Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Meet The Central Division: Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars
Head Coach: Lindy Ruff (1st season with DAL)
Arena: American Airlines Center (Capacity: 18,532)
2012-13 Record: 22-22-4 (Last in Pacific Division)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 1-2-0
Leading Scorer-Jamie Benn: 33 pts (12 G, 21 A)
Leading Goaltender-Kari Lehtonen: 36 G, 15-14-3, 2.66 GAA, .916 SV%

2012-13 Recap: It has quickly become the norm in Dallas to have the team be in contention for a playoff spot in March, then slowly fade away in the final weeks of the season. Dallas was in the hunt for a playoff spot up until the final two weeks of the season, last year. They had a team who was talented on the top line, played below average defensively, and have gotten more than expected out of goaltender Kari Lehtonen. But the defense and lack of depth up front cost them a playoff spot, and it contributed to GM Joe Niewendyk and Head Coach Glen Gulutzan losing their jobs over the summer.

Offseason Additions-GM Jim Nill, HC Lindy Ruff, C Tyler Seguin, C Shawn Horcoff, C Rich Peverley, D Sergei Gonchar, G Dan Ellis, C Chris Mueller: With a new hierarchy in place, Dallas took to the offseason looking to improve their forward and defensive depth, and they took a step in the right direction. The solidified the center position, when they acquired Seguin and Peverley from Boston and then traded for Shawn Horcoff from Edmonton. Sergei Gonchar was brought in to help shore up the blue line, but it remains to be seen if age has finally caught up with him yet. Also, don't forget the least favorable move Dallas made this offseason.

Offseason Subtractions-GM Joe Niewendyk, HC Glen Gulutzan, LW Loui Eriksson, LW Eric Nystrom, D Philip Larsen, RW Matt Fraser, C Tom Wandell: As before mentioned, the failure of not reaching the playoffs cost both Niewendyk and Gulutzan their jobs. Gulutzan only had two years on the job, but when Niewendyk was gone it became pretty clear that Gulutzan would leave too. Top liner Loui Eriksson was sent to Boston in the deal that brought over Seguin and Peverley, so it will be interesting to see who can fill his void on the team. Eric Nystrom had been a great acquisition for Dallas the last two years, but left the team for Nashville via free agency this summer.

Top Prospects: Valeri Nichushkin was drafted by Dallas this year, and is expected to make the team out of camp. He is a formidable figure (6'4") and has a tremendous skill set that we have not seen come out of Russia since Ovechkin (but he still has a way to go before we should put the two in the same sentence). With the lack of depth Dallas has up front, Nichushkin should get some big minutes in Big D this year. Alex Chiasson came onto the scene at the end of last year and made a huge impact for Dallas in the season's final two weeks. He notched six goals and one assist, and looks to build on his success with a full season in Dallas this year. Jamie Oleksiak (6'7") is one of the few people in this league, who can stand eye to eye the Zdeno Chara. He uses his big frame and reach to deflect the puck and break up passes. He also has good puck handling skills for his size, and should make an impact for Dallas if he can stay with the team.

Projected Lines:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Rich Peverley
Ray Whitney-Shawn Horcoff-Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole-Cody Eakin-Alex Chiasson
Ryan Garbutt-Vernon Fiddler-Antoine Roussel

Alex Goligoski-Brendon Dillion
Sergei Gonchar-Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley-Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

(Projected lines courtesy of NHL.com)

Scouting Report: With new coach Lindy Ruff this season, there are obviously going to be some changes made to how Dallas plays. But last year, Dallas was terribly sloppy handling the puck all over the ice, causing turnovers and goals that could have easily been prevented. They also had a lack of forecheck, so you could walk up to the red line before anyone from Dallas even tried to defend you but that could be contributed to the lack of aggression the team had too. The team relied heavily on its top line for goals and will do so again in 2013-14.

Check back on Saturday to see where the Stars finish in their division.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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