We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects.
Today, we take a look at the Dallas Stars. By: Nick Richter (@PensNation_Nick)
2013 Season: 22-22-4 48 pts – (5th Pacific Division; 11th Western Conference)
Free Agents Signed:
C/W Chris Mueller from Nashville
G Dan Ellis from Carolina
Coach – Lindy Ruff previously with the Buffalo Sabres
D Sergei Gonchar from Ottawa
Free Agents Lost:
W Erik Nystrom to Nashville
G Richard Bachman to Edmonton
D Ryan Button, C/RW Tyler Seguin, C/W Rich Peverley from Boston.
LW Mat Fraser, D Joe Morrow, W Loui Eriksson to Boston
C Shawn Horcoff from Edmonton
D Philip Larson to Edmonton
RW Valeri Nichushkin
D Jamie Oleksiak
G Jack Campbell
The Dallas Stars were supposed to be in a rebuilding phase. It may end up being a quick turnaround. General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk was given the boot, and former Detroit Red Wing Jim Nill has taken the reigns.
Nill proved he wasn’t afraid to make some major changes and wasted no time in trying to turn around a team that hasn’t made the post season in five years.
He fired head coach Glen Gulutzan and hired longtime Buffalo Sabres head coach, Lindy Ruff, who will likely enjoy the southern Dallas sunshine after being buried in lake effect snow in Buffalo since 1997.
Nill pulled off a blockbuster trade in his first offseason, which landed Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button – and if that wasn’t enough, he went out and made a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Shawn Horcuff. Horcoff will likely center the Stars second line. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar was acquired in free agency to help lend some stability to the Dallas blue line.
Much has been said about Seguin’s party-loving behavior, but he has a clean slate in Dallas and the Stars have plans to help Seguin handle his off-ice issues.
The Stars selected Russian right winger, Valeri Nichushkin 10th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft and hopes he will pay dividends quickly. He has a great chance to make the team but will have to adjust to the NHL quickly. Gonchar will likely help Nichushkin adjust to life in the NHL, much like he did for Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.
Nichushkin is just 18-years-old and has all the tools to be a true super star in Dallas. He has great size at 6’3” 201lbs. He’s an excellent skater (both agile and quick) and possesses incredible puck-handling skills.
Perhaps the biggest bugaboo though was that the Stars couldn’t keep the puck out of their net last season. They finished 24th in the league with 2.94 goals per game against and their penalty kill was in the lower third in the league as well. Most of the defense is returning and while they did add Gonchar, the Stars have plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the puck to tighten up things.
The goaltending situation is slightly better as Kari Lehtonen has a new backup goalie to help carry the load. Dan Ellis is returning to Dallas and not entirely because he has money problems. The Stars drafted Ellis 60th overall in the second round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Ellis played in Carolina last season, going 6-8-2 with a .906 save percentage in 19-games for the Hurricanes.
Jack Campbell, the Stars’ goalie-of-the-future will likely spend the season in the AHL barring any injuries to Lehtonen or Ellis.
One area the Stars seemed to fix was the faceoff dot. Dallas finished 27th in the NHL in faceoffs, winning just 47.2 percent of their draws last season. Seguin, Peverley and Horcuff should help boost those numbers mightily.
Seguin will likely center Jamie Benn on the top line. Dallas hasn’t had a legit top-line center since losing Brad Richards to free agency. Peverley won 63 percent of his draws in the playoffs for Boston and Horcoff won 49 percent faceoffs during the regular season with Edmonton last year.
Benn will be looking to develop some chemistry with his new center early in the season. Seguin spent his summer studying every one of Benn’s goals the past four seasons in hopes the two will click quickly and help Dallas get back on track and into the playoffs.