The Dallas Stars made the playoffs this year for the first time in 6 seasons. This year was also the first time the Stars were able to score more goals in a season than were scored against them in 6 years. The added offense came in the form of Tyler Seguin, the former Bruin who was traded to the Stars as the centerpiece of a 7-player deal last summer. That blockbuster deal was just one of the big trades Stars GM Jim Nill made that summer, which was his first with the team. The summer of 2013 also saw Lindy Ruff become the head coach of the Stars. Ruff had spent the last 16 years as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, and in 1999, he was Buffalo’s head coach when the Sabres and Stars met in the Stanley Cup Finals which ended in infamy when Brett Hull scored in the third overtime of game 6. The goal was infamous because Hull’s foot was clearly in the crease when he scored, which was against the rules at the time. That goal gave the Stars their first and only Stanley Cup victory. The Stars have their new GM, they have their new coach, and they have their new superstar. But do they have enough to win the Stanley Cup?
I may have made it sound like Tyler Seguin is the only good player the Stars have, but that is not the case. Along with Seguin, the Stars have their captain Jamie Benn, who has developed terrific chemistry with Seguin on the team’s first line. Seguin lead the team in scoring with 84 points and Benn was second in team scoring with 79 points. They both had a great year, but it wasn’t exactly easy, because no other forward managed to score more than seventeen goals or thirty-five points. In fact, Seguin and Benn scored a combined total of seventy-one goals, which is 30.3% of the total two-hundred and thirty-four goals the Stars scored as a team this year. But help is on the way for Seguin and Benn, as Jim Nill made another big move this summer by acquiring Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators. The Stars only lost one roster-player in the trade, and that player was Alex Chiasson, who scored thirteen goals and thirty-five points this year. Compare that to Spezza’s twenty-three goals and sixty-six points this year, and you can see that the Stars won the trade. Consider the fact that they only gave up 2 mid-rate prospects and a second round pick to go along with Chiasson, and it would appear that Jim Nill got away with highway robbery.
With the addition of Spezza, and with blooming youngsters such as Valeri Nichushkin, I would say that the Stars’ offense is in good shape. I would have liked to see them go after a depth goal-scorer such as Martin Havlat or David Booth in free agency, but they didn’t and I don’t think that they’ll be hurting too much for offense anyways. With that being said, I’d like to take a look at the defensive core. Alex Goligoski scored forty-two points from the back-end this year, which is a pretty respectable year. Trevor Daley is the Stars’ best defenseman. He is capable of providing a little offense here and there (he scored 9 goals this year), but his main job is to be the shutdown defenseman for the team, and that is a job that he does very well. The Stars also have veteran Sergei Gonchar on defense. Gonchar’s best days are far behind him, and he’s not going to score very many points anymore, but he is still a good puck-mover and is a good piece to have for the Stars. They also have youngster Brendan Dillon, who is very similar to Trevor Daley, and as Dillon gets older, he may even prove to be better than Daley. Jamie Oleksiak is a very good prospect on the blue-line for the Stars, and he could very well crack the lineup in September. Nill also picked up offensive-defenseman Julius Honka in the first round of this year’s draft, and he looks like he will be a very good defenseman in a few years for the Stars. They also have Patrick Nemeth, who is a very good defensive prospect.
All in all, I’d say that the Stars have what it takes to make the playoffs. Along with their good offensive and defensive cores, the Stars have goalie Kari Lehtonen to backstop them, who is definitely one of the top-10 best goalies in the league. They signed Anders Lindback to backup Lehtonen, and they also have one of the better goalie prospects in the league in Jack Campbell, who has spent the last 3 years in the AHL. Campbell could take over as Lehtonen’s backup this year if Lindback falters, and even if he isn’t in the NHL this year, I can’t imagine he’ll be riding the AHL busses for too much longer. Like I said, I entirely expect the Stars to make the playoffs this year, but I don’t believe they are real contenders for the Stanley Cup. If they are patient with their prospects, then they will have a lot of good players coming to them in the next few years. If Jim Nill can manage to keep their core intact, and if the prospects turn into real NHL players, than I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that the Dallas Stars will be contenders for the Stanley Cup within the next 5 years.