - Enters the season with a new contract, and hopefully, a clearer role in the squad.
Patrick Sharp - Already looks good on the Stars' top line.
Stephen Johns, Julius Honka, Devin Shore, Jason Dickinson, Radek Faksa - Let's just call them the Shiny Penny Prospect Club.
Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth, Jordie Benn, Jason Demers - Two starters? Four starters? Is it crazy to think this group holds inordinate influence over the course of Dallas' season?
Johnny Oduya - No longer a supporting piece of an established squad. Welcome to the fishbowl.
John Klingberg - No longer a surprise rookie. He's going to beat the sophomore slump. Right?
Kari Lehtonen - What was that thing I was saying about the pre-season not being important?
Brett Ritchie - Out 3-4 months with a wrist injury. Horrible news for a developing young player, and Dallas' scoring depth.
Ales Hemsky - Starts here because nobody is going to give him the benefit of the doubt this season.
Antoine Roussel - Another Star in desperate need of a fresh (and quick!) start.
Jamie Oleksiak - The backline is crowded, the opportunities not limitless.
Colton Sceviour - Running out of chances to break into the top six.
Valeri Nichushkin - There's going to be pressure this year, right out of the gate.
Curtis McKenzie - Fight less, score more.
Antti Niemi - Schrödinger's Goalie.
Jason Spezza - Would love to see him tick up this year from "steady" to "excellent."
Alex Goligoski - Does a contract year for Dallas' veteran D mean we finally appreciate his contributions to the unit, or is this the start of six months' worth of "trade bait" hysteria?
Vernon Fiddler - The aging veteran fighting for his spot on the team.
Patrick Eaves - The oft-injured winger suddenly fighting for a spot on the top lines.
Travis Moen - Depth.