Puck Daddy’s NHL 2014-15 Emoji Preview: Dallas Stars

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(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!)

Last Season In Emojis

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Last Season, In Summary

People weren’t sure what to expect from the Dallas Stars last season, and they ended up surprising many.

The organization’s future in Dallas was no longer in doubt. New ownership did some house keeping, which meant saying good-bye to Joe Nieuwendyk and Glen Gulutzan, and hello to Jim Nill (GM) and Lindy Ruff (head coach).

The team also welcomed in gifted scorer (and common sense lacker), Tyler Seguin, in the hopes the change of scenery would re-focus the youngster, and it worked. Seguin paired with captain Jamie Benn became one the NHL's top dynamic duos; they led the Stars in scoring with 84-points and 79-points, respectively.

Towards the end of the season, Rich Peverley suffered a cardiac event during a game against Columbus leading to the game being rescheduled at a later date. Dallas rallied around their fallen commrade as they made a mad dash for the playoffs.

The Stars had been in a massive play-off drought; missing the post-season for five straight years before nabbing the second wild card spot with a 40-31-11 record.

As the No. 8 seed, Dallas drew the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. The scrappy Stars hung with the Ducks by coming back from an 0-2 deficit to tie the series. However, Anaheim would take the series after a Game 6 collapse by Dallas.

Last Season’s Definitive Highlight

It's not a highlight that Rich Peverley nearly died while on the bench. It's a testament to the Stars ability to regroup and play at an even higher level after witnessing what they did. This was a rallying point for the organization.

Off-Season Transactions

Let’s get the biggest transaction out of the way first. The Stars acquired Ludvig Karlsson from Ottawa for Alex Chiasson, prospects, and a second round pick in 2015; oh, and they got Jason Spezza as part of the deal, too. Spezza was very unhappy in Ottawa and he waived his no-trade clause to go to Dallas.

Antoine Roussel with his team-high 206 PIMs earned a four-year, $8-million contract extension. The Stars also re-upped Vern Fiddler for two years at $1.25-million per.

Dallas picked up complimentary pieces for their roster via free agency. To add additional depth at forward, Patrick Eaves inked a one year deal after spending time in Detroit and Nashville last season. Anders Lindback was also given a one-year contract to be the primary backup for Kari Lehtonen. Ales Hemskey took a slight paycut to join the Stars for the next three-years ($12-million total).

Julius Honka was selected by the Stars 14th overall at the 2014 draft. Not only does he have a great name, he's an offensive-defenseman posting 56-points in the WHL. Honka is not expected to crack the big club this year; however, he did sign a three-year entry level contract worth $4.275-million in July.

Aaron Rome fell victim to compliance buyout of the final two years of his contract. In two years with the team, he played in 52 games, had six points, and 29 PIMs.

Nill parted ways with many free agents. Some of the notables include: Tim Thomas (2-4-1, 2.97 GAA), Dustin Jeffrey (2 G, 1A) and Ray Whitney (9 G, 23 A).

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Tyler Seguin led the team in scoring with 84-points (37 goals, 47 assists). Not far behind was his winger Jamie Benn with 79-points (34 goals, 45 assists). Turning heads was 6'4", 205-pound rookie Valeri Nichushkin. He added 34-points in his NHL debut.

With the move made to get Spezza in the offseason, Dallas turned up their dangerous offense up to 11. It is very difficult to win in without a physical and offensively gifted second-line center. Spezza is that guy. Along with his $7-million dollar cap-hit, Spezza adds a 54-percent face-off win percentage. Flanking Spezza will be Ales Hemskey and Erik Cole. Hemskey is familiar with Spezza after being dealt to Ottawa from Edmonton, where he scored 17 points in 20 games. The Stars will look to Hemskey to make up for the loss of Alex Chiasson's point production.

In addition to his 11 major penalties, Roussel contributed 14 goals and 15 assists in 81 games. He's joined on a line with Dallas's other truculent forward, Ryan Garbutt. Garbutt earned himself 108 PIMs and was the seventh highest point scorer on the team with 32. Cody Eakin remains an unsigned RFA. Should he continue to be unavailable, free agent Patrick Eaves could take his place.

Rounding out the forwards are Shawn Horcoff, Vern Fiddler, and Colton Sceviour. Rich Peverley is still recovering from surgery to repair his irregular heart rhythm. He has been cleared to workout, but cannot take to the ice yet.

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The defensive group comes back relatively intact.

Alex Goligoski was the third leading scorer, and highest scoring defenseman, for Dallas with 42-points. He finally returned to being the player he was when he was first dealt to Dallas in 2010-11. Goligoski led the team with 24:18 TOI, nearly three-minutes more than his partner (second in TOI), Trevor Daley.

Jamie Benn's brother, Jordie, hit a career high 20-points last season and was third on the team in blocked shots (122). Benn's defensive partner Brenden Dillon led the team with 168 hits. Only problem at the moment is Dillon's lack of a RFA contract.

The aging corpse of Sergei Gonchar is in the final season of his contract with the Stars, carrying a $5-million cap-hit. Kevin Connauton and Patrik Nemeth will battle to earn that final spot on defense.

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Kari Lehtonen remains the workhorse goaltender for the Stars. Going into his 10th NHL season, the 30-year-old netminder played in 65 games posting a 33-20-10 record with a .919 save-percentage, 2.41 goals-against, and a career-high five shutouts.

Food for thought. Lehtonen has played in two playoff series in his entire career. The first was in 2006-07 with Atlanta and the second came last season. He started all six games and gave up 19 goals with one shut-out. His team gave him the run support scoring 18 goals. Perhaps playing in so many regular season games factored in to his post-season play?

Backing up Lehtonen this year is Anders Lindback. The 6'6" netminder spent last season backing up Ben Bishop in Tampa Bay. Bishop was unavailable due to injury for the playoff series against Montreal; Lindback took to the net in his place going 0-3-0 with a 3.91 GAA.

Probable Text Conversation Within Organization

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Special Teams

Both penalty kill and power play were not strong points for the Stars last season.

The penalty kill was No. 21 in the NHL at 81.4 percent. Ryan Garbutt and Brendan Dillon each had two of the team’s eight short-handed goals.

The power play was 23rd in the league. Tyler Seguin led the power play with 25-points (11 goals, 14 assists). The Stars were No. 1 in total time spent on the power play and No. 4 in total power play shots.

GM and Coach

Jim Nill has revamped the Stars organization. He took on risks, like the behaviorally-challenged Tyler Seguin, and wasn't afraid to pull the trigger for Jason Spezza. In what looked like a long road to rebuilding, Nill shortened the trip. Lindy Ruff is entering his second season at the helm. He has instilled confidence into his players and received a max return from them.

And Now, A Blooper

D'OH!

The Potential Best Thing About This Team

Offense, offense, offense. Dallas had a slew of 30-plus point producers which is great except that the top two scorers, Benn and Seguin, carried most of the production. With the additions like Spezza and Hemskey, and the emergency of young players like Val Nichushkin, the pressure lifted somewhat from the two at the top.

The Potential Worst Thing About This Team

Defense, defense, defense. At best, the defensive corps for Dallas is average. Via War on Ice, they have the highest Corsi-Against and the third highest Corsi-Against/60 at 33. For a goalie like Lehtonen, who plays 60+ games when healthy, that's a lot of shots to face.

Single Emoji Prediction

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The improvements by Dallas made the Central Division just as competitive as the Pacific Division. They are not to be underestimated. As long as everyone contributes and Lehtonen stays healthy, they'll be a part of the playoff mix.