2014-2015 Dallas Stars Season Preview
Last season was a pleasant surprise for Dallas fans, personally in the summer of 2013 I really loved what this team did with their lineup. Valeri Nichushkin had the Russian factor which scared 9 teams away from drafting him in '13 but the Stars were having none of that, stopping his slide and picking him 10th overall in a star studded draft year, he has the skill of a top 5 draft pick and is big body. A couple of days after the draft, Dallas acquired Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, and most of all, Tyler Seguin in two separate deals. Tyler Seguin is a number 1 center but just did not fit into the Bruins system and had some off ice issues, Peverley came along for the ride and the Stars' best player they gave up was Reilly Smith, who is a solid player in his own right but he's no Seguin. Horcoff is a former captain of the Edmonton Oilers and he brought a bump and grind aspect along with great leadership. A few days after those acquisitions by new GM Jim Nill, the organization named Jamie Benn the new captain after trading away former captain Brenden Morrow a season before. The season had its ups and downs which is to be expected in a rebuild, but the team scratch and clawed its way to a 8th place finish and a playoff berth. Jamie Benn and Seguin emerged as a dynamic duo, both enjoying break out seasons, and Nichushkin had some growing pains but all in all had a solid rookie season with 30+ points. Unfortunately for Dallas, the Stars lost a heart breaker in game 6 of the first round to the Anaheim Ducks and were eliminated from the playoffs earlier than they had hoped. This off season the Stars acquired Spezza through a post draft trade giving up only Alex Chiasson as far as roster players are concerned, and adding Ales Hemsky through free agency. Scary to think but the Stars are going to be even better this year, by a long shot.
Dynamic Duo- Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were excited to play together in Dallas as it gave Seguin his rightful position as a 1st line center and a fresh start and both were due to have career years. I don't think either player expected what was to come their way however, Seguin put up 84 points including 37 goals while Benn posted 79 points and contributed to a gold medal effort for Team Canada in the Winter Olympics. I hate to scare fans of other teams but these guys are both going to put up 80+ points and probably a better seeding in the Western Conference. Valeri Nichushkin will round out his line of sub 26 year old players, he will only be 19 and look for him to put up a solid 70 points, I think 60 will be the floor.
New Additions- The fact that Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza will be 2nd line players speaks to Dallas' depth, teams won't be relieved when the first line is off of the ice because these two wizards did work when Hemsky was traded to Ottawa last year, Hemsky being a skilled player who was on a bad team, Edmonton for his whole career. Hemsky and Spezza are both 75 point potential players who will also see a lot of power play time this year, either or may see time no the first line if Lindy Ruff feels like mixing it up here and there. These two lines will boast well when put up against the likes of Anaheim and Los Angeles. The potential third member of that line, Cody Eakins was just re signed to an extension and will feed off of these two studs and may have a career year worth upwards of 60 points.
Goaltending- Kari Lehtonen is a world class goaltender, he posted 33 wins in 65 games and won a bronze medal with Team Finland at the Winter Olympics, that being said, Kari had a brief stay on the IR and players such as Jack Campbell, Dan Ellis, and Tim Thomas had to fill in, looking sub par compared to Lehtonen which proves his immense worth to the organization. Look for another 65+ games played and even more wins, probably in the 40+ range. Kari's best buddies, aside from the pipes, are players Brendon Dillon and Trevor Daley who play a hard nosed defensive style with a scoring touch, both being impressive all season and into the post season, Dillon was recently re signed which can help Kari and the Stars sleep well at night, guys like Jordie Benn and the 6'7 Jamie Oleksiak can also have big seasons and have their goaltender's back.
Where they will finish- As good as the Stars are right now, I don't believe they win the Central, but they will get 2nd or 3rd and quite possibly could light up the playoffs and go for a long run. Definite playoff team.