We are now only a week from the Devils’ 2011-2012 season preview, so be sure to stay tuned for that. Today’s outlook is of the Dallas Stars, who missed the playoffs on the last day of the season, failing to beat the Wild on the final Sunday, which would have given them the 8th seed. Now, they will have to find a way to win those extra two points, and will have to somehow do this without star center Brad Richards, who departed for the Rangers this offseason. Over at Blackout Dallas, Austin Waldron believes a playoff berth is still surely a reasonable goal.
The day has come, and it’s our time to shine here in the Fansided ”Around The NHL in 30 Days” Project. The Dallas Stars are up today, funny enough, as their calender year kicks off today with the Stars Ice Breaker and the prospects playing their first game in the 2011 NHL Prospect Tournament later today. While a lot has changed this offseason for the Stars, the expectations for this team to get back to their former ways have not.
For the Stars some of the changes happened right away. A new coach in Glen Gulutzan coming up from the Stars’ AHL team and taking over as head coach after the firing of Marc Crawford (thank you Joe!) started the summer off for the team. Of course what followed shortly after was not what most of the fanbase wanted, but most of us knew it was coming. GM Joe Nieuwendyk fought and tried a wait-and-see approach with new ownership that never came, and eventually had to just let the team’s top offensive threat go. Brad Richards is now of course residing somewhere in NYC as he prepares to play for the New York Rangers for probably the remainder of his career, and the Stars are now down on all-star.
To read the rest of this Stars’ preview, click here.
The Devils will play the Stars twice this season, the first of which, in Dallas on October 29th, comes as the last game of a four-game road trip. Their next matchup, on December 16th at the Prudential Center, could be a date to mark on the calendar; it is very possible that this will be “Scott Niedermayer Night” in New Jersey, and if so, the arena will surely be packed with excited Devils fans. Obviously, these two teams have some history, having played in the Stanley Cup Finals eleven years ago. Dallas has given the Devils a tough matchup wherever they play, and even without Richards (I’m sure we would rather him be in Dallas, anyway), this could very well continue.
Now, lets take a look at the Stars. If Dallas makes the playoffs this season, it will be because they received sufficient production from all of their lines. Not only is Richards gone, but left wing James Neal was traded to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski during last season, a move which could hurt their top lines this year. However, the addition of Michael Ryder, among others, should surely help their forecheck; Ryder should have a chance to play on the Stars’ first line.
And there is still talent that stayed in Dallas this offseason. Left wing Loui Eriksson, one of my favorite forwards to watch in the Western Conference, has averaged over 30 goals through the last three seasons, despite his 27-goal effort last year. Captain Brendan Morrow provides an excellent leader (and perhaps a mentor) to Dallas, who also lit the lamp 33 times in 2010-2011. The main concern with their forwards is depth; if these lines are organized well, however, this may be much less of an issue.
Defensively, the Stars look fairly strong, with plenty of veterans who have proven themselves in this league. There is also some young talent in Dallas, which some of these defensemen can help bring along in their careers. Between the pipes is Kari Lehtonen, who did have a decent season, and is backed up nicely by Andrew Raycroft. Lehtonen put up his best numbers last season, and Dallas is hoping the 27-year-old will continue to improve over the next few years.
Overall, despite the Richards’ subtraction, the Stars are still a team that should be relevant throughout the season. If the right chemistry is found, then the production should come; however, this might be a tough task, as I am not thrilled about their latter-line talent. Right now, in a strong Western Conference, I believe they could very well be a top-ten team, who is in an exciting playoff race all season long. My prediction is still that they do not end up making it in, however, although this is a team that can certainly do so. They will need to prove that they have what it takes to overcome the loss of Brad Richards, and I’m not sure if they have all that it may take.
Tomorrow’s season preview is of the Detroit Red Wings, who lost in the second round to the Sharks in seven games after rallying from a 3-0 series defecit.