Dallas Stars Need Hot Start To Season

A flop in October will put the Dallas Stars too far behind in the ultra-competitive western conference.

A new system isn't being learned to start this season for the Dallas Stars. There isn't a new coach to learn all of the players, their strengths and weaknesses. The Stars seem to be set for a much better start than last year, when so much was new, even if some of the players have been changed out this year.

The fans are ready for the season to get started. With the acquisition of a legitimate scoring threat in a second line of Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza, the expectations for this team and what they are to accomplish this season have crescendoed.

However, the preseason has left some questions surrounding this team.

Kari Lehtonen, the starting goaltender that has always been such a steadying force in net, has looked shaky. Combine that with a defense that looks to be relatively short on NHL experience on starting night and it's a little unnerving to think that Lehtonen won't be there to clean up the inevitable lapses that are sure to occur in the Stars' own zone.

Winning early would help to give confidence to Lehtonen to get him into his usual form. It would also lend confidence to the young defense, having him in top form behind them.

But it's not just confidence that is served with winning early in the season.

The schedule in October is very light on divisional matchups. It presents an opportunity for the Stars to put "points in the bank" early on. With each team in the Central seeing only 2-4 games against another Central opponent, you can be assured that the teams that can get points against the rest of the league will see themselves gaining a cushion on the rest of the division.

The Stars have three games against divisional foes plus two games against teams from the Pacific to go along with five games against the Eastern Conference.

With a swing through the Eastern Conference, the opportunity to gain breathing room on the rest of the West is paramount. Last season, the spread between the last wild card spot and finishing two spots lower was just three points. So stealing two points from an Eastern foe would be a slam dunk on gaining ground on everyone battling it out for those two last spots. (Now we just have to hope that the Stars have figured out the Eastern Conference and won't end up with a losing record versus them, leaving free points on the table.)

The games against the Western teams are even more critical. Each game against the West represents a four-point swing for the wild card spots, which is also of importance in a division expected to be as tight as ever. Two points gained for represents two points the Western opponent cannot get back, and in an extra tight race for a playoff spot, who knows which ones will be the most important in April. After all, the Stars basically won the eighth seed with a pair of nondescript wins over the Phoenix Coyotes in February.

Lost points will make the postseason that much harder to obtain, and falling short of the postseason would be a vast disappointment for a team that has such high expectations now.