BT's 2008/09 NHL Season Preview: The Dallas Stars

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BT's 2008/09 NHL Season Preview: The Dallas Stars

Preface: This will be the last preview until Monday...or at least Sunday night.

Before I move on with the Anaheim Ducks, I want to know what's going on with Mathieu Schnieder, and I still have to write the San Jose preview. So in that light, I'm taking the weekend (er....Saturday) off.

Have a good weekend folks, and if you get bored...why not try my rankings of the fifty top NHL players on for size?

 

The Dallas Stars went on an inspired playoff run last season that no one thought they could accomplish.

If it wasn't for the Detroit Red Wings, it almost looked to be the Stars' year.

But the Stars aren't letting their opportunity pass them by. Without getting overly frivolous in the offseason, the Stars added some exciting pieces that could really make this season a special one.

 


Roster Additions:
Sean Avery-F (F.A), Toby Petersen-F (F.A.), Fabian Brunnstrom-F (F.A.)

Roster Subtractions:
Johan Holmqvist-G (Europe), Niklas Hagman-F (F.A.), Mattias Norstrom (Retired), Stu Barnes-F (Retired), Anti Miettinen-F (Free Agent)

How did 2007/08 go?
45-30-7, 97 points, fifth in conference, third in Pacific, lost in Western Conference Finals (Western).

2008/09 Goal:
First in division, appear in Stanley Cup Finals

Let's break'er down...

 

Now, I've got to do two things here: I've got to give an inspirational little speech about the Dallas Stars (Like I did for the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes) and I have to introduce Ken Armer for the Community Leader's View from the Pressbox.

That's right. I have connections. The NHL Community is writing stuff in my article.

Anyhow, motivating thing to say about the Stars....

It could be worse; They could be the New York Islanders.

I'm betting I hear about that one soon enough.

 

Let's go to the Zubov to see the Giraffes...

The Dallas Stars have a very familiar and comfortable defense.

The first name that you're going to recognize for the Stars is Sergei Zubov. He's been with the Stars since 1996, and he's always brought the same tangibles: A strong offensive presence from the back end, a good level-headed leader, and a sharp hockey mind.

Although Zubov is older now (38) and he missed almost half of last season due to injury, I wouldn't expect his performance to fall off too much—he's almost like a poor-man's Nick Lidstrom. Almost.

Philippe Boucher is another one of those veteran guys that you just know what he brings to the table. At 35, Boucher is done surprising people with his big slap shot, but if he can play a full season (He also missed over half the season due to injury), he'll be able to score more than two goals, and lay the body into his opponents a little more often.

Trevor Daley however, will benefit from seeing a bit more time on the ice this season. Over the past two seasons, Daley has really started to produce offensively (12 points in 2006/07, 24 points in 2007/08), and his defensive play has gotten better as well. As he starts to mature on the ice, he'll begin to fill the shoes of Zubov and Boucher as a solid veteran presence for this team on the back end.

Matt Niskanen is a player that the Stars hold in high regard. Despite being a little on the smaller size for being 6'0 tall, Niskanen has some strong offensive instincts, as well as the ability to become a quality defender in his own right so watch out—Niskanen's debut season of a +22 and 26 points may only be just the beginning.

Both Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric will be given more opportunity to use their larger bodies at the NHL level, but both could use an adjustment period, despite quality showings last year (seven assists for Grossman while Fistric had two, and both were plus players). Outside of the speed issue that both will face playing in the big leagues, Grossman may still need a bit of an adjustment to the North American game.

Dan Jancevski (who was a stalwart on London's defense in the OHL), is a quality depth option for the Stars, and he could even start to take hold with some minor offensive output if given the chance, while Stephane Robidas will provide a little additional offense from the third pairing.

Ivan Vishnekskiy is another name that Dallas fans may come to know in the near future, but the 2006 First-round pick may still take some seasoning in the AHL before he can bring his well-rounded game to the NHL.


Ken's Take: There are two keys to the Stars defense, depth and health. For the Stars to improve on last season veteran injuries to Zubov and Boucher must be at a minimum. Regardless of being hit with the injury bug or not the Stars depth must continue to grow.

The Stars hold one of the most talent-filled and deep blue-lines in the NHL and further maturity by young defensemen will only make this corps more dangerous.

*MEMO FROM BT: I wrote this a few days ago, and the injuries to Boucher and Zubov hit the wire yesterday, which is the danger of doing this during training camp. The bright side is that Boucher is only day-to-day and Zubov will only miss four weeks—not too much of a hindrance.

Marty Turco, His nickname is "Turks." Not as great as "Eddie the Eagle" but I guess it's a start...

For the past seven regular seasons, Marty Turco has been all the Dallas Stars could have hoped and dreamed of, and maybe even more. Since he started as Ed Belfour's backup in Big D, Turco has been able to join the select group of current starting NHL goalies, who have never posted a season under .500.

Marty is working on five straight 30 win seasons, while the highest his goals-against average has ever been is 2.55 (his lowest was 1.72 in 2002).

Since the 2002/03 season, the Stars haven't missed the playoffs with Turco as their backstop either.

But when you got to post season hockey, Turco turned into a different story. Although he appeared fairly solid in the playoffs his first time (2002/03), Turco quickly went downhill the next two trips. He ended up going 2-8 and his playoff stats were abhorrent, with a save percentage almost averaging less than .850, and a GAA over 3.30.

But then he faced Vancouver in the first round of the 2006/07 season. He didn't win, but he did the next best thing—if that's possible in the playoffs—in shutting out the Canucks three times that series, basically giving Dallas every opportunity to win.

Coming into this season, the expectations were raised on Turco and, despite splitting time a little more often this past season, Turco turned in an excellent post season once again, coming within smelling distance of the Stanley Cup finals.

Despite his age (33), Turco is primed for yet another solid season, and, along with the team ahead of him, Turco and youngster Tobias Stephan may take Dallas right through to the Cup final this season.

Ken's Take: For multiple years Stars fans looked for a scapegoat to end the playoff exit woes, and the organization responded by increasing Turco's contract. This increased faith paid off last season and places one of the best clutch goalies in the NHL in front of one of the most talented teams.

Not since Eddie "The Eagle" has a goalie in Dallas been so highly respected and been such a key to the team's success. It only makes sense since Turco learned from one of the best in Belfour

Morrow'ver Modano, this is Brendan's town now!

As Sergei Zubov is the most familiar face on the blue line, as is Mike Modano up front.

Quite possibly one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) American hockey players to ever live, Modano is looking forward to wrapping up his Hall of Fame career with another championship with the Dallas Stars.

Although Modano's age is starting to limit his production (just 57 points last season), Modano still provides a little bit of goal-scoring capability (He's only scored fewer than 20 goals once since 1994), and strong, experienced leadership.

Along those same lines will be Jere Lehtinen. The three-time Selke winner may have been trying to improve his offense the past few seasons, but whether his totals fall
back to earth this season or not (15-20 goals most likely), the Stars still feature one of the most experienced two-way players the NHL has.

Two of the biggest sources of offense for the Stars this season though, will be Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro, signed to a five-year extension in January, had a career year last season with Dallas gathering 83 points, and 27 goals. What's even better about his career season is that Ribeiro was fairly consistent throughout, as his longest point-less streak was only three games.

While Ribeiro looks to continue to build off that success this season, Brad Richards will just look to keep the momentum going this season. After coming over at the trade deadline last season, Richards immediately integrated himself into the environment in Dallas. Although the goal totals were slightly down (20 compared to a more recent 25), Richards provided a great playmaking, and two-way presence for the Stars.

In twelve regular season games, Richards gathered 11 points, and was even better during the playoffs with 15 points in 18 games, really giving hope to Dallas faithful that this season, Richards will be back in the 70-90 point range.

The Stars also feature two of the most talked about players in the NHL. Sean Avery shocked some with his decision to move to Dallas. Many had thought a move back to the Western conference was in the cards for the super-pest, but many thought it would be to the California coastline—not big D.

Be that as it may however, 1/2 General Manager Brett Hull got the man he wanted—A pest with offensive potential that makes his team one of the most hated to play.

At different ends of the dynamic spectrum though, the fairly reserved Fabian Brunnstrom settled on Dallas after numerous stops at various NHL cities this past spring. While not many know what to expect from Brunnstrom in his first NHL season, if he one day starts to produce like he did in the Swedish Elite League (37 points in 54 games), then he'll be well-worth the money.

Word is though, he may be even better.

Steve Ott is one who is cut from the same cloth as Avery, although his offense will be a little less prominent than his pest-like tendencies, while Landon Wilson, Krys Barch, and Toby Petersen were brought in for some seasoned, NHL depth.

On the youth front, Loui Ericksson will be looking to capitalize on a strong season which saw him broach the 30-point plateau, and his production is only expected to go up. Konstantin Pushkarev and BJ Crombeen may also see some time at the NHL this season, with Crombeen bringing his hard-working attitude to the lower lines, while Pushkarev could be a surprise this year if he can stay healthy and consistent at the NHL level.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the heart and soul of this team, and Coach Carbonneau's son-in-law Brenden Morrow. Morrow has quickly become one of the top leaders in the Western Conference these past few seasons, and if he spends a full season with Richards this year, he could be in line to crack 80 points, especially if he repeats his 30-goal campaign.
 
Ken's Take: The Stars have so many offensive weapons spread over all four lines they clearly appear to be the only team capable of knocking off Detroit. The playoff experience gained last year may mean a Cup-kissing finale for the Stars and their power packed offense this year.

So what does it all mean?

The Stars really have all the pieces to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference, and they could be right there at the top with Detroit this year.

Although the Sharks have added to their defense, the Stars have a lot of weapons up
front, and I'm not sure there's a complete enough package in the Pacific (or an experienced enough package) that can compete night-in, night-out with the Stars.

Needless to say, it'll be fun to watch.

1st in Pacific

 

Bryan Thiel is an NHL Community Leader and a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can do so through his profile. You can also read all of his previous work in his archives.

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