The 2013-2014 Dallas Stars preview: Change Brings Hope to Big D

By
Updated: September 7, 2013
Jamie Benn

Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season.  Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page.  Today we take a look at the 2013-14 Dallas Stars.

 

Last Season

Puck Drop NHL PreviewLast season for the Dallas Stars was a year to forget. In the previous offseason, the team invested in a multitude of players, hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Dallas traded for center Derek Roy, and signed winger Ray Whitney, as well as legend Jaromir Jagr in an attempt by (former) GM Joe Nieuwendyk to reach the postseason  and ultimately save his job.  At the trade deadline, the team’s playoff hopes seemed like a long-shot due to a poor power play and the star of the team, Jamie Benn, missing the first 7 games due to a contract dispute. At that time, they disassembled the team.

The Stars traded Jagr to Boston, Roy to Vancouver, and longtime captain Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh. Together, these trades brought back a first and second-round pick and defensemen Joe Morrow from Pittsburgh, who was the team’s first round pick the previous season. A season that was supposed to be strengthened by the new acquisitions was lost due to injuries to core players and poor goaltending. The team finished 22-22-4, with 48 points. A team loaded with draft picks then began to look towards the future in what seemed like a rebuilding process from top to bottom.

Offseason

When the offseason started, so did the revamping of the Dallas Stars entire management system. The team fired GM and former player Joe Nieuwendyk and hired Jim Nill as the new General Manager. Nill was with the Detroit Red Wings in the front office and won four Stanley Cups with the team. For the sake of keeping this draft recap short and sweet, let’s just dissect their first pick.

In the first draft as the new GM, Jim Nill selected right winger Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th pick in the draft. The Russian forward was slated to go high, even as a top-five pick by some prognosticators, but miraculously fell into the Stars lap, and they made a great decision in drafting him. Listed at 6’4″, he has the potential to be a great top-six forward in the NHL. I have high hopes for this guy. His game has been compared to the likes of Milan Lucic with more puck-handling ability. He certainly has all the size and skill to be successful.  Next up, let’s discuss some trades – and boy did this team pull some deals off.

After the Boston Bruins were fed up with their young-gun Tyler Seguin’s inability to control himself off the ice (including homophobic slurs on Twitter), the team made it public that they were shopping him around. At first, it seemed impossible for the Bruins to trade him. I mean come on, we’re talking about Tyler freaking Seguin. Then Jim Nill approached the Bruins with an intriguing offer. Eventually, a (magical) deal was struck – the Bruins shipped center Tyler Seguin, veteran Rich Peverley, and defensemen Ryan Button to Big D in exchange for winger Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and former Penguins first round pick d-man Joe Morrow. Talk about a blockbuster trade for a new GM.

With fresh new start in Dallas, Tyler Seguin can flourish with the players now surrounding him. Having Seguin and Jamie Benn of the same line will be exciting to watch this season. If you have spoken with me the past few weeks, it’s all I’ve been talking about. Trading Eriksson was a bold move considering he has been a staple in the core of the Stars for years now, but the upside to this deal is monstrous.

Seguin has the potential to be a 80+ point scorer for many years, which is why I was so surprised that Boston let him go. There is an overwhelming sense of change that this trade brings. Seguin isn’t just another player on the ice, he can be the face of a franchise, and for what they gave up this trade is brilliant. It brings hope to a dull Stars team that hasn’t made the playoffs in years.  An overlooked part to this deal is Dallas getting center Rich Peverley. Peverley looks to be the third line center/second line right wing for Dallas and, although he’s coming off of a sub-par season, he can be one of the core skaters in the late stretch of the season to help the team win games, and ultimately make the playoffs. After the Atomic-Bomb of dust settled of the Seguin deal, Nill wasn’t done dealing just yet.

The Stars were still looking to add depth at the center position. The Edmonton Oilers had been shopping their captain, center Shawn Horcoff, and a deal between Dallas and Edmonton was struck. Horcoff was sent to the Stars in exchange for young defensemen Philip Larsen and a future seventh round pick. Shawn has been on the Oilers since 00′-01′ and has had success in Edmonton including a Stanley Cup appearance. His production declined last season, only registering  only 12 points in 31 games. Horcoff still has the ability to score 50 points this season, and will be a leader on this team, which can help with having Tyler Seguin on the roster. Overall, I like the deal for Dallas. Horcoff helps the depth problems Dallas has had at center for years, and although his cap hit is $5.5 mil over these next two seasons, it will be worth it.

A trade that was made previous to all moves the Stars made this offseason was trading for Defensemen Sergei Gonchar. The Stars sent a second round pick to Ottawa for his services, and it looks to be a great deal for Dallas. Sergei is 39, but can still play top-four defense minuets. Look for him to be paired up with the likes of Trevor Daley or possibly Alex Goligoski via a Dallas Stars blog. Overall this trade adds depth and size to this Dallas defense. Gonchar can play on the power play, and has great puck-moving ability. Look for him to get around 30 – 35 points this season.

One final significant offseason move the Stars made was signing free agent goalie Dan Ellis to a two-year contract. Ellis played big minuets last season, filling in for Cam Ward when we went down with an injury. Ellis started 19 games last season with a .906 Save Percentage. Ellis will most likely enter the regular season backing up starter Kari Lehtonen.

In the end, I love all the moves Dallas made this offseason. They have upgraded and every position they needed, and in my eyes can compete for a playoff spot. Since so many moves have been made this offseason, this is what the top-six forwards may look like come October:

Benn – Seguin – Cole

Whitney – Horcoff – Peverly

 

The Defense may look like this:

Brenden Dillon – Stephane Robidas (A)

Sergei Gonchar – Alex Goligoski

Jordie Benn -  Trevor Daley

 

And the Goalies will presumably look like this:

Lehtonen – Ellis

 

Story lines to watch

Some story lines for this Dallas Stars team to watch include:

  • Who will start the season the line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin?
  • As you can see above, I believe Erik Cole gets the nod to play one the first line. He provides the most experience and offensive ability on the right side.
  • Will new acquisitions Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Sergei Gonchar, and Shaw Horcoff live up to the hype?
  • In my honest opinion, i say Yes. Although the season is less then a month away, I’m more than excited to see how the new members of the Dallas Stars will play once they hit the ice in those new green home unis.
  • Will the Dallas Stars make the playoffs for the first time in five years?
  • Dallas has been a bubble-playoff team for years now, which is why they decided to make so many changes this offseason. Check out our division preview later in the week for my predictions, as well as those of fellow LWOS writers on the Central Division standings and playoff teams.

Players to watch

A player to watch this upcoming season on the Stars is Ray Whitney. Whitney played 32 games last season, missing 16 due to a foot injury. In his 32 games, he had 29 points. Although that is very impressive, he is now 41 and isn’t getting any younger. He will still be in a top-six forward role, and has been one of the best passers in the league this past century. Due to his great stick skills, he will still be valuable to this team. He could get around 40 – 50 points this season.

Another player to watch on this team is Tyler Seguin. I know this may seem like a cliched pick, but he’s obviously under some pressure. It’s going to be fun watching Seguin and Benn play off of each other, and seeing Seguin play on a top line for the first time.

Worst case scenario: For me, the worst thing that could happen is that Seguin continues to have ‘Off the field” issues, and ends up only scoring 40 – 50 points this year. Jim Nill then gets sucked up into a black hole that is created in the heart of Texas.

Best case scenario: He cuts the crap off the ice, deletes his Twitter account permanently, and scores 35 goals and 40 assists.

 

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Main photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

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