Colorful characters, revered championships, staged fights ... the rink shares plenty with the squared circle. So here at Puck Daddy, we've decided to preview the 2010-11 NHL season with the help of old-school wrestling icons, images and lingo. It's a slobber-knocker, Mean Gene...
Last Season (37-31-14. 5th in Pacific, 13th in the Conference)
It was the year of change for the Dallas Stars last season. Joe Nieuwendyk took over GM duties and Marc Crawford replaced Dave Tippett behind the bench while, unbeknownst to everyone at the time, the final seasons for both Marty Turco(notes) and Mike Modano(notes) were underway.
What seemingly looked like a playoff year in January soon snowballed into a second straight year of no playoffs and another year with less than 90 points, something (before 2008-09) they hadn't achieved since the 1995-96 campaign.
The memorable snapshot of Dallas' failed 2009-10 season was the final home game for Mike Modano that saw plenty of tears and lots and lots and lots of cheering in support of the player that's only known that franchise.
The Stars decided not to bring back two of their heart and soul players of the franchise, allowing Marty Turco to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks and deciding not to bring back Modano and allowing him to sign with the Detroit Red Wings.
There will be a transition of seniority in the locker room, but the existing trio of leadership featuring Brenden Morrow(notes), Brad Richards(notes) and Stephane Robidas(notes) should keep the ship from falling over.
Hoping to beat out Brent Krahn(notes) for the job of being Kari Lehtonen's(notes) backup, the Stars signed Andrew Raycroft(notes) over the summer after he spent the last two seasons in Vancouver and Colorado.
Brad Richards' 91 points last year marked his highest total since the 2005-06 season. Now entering the final year of his deal, is a 100-point season out of the question?
After the top six, the scoring drops off as you hit Dallas' depth at forward. Grinders like Brian Sutherby(notes), Toby Peterson and new boy Burish will surround young Tom Wandell(notes) will return from knee surgery after recording 15 points in 50 games for the Stars.
The one X-factor could be Jonathan Cheechoo(notes). After getting bought out of the final year of his deal by the Ottawa Senators, Dallas invited him to their training camp hoping the carrot of an NHL contract could motivate the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
With an abundance of left-handed shots at forward, Cheechoo could be a help to the power play or help motivate some of the Stars' underachieving players, namely Fabian Brunnstrom(notes), as Mike Heika pointed out.
Wrestler(s) That Best Symbolize the Team
Big, former champion, kind of vanilla, and from Texas. Maybe Bradshaw could use some of the money earned from the "Acolytes Protection Agency" to join up with the team's soon-to-be new ownership?
The defense that was 23rd in goals allowed last season comes back the same. Dallas hopes their core of young defensemen -- Trevor Daley(notes), Matt Niskanen(notes), Mark Fistric(notes), and Nicklas Grossman(notes) -- can continue developing their games and help support Kari Lehtonen in goal.
It will be interesting to see what affect new associate head coach Willie Desjardins might have on the defense considering the puck possession system he employed while coaching at Medicine Hat of the WHL.
The Marty Turco era has come and gone and the crease issues for Dallas boiling down to which Kari Lehtonen will show up: the injury-prone one we've gotten to know or the Thrashers' youngster that was won 34 games in 2006-07?
Behind Lehtonen, Andrew Raycroft and Brent Krahn will do battle for the backup job. Raycroft was signed to a two-way deal, so training camp will be a big opportunity for Krahn to build off his 17-4 season with Texas of the AHL last season and parlay that into a full-time backup role in the NHL.
Match We'd Pay To Watch
Krys Barch(notes) and Cam Janssen(notes) follow up on their Twitter chat and in their first meeting on October 16th participate in a "Loser Leaves Twitter Match" since that trend seems popular these days.
Jamie Benn(notes) had an impressive rookie season finishing third among rookie scorers with 22 goals and 41 points. With an increase in ice time from last season's 14:42 TOI, Benn should again be one of the Stars' offensive leaders. Benn took his talents to the Texas Stars of the AHL after the NHL regular season and helped lead the team to the Calder Cup finals with 26 points in 24 games. That added boost of confidence should do wonders for the 21-year old as he enters his sophomore campaign.
Is there anyone else other than Lehtonen that can be picked here?
All eyes will be onthe 26-year old Finn as he tries to overcome an injury-plagued first six seasons in the NHL. Glimpses of Lehtonen's talent were on display during his tenure with the Thrashers and in 12 appearances for the Stars last season down the stretch, he went 6-4-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .911 save-percentage.
The Stars aren't expected to be world-beaters this season, but if Lehtonen can finally get healthy and show progress in goal, that's something the team can build on for the future ... mainly because there's a lot of pressure on both Lehtonen and the Stars after the goaltender signed a three-year extension worth $10.65 million. That's a lot of cheese for a guy with a big injury history.
Really, anything involving Mike Ribeiro, a stick between-the-legs and the shootout.
Dallas was 27th in the NHL last season on the penalty kill (77.4%) and last at home (76.1%), but had a knack for scoring shorties with nine, good for third best. Marty Turco wasn't a very good penalty killer with his .855% save-percentage while Dallas was shorthanded last season.
Brad Richards' power-play prowess returned last season for the Stars, leading the way with 13 goals helping Dallas to a 18.6% success-rate, good enough for 12th in the NHL.
2010-11 Preseason Report Card:
Goaltending: C (lots to prove this season for Lehtonen and if he can't, is there any faith in Raycroft or Krahn to carry the load?)
Special Teams: C+
Management: C (Nieuwendyk has done the best he can, but is still hampered by lingering ownership transition)
Main Event or Dark Match? (Prediction)
Having finished 13th in the West last season and out of the playoffs for the second straight year, there's more room to move up than there is down. However, while the offense will be there (boosted by the hopeful re-signing of James Neal(notes)), questions remain about the goaltending and suspect defense.
Dallas' ownership situation will be something to watch when talks pick up soon and while it shouldn't be a distraction, GM Joe Nieuwendyk will have to wait to see if he's able to spend above the team's self-imposed budget until the situation is finally resolved.
The Stars aren't a playoff team this year, but could move in that direction with the further development of youngsters in Benn and Neal, not to mention the play of Lehtonen (I'm sensing a theme here).
Dallas Stars' Entrance Music to the 2010-11 Season
Hillbilly Jim's the pick here and it's not to be stereotypical of the south, but this is the kind of ditty you'd want to put on this season while forgetting about another season without the playoffs and remembering Brett Hull's Cup-winning goal in 1999.
- Kari Lehtonen
- Marty Turco