Chicago, IL — The Dallas Stars is really a changed team from a couple of years ago. They more than any team in the Central is making a concerted push for not only the playoffs but to adapt to the Western Conference style of play.
Last year the Stars made the playoffs but were defeated in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks but it is a first step in a process of trying to get to the Stanley Cup Final. This past offseason more changes were made to help the organization in that direction.
The Stars picked up Center Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators as a UFA and RW Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers. These additions along with the July, 2013 trade for Tyler Seguin should really bolster the offense on this team to make them a contender in the west.
To show you how much the Stars have improved up front what was their second line last year is now dropped to their third line with the additions of Hemsky and Spezza.
The combination on the first line of Tyler Seguin and Jaime Benn as we saw last year really clicked and there is no reason to think they will slow down any time soon. Seguin led the team overall in points but both Seguin and Benn could easily be 90-100 point players. The Dallas Stars have a skilled dynamic forward troop and strong up the middle which is what is now needed to be considered a contender in the west. This team could also very well be the fastest in the west or at least they are one of them.
The area where the Stars could have problems is on the back end. The defense on this team is somewhat suspect and it remains to be seen if they can actually stop any of the powerhouses in the west. The team was ranked 17th overall on defense and really did nothing in the off season to improve this.
For this reason it is highly unlikely that the Dallas Stars can make the western conference final but they are solid in goal with Kari Lehtonen so one never knows. They also managed to pick up another steady Finnish goalie Anders Lindback from the Tampa Bay Lightning which is a solid addition that should keep the Dallas nets secured.
Dallas special teams were not so special which also could pose a problem for the team ,especially come playoff time. Spezza and Hemsky should help bolster their paltry power play which finished last year in the 23rd spot in the league. The PK was not much better coming in at 21st overall in the regular season.
The Blackhawks last year handled the Stars pretty well and actually had a winning record with winning 4 out of the 5 games they faced them.
The one thing about the Stars that is scary is they have plenty of cap room. They currently are under the cap to the tune of 5 mil + to make any moves necessary come trade right before the playoffs. If I recall, this worked out pretty good for the Kings when they picked up Marian Gaborik right before the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars had solid Corsi/Fenwick numbers last year but it remains to be seen how much they have improved and will their defense be good enough in a stacked west and that is the question. Can the Stars contend with the powerhouses like Chicago, LA, Anaheim & St. Louis? Still there is a powerful intangible for several members of the Stars.
For Jason Spezza, winning a Stanley Cup he has never won the Cup in his twelve year NHL career. He is on a 1 year contract with the Stars and will be a UFA after this season so he will be motivated to win now. Nor has Ales Hemsky in his twelfth seasons won a Cup. It has to be bittersweet for Hemsky reaching all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 only to lose to eventual champion Carolina Hurricanes. Hemsky would love nothing better than to finally be able to hoist that Cup.
But maybe the player most motivated is one who has lifted Lord Stanley’s goblet and one who is still very young with tons to prove- Tyler Seguin. Being traded due to off- ice immaturity from the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins had to have left a mighty sting but it also probably left a deep burning to prove not only did Boston make a huge mistake but everyone deserves a chance to change and change Seguin has.
Personally I would have never traded as talented a center as Seguin, who was only 21 years old at the time but everything works out for a reason. Maybe it is destiny for Seguin to lift that Cup again but this time wearing Green instead of Black and Gold. Having won it as a rookie and part of a loaded Bruins team may not have the same profound meaning as it would if Seguin were to win with a young team like the Dallas Stars.
Who knows with a matured Tyler Seguin and the always wiser beyond his 25 years captain Jaime Benn, coupled with veteran leadership from Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza could be enough to push this team to the top. It certainly makes them a very scary team and one who could easily represent the stacked Western Conference.