Last Season: 50-23-9 (109 points); 1st in Central; 1st in Western Conference
The Dallas Stars were who we thought they were: an offensively dynamic roster with questionable postseason goaltending.
The team tore through the NHL season, coming in second to the Washington Capitals in the race for the President’s Trophy. They made it through the first round against Minnesota relatively unscathed. The Stars took the St. Louis Blues to seven games in the second round where they got smoked 6-1.
2015-16 Season, In One Picture
Without Tyler Seguin, the Stars offense is only slightly naked. Jamie Benn is there to cover up was is exposed in his absence. Okay, that’s a stretch, but come on. What a way to start the season for Seguin as a part of the ESPN The Body Issue. No hockey fan has looked at rubber ducks the same since.
Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?
Jim Nill let a lot of vets walk this season. Jason Demers, Vern Fiddler, Kris Russell, Alex Goligoski and Travis Moen are all gone. Unsigned RFA Valeri Nichushkin went to the KHL earlier this week in a hissy fit. Nill also traded the one time Stars ‘goaltender of the future’ Jack Campbell to the LA Kings.
The GM brought in Jiri Hudler and Adam Cracknell on one-year contracts, and Dan Hamuis on a two-year deal. The rest of the lineup is going to be filled in with players in the Stars system.
The Stars are in a semi state of flux. Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Patrick Eaves and Johnny Oduya are all going into the final years of their contracts. If this group wants to win, this is the year to do it because the squad could look very, very different next year.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. & 2. The Bennguin. The team was led on offense by the two-headed monster of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (a.k.a. The Bennguin). Benn earned himself a Hart Trophy nomination with a team leading 41 goals and 89 points. Seguin was second on the team with 73 points and tied with Jason Spezza at 33 goals. Both players had to bow out of the World Cup at different times for different injuries. The assumption is the Stars will have both once the regular season comes along. How healthy are they going to be? Can they make it through an entire season together? (If so, watch out everyone else.) Would it be better for the long term prospects of the Stars to take it easy on them in the early half of the season so they’re good to go when the playoffs roll around?
3. Esa Lindell. The defenceman was good enough to make Team Finland’s World Cup of Hockey roster. With the Texas Stars (AHL) last season, he had 42 points in 72 games. The Stars are backlogged with defensive prospects on an already crowded blueline. Could he make a play for a spot on the roster out of camp?
4. Dan Hamuis. The veteran brings in what left with Jason Demers. He’s not going to score a lot of points, but he’s a steadying force on an offense driven team. Getting out of the microscope of Vancouver could lead to a career renaissance of sorts for the defenseman.
5. Patrick Sharp. As mentioned earlier, it’s the final year of his contract. Sharp will be 35 years old in December and will need to prove to Nill, or other NHL GMs, he’s worthy of a new contract. It’s amazing the motivation that follows when a player enters that proverbial ‘contract year.’
Mascot Hijinks Video Break
Victor E. Green does his best impression of Fire Marshall Bill on an “unsuspecting Flames fan.”
Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?
It’s complicated. The Stars can score one hundred goals at even strength, but they’re always dangerously close to their opponent scoring 98 goals at the same time.
As a team, Dallas ranked fifth in the NHL in score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 corsi-for at 52.71-percent. In unfancy stats, they were the highest scoring team when playing at 5-on-5 (167 GF) and tied for the second highest at 5-on-4 (50 GF). On the flip side, they gave up the sixth most 5-on-5 goals in the NHL (154 GA), and the most goals while playing 5-on-4 (14 GA).
John Klingberg led the team in score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% at 55.75 followed by Seguin (54.79%) and Hemsky (54.61%). Seguin led the team with 26 goals at even strength.
Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?
The Stars finished fourth in the NHL at 22.1-percent. Benn led the team in power play points (30) and goals (17). Jason Spezza, Sharp and Seguin came in second with 24 power play points. Defenseman John Klingberg rounds out the top five scorers with 22 points. To say this group gets it done on the power play is an understatement. Patrick Eaves is the next on the scoring list with 7 points. One alarming figure from last season, Dallas tied with the Arizona Coyotes the most shorthanded goals-against at 15.
Dallas’s penalty kill was 10th in the league with an 82.3-percent success rate. The group will see some turnover this coming year. Of the top five ice-time leaders on the PK for the Stars, only two – Jamie Benn and Oduya – are returning to the team. The offense still manages to find success while killing penalties. Dallas scored 10 shorthanded goals-for, tied with Chicago, Winnipeg and Calgary for third best in the NHL.
Can We Trust Their Goaltending?
This question is the bane of the Dallas Stars fanbase’s existence.
For the next two seasons, the team has a combined $10.4-million per year tied up in goaltending. Kari Lehtonen carries a $5.9-million cap hit. He went 25-10-2 in the regular season. Antti Niemi, a $4.5-million cap hit, was 25-13-7. During the regular season, as history would indicate, yes, the goaltending can be trusted at that time.
It’s the playoffs where things get a bit…complicated. Neither goaltender was given a chance to get a real rhythm. Nor was either man trusted to make the next start after a loss. At least, not until late in the second round series against St. Louis when Ruff gave the nod to Lehtonen, who has been questionable, at best, during his career in the playoffs. Niemi has a Cup. Go with the guy that’s been there.
Player Most Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season
Whichever goaltender doesn’t get the job done this season. So, let’s say, Kari Lehtonen.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Eight. The pressure has to be mounting on Lindy Ruff. What he’s blessed to have is a GM like Jim Nill who will be patient during the bumps of the regular season. According to Cap Friendly, Ruff is in the final year of his contract. He is going to need to get the club deep into the playoffs to come back next year.
Benn and Seguin lead the Stars to another successful regular season. The team makes it to the playoffs in the hotly contested Central before losing in the Conference Final. And rubber ducks will rain from the skies when Seguin scores a hat trick.
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