Over the Next 30 days I will be Previewing each of the National Hockey League Clubs heading into the 2011-12 season starting from the Anaheim Ducks. Day 9 of the series belongs to the official AarifDeenReport Dallas Stars Preview.
Please resort to myhockeybuzz page for previews of teams falling before this team.
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Last summer, heading into the regular season, Dallas was ready to kick off their year with a new netminder between the pipes. It would mark the first time in nearly a decade Marty Turco is not part of the team. But two straight disappointing seasons from the former starter sent the goalie packing in free agency. It had been two years since their last playoff appearance. A year where they met the Red Wings in the conference finals before falling to the eventual Cup champions.
Having a hard time showing his potential in Atlanta due to injuries and well, a scrappy team for many years, Kari was ready for a fresh start to get his career going. The Stars began the season on a high note and Kari Lehtonen was a big part of the reason why. Winning their first four games of the season was quite the accomplishment for a team that knew their time with top scorer Brad Richards was running low. If they wanted to take a run for the Cup with the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner a part of their squad, 2011 would be their best bet.
Similar to Columbus, Dallas slowly faltered and fell into the rankings after their fiery start to the season. After going undefeated their first 4 games, Dallas would string together only 6 wins during their next 15 games. Causing them to fall below the playoff line.
However, during the end of November, Dallas was able to string together a fantastic 6 game winning streak. Their offense was firing on all cylinders scoring 17 goals in those half a dozen games while only surrendering 9. The tandem of Lehtonen and Raycroft together lead the defense and the Stars team to this great streak.
The season was now 25 games old and Brad Richards slowly saw himself amongst the best in the league lighting the lamp 11 times and assisting on 19 more. Following Brad were Loui Eriksson and James Neal. Each scoring 10 times. It seemed like Dallas was really in for a great season.
Now of course, similar to Columbus, after giving their fans plenty of hope to grasp on to, Dallas once again settled for average hockey. They crept toward the trade deadline with 33 wins and 72 points. Good for 9th in the west, but not far behind the 8th and final playoff spot. With Brad Richards having injury problems to go along with this near playoff appearance, GM Joe Nieuwendyk chose to keep Brad in town and risk losing him for nothing three months later. Without trading their top star player, the rookie GM still found a way to shock the fans with a big trade made with the Penguins. Without a top defenseman since Sergei Zubov fled to the KHL, the Stars acquired youngster Alex Goligoski (or as people like to call him, GOOSE) from Pittsburgh for young scorer James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen.
While many were not too happy with the loss of James Neal, who’s probably licking his chops at the opportunity of being Crosby’s long-lost line-mate, the emergence of Jamie Benn proved Neal to be expendable and worth being shipped out for a defenseman. Goligoski’s time in Pittsburgh was great for his career and playing alongside all the defensemen that suited up in black and yellow really gave him the experience he needed to soon run his own six-man team. The value for a top notch young defenseman was very high considering the price the Avs had to pay for Erik Johnson before this trade was made. Dallas fans were ready to see Goose take over.
It was now time for a final rush to end the season on a high note. Dallas fans wanted to see postseason action, and Brad Richards wanted a shot at the Cup with the Stars. Heading into the last week of the season Dallas had lost a half a dozen games in a row. Not exactly the best way to reach the playoffs in the tight packed western standings. But something finally came about. With 5 games in the final 8 days of the regular season, the Stars needed to win all those games to make the playoffs. Luckily for them 4 of those 5 games were against non-playoff teams, and 2 of them being a back-to-back series with the struggling Avalanche.
Kari Lehtonen and the Stars were able to get past Anaheim, Columbus, and the Avs (twice) before their final game against the Wild. It was now or never in game 82. the 9th seeded Stars taking on the 12th seeded Wild who were looking to play spoiler. And that’s just what they did. The Stars lost their final game of the year by a score of 5-3 once again missing the playoffs. Now, heading into an early off-season, all heads shifted toward Brad Richards.
Major Players Added:
Not only in Dallas, but the whole NHL in general had one player on their mind on Canada Day. Yes, 31 year old centerman Brad Richards. A proven scorer, a proven playmaker, a proven champion, and a proven MVP. What more do you need? He was well sought after by numerous teams who met with him in Toronto to make their claim. One of the last standing teams turned out to surprisingly be the Feaster led Flames. But it was Glen Sather who coughed up the big bucks winning the Richards sweepstakes and reuniting him with former coach John Tortorella. Torts and Richards together in Broadway.
When the Stars lost Richards to free agency, Nieuwendyk panicked. He needed to replace the star center but was unable to acquire a star forward to sign the dotted line. The Stars lost the best player to free agency and settled by signing numerous depth players who will most likely have a limited role in Dallas, and probably won’t be here for their whole careers.
Adam Pardy: Needing to add depth to their lowly defense, the Stars made their first signing of free agency by adding the 6 foot 2 defenseman out of Calgary. Just 27 years old, Adam has suited up for a total of 147 games for the Flames over the last three years while posting respectable numbers. Adam is a bottom pairing player who can always be counted on for an average performance.
The 31 year old veteran has spent the last two years in the dessert, but will now spend the next three years in Dallas for an average of $1.8 million per year. The left winger will see plenty of time on the Stars PK. Fiddler spent the most time on the ice for Phoenix when shorthanded last year. He will look to boost the Stars PK that was ranked 23rd last season
Stanley Cup champion Michael Ryder found himself without a job come July 1st. After winning the Stanley Cup with a great performance in the playoffs, Ryder knew it wouldn’t be long before finding a new place to live. It took only a few hours after noon struck for him to receive the winning offer. Ryder signed in Dallas for two years worth $7 million total. Nieuwendyk had to overpay for the winger due to his 8 goal playoff performance. Three of which coming against the Canucks in the finals. Ryder will be counted on by the Stars to fill a top-6 role.
Did I read that correctly? Sheldon... Souray? Who in their right mind would have ever expected this man to find a new job in the National Hockey League after his horrendous time in Edmonton. While injuries started the problems for Sheldon, he sure didn’t help his case after his terrible season in the AHL last season. After finally being bought-out of his contract, Nieuwendyk continued to shore up his D by adding the biggest project signing of the summer. Souray signed with Dallas for one-year for under $2 million. While highly doubtful, the 35 year-old blueliner will attempt to resurrect his career and make the most of his one final shot to do so.
Two more signings were made on Canada Day for the Stars. Veteran Radek Dvorak was signed out of Florida and Jake Dowell was added to the roster after leaving Chicago. Both players will look to take on depth roles after each signed for one-year to play for the Stars franchise. Later on, GM Joe Nieuwendyk added rough and tough forward Eric Godard. Signing him out of Pittsburgh.
Who Was Lost:
F Brad Richards signed on with the New York Rangers for 9 years worth $60 million
F Aaron Gagnon signed on with the Winnipeg Jets for 2 years worth $1.125 million
F Jamie Langenbrunner signed on with the St. Louis Blues for 1 year worth $2.875 million
F Jason Williams signed on with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 1 year worth 600k
F Sean Backman signed on with the New York Islanders for 1 year worth 525k
D Jeff Woywitka signed on with the Montreal Canadiens for 1 year worth 650k
Its gonna be a long season for Stars fans. While many knew Richards time in Dallas was coming to an end, there were some out there that still had hope that Brad would choose to stay put and sign his last contract here. With Ott and Ribeiro now the probable top 2 centermen on the team, this team will lack the offensive push Richards will take with him to Broadway. Team captain Brendan Morrow will do whatever he can to rally his team each game.
The Stars will have one major bright spot in offense however. Youngster Jamie Benn, who slowly was coming into his own at the end of last season will take off this season and will be looking for a break-out year. The 22 year old who left Iginla a bloody mess one December night is one of the young power forwards on the rise in this league. While he played just 69 games last year, and posted 56 points, Jamie Benn’s second half was one to remember. In his last 30 games of the season, Benn put up 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 total points. He will heavily be counted on along with Eriksson, Ribeiro, Morrow, Ott and Ryder to lead the Stars top 6 group offensively heading into 2012.
While it was very unfortunate the Stars missed out on the playoffs by one game, they did have another bright spot at the end of the season to go along with Benn. After the trade with Pittsburgh many were expecting James Neal to take off with the Pens after struggling to score consistently in Dallas. However it wasn’t Neal who had the better time on his new team. Young defenseman Alex Goligoski came into Dallas ready to take over as the #1 guy. And he did just that. Goose scored 5 goals and added 10 assists in 23 contests for Dallas to end the season. He will greatly be counted on next season to run the core that includes Souray, Daley, Fistric, Grossman, Pardy, and Robidas.
Looking to enter his second full season a part of the Stars, Kari Lehtonen can call last seasons performance a success. The 27 year old goaltender will be expected to build on his 34 win campaign and should have no problem matching his 3 shutouts as well. Kari is still on the rise, and with a veteran like Raycroft backing him up, Lehtonen will be carrying the workload in Dallas and be counted on to have a Bryzgalov-type of season in order for his team to make the playoffs
Deen’s Projected Lineup:
Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Jamie Benn
Brendan Morrow - Steve Ott - Michael Ryder
Vernon Fiddler - Tom Wandell - Toby Peterson
Adam Burish - Jake Dowell - Radek Dvorak
Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley
Marc Fistric - Stephane Robidas
Adam Pardy - Sheldon Souray
The loss of Brad Richards, and failure to replace him, as many expected, will be too big a blow to overcome. Glen Gulutzan’s Stars will suffer this season finishing 12th in the Western
Conference, above only Edmonton, Calgary and Phoenix in the Western Conference standings. Expect Jamie Benn however to score 30 goals and reach 70 points this season. Sending a message to the rest of the league.
Deen’s Daily Tidbits:
Congratulations on a great career #23 Chris Drury. A proven clutch scorer and amazing leader on and off the ice. Would have been a great addition to many teams around the league, including Winnipeg, but injuries are just catching up to him. You will be missed!
How exactly did Sean Avery dodge a bullet on those charges after being arrested last week?
Are Lombardi and Burkie aware that Doughty and Schenn remain without a contract this late into the summer? Get it going fellas!
Speaking of Burke, now that word is out that (Matthew) Lombardi is pretty much all but ready for training camp, Burke absolutely FLEECED Poile in that trade involving Lombardi and Franson going to Toronto.
Rick Rypien’s funeral reached numbers close to 1000 guests. A great number for a great man
Training camp is right around the corner!
Thanks for reading! Follow me on twitter @AarifDeenReport please!