Before the start of the 2019-20 season, I decided to make some bold predictions for how the Dallas Stars’ season would turn out. Needless to say, I failed spectacularly (although the Ben Bishop one was actually pretty close).
I am nothing if not determined, however. Today marks the beginning of a new season for Dallas, so why not give it another shot? As before, I’m not going to simply make bold predictions — I’ll be making bold ones. For instance, Roope Hintz leading the team in scoring would be pretty impressive. But he’s A) the projected first-line center and B) playing alongside Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov. So predicting that wouldn’t be particularly bold of me, now would it?
Anyways, enough build-up — let’s get cracking! Here are five bold predictions for this season, going from most to least likely.
Prediction #1: Miro Heiskanen Leads the Stars in Scoring
We’ll start things off with a relative softball (at least by our bold standards). Counting the round-robin games, Heiskanen led the Stars in playoff scoring last postseason, and it wasn’t even close — he had five more points than John Klingberg (second) and seven more than Joe Pavelski (third).
Of course, doing that over a 27-game stretch is a lot different than over the course of an entire season (albeit a shortened one). It’s actually not that uncommon for defensemen to lead their team in scoring — John Carlson did so for the Washington Capitals last season — but those players are almost always on the team’s top power play unit, unlike Heiskanen. Assuming no missed playing time, it would be hard enough for Heiskanen to outscore John Klingberg, let alone the team’s forwards.
Still, this seems kind of tame for our bold standards. So I’ll add in a bonus prediction — despite leading the team in scoring, Heiskanen, like Carlson, will not win the Norris Trophy. Instead, it will go to some veteran defenseman with a less impressive season but whose “turn” it is to win the trophy.
On second thought, maybe that makes the prediction even less bold...
Prediction #2: Jake Oettinger Statistically Outperforms Anton Khudobin
If you’re at all familiar with my work, then you probably know by now that I am a huge Jake Oettinger stan. I was ecstatic when the Stars drafted him in the first round back in 2017, and so far he has not disappointed, whether it be in the NCAA, AHL, or even his brief glimpses of NHL playoff action.
Oettinger has also developed a habit of taking over the starter role in the first year of his new team, as was the case at Boston University and then with the Texas Stars. I won’t be so bold as to suggest he does the same with current starter Anton Khudobin
because Rick Bowness is biased towards veterans, but that doesn’t mean he won’t outperform him, at least statistically speaking.
For the sake of this prediction, we’ll consider four different goaltender stats — Save Percentage (SV%), Quality Start Percentage (QS%), Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), and Goalie Point Shares (GPS). Let’s say that if Oettinger outperforms Khudobin in three of the four stats, the prediction is right. There is no minimum game requirement, although some stats are obviously affected by the number of games played.
Oh, and if Oettinger manages to score a goal and Khudobin doesn’t, he automatically wins. After all, the Polak Score is the most valuable player statistic of all.
Prediction #3: Dallas Wins the Stanley Cup
On the surface, this seems like a pretty bland prediction. The Stars were two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup last postseason, so obviously they’re one of the favorites to win it all this year, right?
In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!” The last Stanley Cup runner-up to so much as return to the Stanley Cup Final was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, setting up a rematch with the Detroit Red Wings. Before them, it was the Edmonton Oilers in 1984, preceded by Don Cherry and the Boston Bruins in 1978. Excluding the Original Six era, the only other team to do so would be the St. Louis Blues in 1969 and 1970, back when the six new expansion teams were all in the same division and one was guaranteed a spot in the Final.
Add in the likelihood that the Stars would have to beat the reigning champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, to even make the semifinals, and simply making the Stanley Cup Final is a tall order, let alone winning the whole thing. And if you still think this isn’t bold enough, let’s throw in a bonus prediction that the Stars sweep their opponent in the Final. Extra points if it comes against the Colorado Avalanche.
Prediction #4: Thomas Harley is a Calder Trophy Finalist
Thanks to injuries to key players and superb drafting in recent years, the Dallas Stars are primed to have a rookie revolution this season. I already mentioned Jake Oettinger above, who will be serving as the backup, but Jason Robertson and Ty Dellandrea are also currently locked into the starting lineup. And who could forget about last year’s playoff hero, Joel Kiviranta?
But remember, we’re trying to be bold here. So let’s predict that the best of the bunch will actually be someone not even on the main roster: defenseman Thomas Harley. It might take a few games, but his time will come, and I predict he’ll play so well that Rick Bowness will be forced to keep him in the regular lineup. By the end of the season, he might even supplant Jamie Oleksiak as Miro Heiskanen’s partner.
His performance will earn him the praise of PHWA voters across the nation, landing him in the top three contenders for the Calder Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s best rookie. However, I’ll stop short of predicting a Harley victory — after all, it’s a well known fact that Stars players are apparently ineligible to win the Calder.
Before we wrap things up, make sure you visit the comments section afterwards and share your own predictions for the Stars’ 2020-21 season, bold or otherwise. Do you think the Stars will sweep one of their division opponents? Or perhaps you believe they’ll make it through the rest of the season without further game postponement due to COVID-19? You tell us!
Also, feel free to heap on endless praise about the startling accuracy of my own predictions. Or, if you’re so inclined, tell me what I get wrong, so that I can screenshot it and share it with you when I turn out to be 100% correct. Choose wisely.
Now, without further adieu, here it is — my boldest, most unfathomable prediction yet:
Prediction #5: Denis Gurianov Leads All Forwards in Average Time-On-Ice
Okay maybe that’s too bold...