After a rollercoaster season in 2017-2018, do Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars have what it takes to compete in the Central division this year?
Just like Six Flags, the Star rode the highs and lows of a season, complete with twisting turns and dangerous drops. The Stars finished the 2018 season 19th in the league with 92 points and a 42-32-8 record. Not good enough to make it to the playoffs, but this is starting to become a trend for the Stars.
Since 2010, the Stars have made the playoffs only twice and under coach Lindy Ruff. Oh, Stars fans relish the days of coach Dave Tippett and making the playoffs every year was expected. Nill will try again with new head coach Jim Montgomery, the Stars eighth head coach since moving to Dallas.
Montgomery, 48, who is only the fifth coach to make the jump to the NHL from college hockey, will take over as bench boss in Dallas this season. Some of the previous NCAA coaches to make the jump to the NHL from college are Dave Hakstol and David Quinn, the new head coach of the New York Rangers.
Montgomery is a veteran of 122 NHL games. He has had incredible success coaching in the NCAA. He led the 2010 USHL expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints to a championship their inaugural year and a 2017 championship for the University of Denver where he has coached the past five seasons.
This move, I suspect, is to help improve and develop younger players who come out of college and make the jump straight into the NHL.
One important addition to lone-star team was Alexander Radulov last season who was signed to a five-year, $31.25 million contract with the Stars July of 2017. By adding him to the already high-energy line of Jaime Benn and Tyler Seguin, this line contributed to 103 goals for the Stars this past season.
One particular Star who had an amazing season was John Klingberg, who I think should’ve been in the Norris Trophy conversation and will likely continue to improve his stats again this year. With Esa Lindell alongside him, the top defensive pairing contributed 15 goals, 79 points, and 232 penalty minutes for the Stars.
As Lindell matures, I can see him adding a few more assists to his game. One hole I have noticed in his game is his fore-checking and lack of aggressiveness in it. If he spends more time challenging opponents in his own zone, they could lead to more opportunities to turn the puck over for the other team.
I like his youth and his determination but he spends a lot of time backing off the puck instead of going after it.
Equally exciting on defense is the highly anticipated arrival of Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen was selected second overall by Dallas in 2017 and GM Nill says he is ready to play for the big club. The 19-year-old smooth skating, Finnish defenseman will pair up with Julius Honka.
Highly touted by scouts around the league, Heiskanen has dazzled fans with his smooth skating and seemly effortless transitions from offense to defense. Heiskanen likes to stay around the net, and often the pucks go in.
At the IIHF U18 World Championship, Heiskanen scored seven goals and 12 points and was named the "best defenseman" at the tournament. Stars' fans can’t wait to see what tricks he has in store for 2018.
Another addition to the team is Blake Comeau. Comeau, 32, comes from division opponents, the Colorado Avalanche, where he played against the Stars, but now will fill the void left by Antoine Roussel.
Comeau has a hard-hitting style and will be able to provide some depth, a scoring touch and will not back down from knocking a player off his skates if he needs to make a play.
In net, Ben Bishop, the Frisco native played 53 games last season, and he would’ve played more if it hadn’t had been for a concussion in the first meeting with the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Backing up Bishop in net, the Stars brought on Anton Khudobin from the Boston Bruins.
“Anton is a proven NHL netminder that gives his team a chance to win every time he’s on the ice”
The Stars power play was 19th in the league and that is just not acceptable for a team that has the firepower of Seguin and Benn, so that will have to be improved.
Seguin will be a UFA at the end of the 2019 season, and he has publicly stated that it is “disappointing” that he hasn’t been offer-sheeted by this point. Honestly, Seguin is making $5.75 million next year.
At 26, he has barely hit his ceiling and could ask for $7 million and he would totally be worth it. The question is, what will Jim Nill be willing to spend to get him to stay in Dallas?
The Stars are currently 28th in the league for penalty minutes. After trading fan-favorite Roussel, the Stars may be 31st next season. Frankly, I think this was a bad move because the Stars have a couple of guys who need contracts next season and including center-man and underwhelming Jason Spezza. Spezza has one more year left on his contract at $7.5 million.
If the Stars could’ve traded him, re-signed Seguin they would still have money under the new cap to spend on improving the team. Stars fans, let’s just hope this doesn’t become a John Tavares or Erik Karlsson drama.
Jaime Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichuskin
Devin Shore - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Blake Comeau - Mattias Janmark - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Julius Honka
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns
Best case scenario:
- The Stars fight all season and return to the top of the Central division with 107 points.
- Klingberg wins the Norris trophy for the best all-around defenseman.
- Heiskanen wins the Calder trophy.
- The Stars win the Stanley Cup.
Worst case scenario:
- Key injuries to top players.
- Repeat last season’s mistakes by going on extended streaks both direction and inconsistent play.
- Lose Tyler Seguin.
Clearly, the Stars are building for the future right now, so the best case scenario of winning the Stanley Cup seems delusional. I do, however, have faith that the Stars will not repeat the dreadful season they had last year.
It is yet to be seen if Honka can find his game, but hopefully having Heiskanen alongside him will better help him to develop. The Stars still need to see consistency from streaky Janmark and Pitlick and will come with time and training.
With Nill adding some much-needed depth throughout the roster I can see the Stars increasing their goal production and finally get the bottom lines contributing too. With the new additions, the Stars are definitely showing they are ready to play in the Central Division.
I see the Stars finishing in a wild-card slot. As we have seen before with teams like the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings, it doesn’t matter where you finish in the standings because the playoffs are a whole different animal.
How will the Dallas Stars do this new season? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (VAVELNHL_ENG).