NHL
NHL

2010-11 NHL Preview: Dallas Stars

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:
37-31-14/88 pts
5th in Pacific Division
12th in Western Conf.
—————-
GM: Joe Nieuwendyk
COACH: Marc Crawford
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2010-11 PAYROLL:
$45,325,000 ($12.3M below cap)

The Dallas Stars missed out on the postseason for the second straight year in 2010, finishing in the cellar of their division and looking nothing like the team which was a contender for the Stanley Cup most every year last decade. The new season looks like it will yield even more growing pains for this youthful roster sprinkled with veterans here and there. Gone is their franchise scoring leader, Mike Modano, who was given his marching papers in the offseason and signed with Western Conference rival Detroit after the Stars refused to sign their legend on for a 21st season. Also absent from Big D in 2010 will be Marty Turco, their longtime goalie who was unable to replicate the success Ed Belfour brought to the team.

It looks to be a year in transition for the Stars, but does that mean they are going to miss the postseason for a third straight year? Missing the playoffs is a rare occurrence for this franchise, which has only experienced a three-year playoff drought once previously in its history when the then-Minnesota North Stars missed the 1974, 1975 and 1976 playoffs. Marc Crawford is going to have to do some of the best work of his career coaching this green team as Dallas moves forward from its past with the intention of improving on its future…

# POS Name Height Weight Age
13 F Krystofer Barch 6′ 1″ 222 30
14 F Jamie Benn 6′ 2″ 207 21
96 F Fabian Brunnstrom 6′ 2″ 212 25
16 F Adam Burish 6′ 0″ 189 27
21 F Loui Eriksson 6′ 1″ 189 25
10 F Brenden Morrow 6′ 0″ 205 31
18 F James Neal 6′ 2″ 208 22
29 F Steve Ott 6′ 0″ 194 28
17 F Toby Petersen 5′ 10″ 198 31
63 F Mike Ribeiro 6′ 0″ 173 30
91 F Brad Richards 6′ 0″ 196 30
24 F Brandon Segal 6′ 2″ 209 27
20 F Brian Sutherby 6′ 2″ 204 28
23 F Tom Wandell 6′ 1″ 195 23
6 D Trevor Daley 5′ 11″ 199 26
28 D Mark Fistric 6′ 3″ 234 24
2 D Nicklas Grossman 6′ 4″ 226 25
36 D Philip Larsen 6′ 1″ 183 20
5 D Matt Niskanen 6′ 0″ 204 23
3 D Stephane Robidas 5′ 11″ 193 33
37 D Karlis Skrastins 6′ 1″ 208 36
44 D Jeff Woywitka 6′ 3″ 224 26
41 G Brent Krahn 6′ 4″ 232 28
32 G Kari Lehtonen 6′ 4″ 215 26
30 G Andrew Raycroft 6′ 0″ 173 30

MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Kari Lehtonen (starting G) — The decision not to bring back longtime number-one netminder Turco means that Lehtonen has the crease all to himself this season. The former #2 overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft by Atlanta, Lehtonen was acquired last February by the Stars in exchange for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th-round draft pick. He had been buried at the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate in Chicago, and the change of pace seemed good for the 26-year-old Finn. Lehtonen has had health problems in the past, though, and his durability is of paramount importance if the Stars are going to be able to rebound and make the postseason after a two-year absence. With a young defense in front of him, Lehtonen has to be the difference-maker for Dallas.

KEY ACQUISITION: Adam Burish (RW – FA from Chicago) — The 27-year-old former NCAA national champion as captain of the 2005-06 Wisconsin Badgers added a professional title to his resume last season with the Blackhawks. After a strong 2009 postseason, Burish was set for a breakthrough last year when a September collision into the boards left him with a torn ACL and a season effectively lost despite the team success. Viewed as surplus to a cap-strapped Chicago’s needs, Dallas nabbed up this strong two-way winger. Burish should bring needed grit, leadership and — most importantly — a winning mentality to the ice for a franchise that has fallen on losing times.

KEY DEPARTURE: Mike Modano (C – FA to Detroit) — Circle October 14 on your calendar, for that is the day Modano returns to Dallas for the first time as a visitor. The 40-year-old former captain of the Stars had seen his production wane of the past few seasons, and GM Nieuwendyk — his teammate for the team’s 1999 Cup victory — decided the time had passed for the Michigan man. So instead of getting one more year to mentor the up-and-coming talent in Dallas on what it means to be a Star, Modano gets a homecoming of sorts as he joined the Red Wings on a one-year contract in the offseason. Looking to fill their third-line center role, Modano in red will be a weird sight for Stars fans on the 14th…

KEY YOUNGSTER: Jamie Benn (LW/21 years old) — Most people are focused on whether or not juniors wunderkind Scott Glennie will make the full-time jump up to the parent club this year as a 19-year-old winger, but it is a guy who played all 82 games last year as a rookie that could be the catalyst for Stars success. Last year Benn scored 22 goals in his rookie campaign. As a sophomore this year he’ll have to avoid the slump. Expect for him to see some more opportunities to get in on power-play situations now that Modano is out of town, and with a year under his belt his overall numbers across the board will improve.

OUTLOOK: Unfortunately for the Stars last season, they improved in every statistical category — wins, regulation-time losses, goals scored, goals allowed, overall points earned — yet finished two spots lower in their division and right back at 12th overall in the Western Conference. It was a year that saw a resurgence in Phoenix and Los Angeles, making the Pacific one of the toughest divisions in the entire league. This year it should be just as difficult for the Stars to crack through to earn a playoff berth, as all their divisional rivals stand to be competitive once again and there are plenty of question marks throughout the roster. Really it is likely that one of two things will happen in Dallas this year.

The team could make incremental gains for a second straight season… but even five points gained in the overall standings would not have been enough to vault the Stars to the postseason last year. One or two more wins will be coupled with a few more regulation losses this year as they youth movement kicks off in full swing, putting the team in the neighborhood of 90 points and anywhere from 9th to 12th once again in the West. And with talent like Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, captain Brenden Morrow and others surrounding that youth movement, there should still be a strong-enough veteran presence to offset the offseason losses.

But if it cannot, the departure of several veterans that have played a significant role in Dallas over the past decade and more will cause this team to take a significant dip in their record. Modano and Jere Lehtinen, staples of the lineup during their glory days at the end of last decade, are now no longer Stars. Turco signed with the Blackhawks, hoping to prove to Dallas that it was the defense in front of him and not his own play that blew postseason chances. The onus now falls on Kari Lehtonen to prove he is a better number-one than Turco; the two split time last season after Lehtonen’s arrival via trade from Atlanta. The former number-two overall pick of the Thrashers must find a way to prove his old team wrong and make himself indispensable for the Stars. Behind him is Andrew Raycroft, the former Calder winner who has also fallen on hard times. If they can’t mask some of the inexperience in front of them on the ice, it is going to be a long year in Dallas.

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 38 wins
  • 90 points
  • 4th in Pacific/11th in Western Conference

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