The Stars might have made the biggest waves this off season in the NHL. After an intriguing year where they finished 11th in the West, Stars management has decided to change things up. We get a new GM and a new head coach. I am excited about the Lindy Ruff being at the helm for the Stars. Ruff was a great coach in Buffalo but their management failed completely and firing Ruff was their way out. I expect Ruff to revamp his coaching career here in Dallas.
The Stars made many blockbuster trades and only time will tell if these moves pay off. The biggest of the trades were dealing away one of the most underrated player in the NHL, winger Loui Eriksson. Dallas received the young and promising Tyler Seguin from Boston along Rich Peverley in return. This was a good move from both teams. The Bruins want to win now while the Stars are not there yet. Dallas is in a subtle rebuilding phase and Seguin is a big piece to build around. He certainly has the potential to be an elite player for years to come. I am excited to see Seguin's speed and skills in a Dallas uniform. Speaking of uniforms, the Stars will be sporting new jerseys this season so maybe that will allow them to pick up another win or two. Who knows? The Stars also picked up defensive prospect Ryan Button in the Eriksson trade. Button is a high skill defensiveman but being a part of the Bruins organization has really hampered his skills and development. The Bruins AHL affiliate has been a defense first organization just like their big club. His numbers have never been very good but he gets a chance to use his puck moving ability and vision for the Stars minor league team. It will be interesting to see how this kid develops in Dallas. The Stars also traded Edmonton for veteran Shawn Horcoff who had 12 points in 31 games for the Oilers last season. They trade Philip Larsen who had five points in 31 games for the Stars. Larsen was a 5th round pick from 2008 by the Stars who has not quite developed to their liking. This is a good trade for the Stars.
Offensively the Stars should be as good or better than last season. Young forwards Jamie Been and Cody Eakin should continue to improve. Their veterans Ray Whitney, Vernon Fiddler, and Shawn Horcoff should contribute as well. Dallas shouldn't miss a step with Seguin on the top line. The Stars also improved in depth as well. Their 3rd line was pretty weak last season and they were taken advantage of on the road. This year if everyone stays healthy, they should be able to put a formidable 3rd line on the ice. Horcoff is slated to center it and on the right wing will be the 10th overall pick from the 2013 draft. Valeri Nichushkin is a big Russian who has plenty of skill. This kid is really young and has awhile to go before he peaks in potential but he should make an impact
this season. The Stars are starting their first round pick the right way, placing him on the 3rd line so that his defensive skills will need to develop as well. I am looking forward to the Horcoff-Nichushkin combination.
Defense has been another story. The Stars were ranked 12th in goal differential. They were able to snag Sergei Gonchar this off season and that addition is an very understated one. Gonchar is arguably exactly what the Stars needed to shore up the blueline. He's going to provide leadership to the likes of Alex Goligoski and quarterback the powerplay. The Goligoski-Gonchar pair is going to be a big number one defensive line. On the 2nd D line should be Brenden Dillon who will be returning for his second full year. Dillon has a lot of untapped potential. He finished 10th in the Calder Trophy voting and you could make a case for him being the best defenseman on the Stars right now. Dillon could be a potential captain for this club in the future and could surpass Goligoski in terms of depth. Trevor Daley is a solid option and will see a lot of time next to Goligoski this season. Daley had next surgery over the off season so it will be interesting to see how he is able to perform over the long haul. The Stars have lot of depth in their minor league system and they should bring some guys up this season. Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn are all NHL capable defenders who will hopefully get a chance during the 2013-2014 campaign.
Rounding out the defensive unit is none other than the big #32. Kari Lehtonen is the clear number one choice for the Stars and should be in for at least 80% of their games, barring injury. Lehtonen is coming off of a season where he went 15-14 with just one shutout. Lehtonen is a capable netminder though and he needs to improve this season. The Stars will need him to get at least 55 wins to have a chance at making the playoffs. Dallas acquired former Carolina Hurricanes backup Dan Ellis. This is a nice addition for the Stars. Ellis is a veteran goaltender and should provide Lehtonen a backbone he has not had. If Ellis can contribute 10-15 wins to the mix then the Stars could be playing in the post season.
This is a tough team to gauge. They have looked excellent in preseason play but that success is difficult to translate into the regular season. The Stars should be better than they were last season. They will be playing in the tough Central Division where they will have to face the likes of the Blackhawks and Blues. They will be in the post season race but I'm not sure if they can actually get there this season.
Odds to win Stanley Cup: 50/1