Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2019-20, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2019-20 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2019-20 Dallas Stars.
2019-20 Dallas Stars
The Stars 2018-19 campaign had its fair share of dramatic highs and lows. Throughout much of the first half of the season, Dallas was a bang average team drifting in and out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Dallas’ dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin failed to find their stride early on, while the team relied on the strong goaltending of Ben Bishop to keep them in the playoff hunt.
Perhaps the post-Christmas tirade from Stars CEO Jim Lites was the wake-up call the team needed heading into the new year as Dallas found their stride down the stretch. Finishing with a 43-32-7 record for a total of 93 points, the Stars finished the regular season in a wild card playoff spot.
In the first round, the Stars faced off against Central Division champions, the Nashville Predators. Despite the Preds Stanley Cup aspirations and early 2-1 series lead, the Stars ultimately took down Nashville in 6 games. Much of the Stars success came down to the strong goaltending of Bishop, who posted a stellar .945 save percentage in the series. On the offense side of things, Dallas leaned on the trio of Benn, Seguin and Alexander Radulov to find the net, with the top line combining for 18 points in six games.
Next up for the Stars in round-two was another division rival in the St. Louis Blues. Once again Dallas proved their worth as a legitimate playoff team, taking the Blues to a seventh and deciding game. Ultimately, local boy Pat Maroon notched an OT winner for St. Louis sending the Stars packing in heartbreaking fashion. Considering the Blues would go on to become the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Stars 2018-19 season should be viewed as nothing less than a resounding success.
Having made progress in 2018-19, the Stars looked to further strengthen their roster heading into the 2019-20 season. The two biggest additions of the offseason came on July 1st as the Stars signed a pair of veteran wingers in Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. In Perry and Pavelski, Dallas gets two former 40 goal scorers who both have Stanley Cup final experience. While their best years are likely behind them, the arrival of the two snipers gives the Stars some depth upfront which could make for a potent Dallas top-six.
Some other noteworthy signings for the Stars were veteran defenceman Andrej Sekera and depth forward Tanner Kero. Additionally, Dallas brought back Jason Dickinson while Roman Polak, Esa Lindell, and Mattias Janmark were all extended for at least the 2019-20 season.
The only subtractions from the Stars roster worth mentioning were the departures of Jason Spezza, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, and Marc Methot. While Zuccarello was the biggest subtraction from the group that found post-season success in 2018-19, the additions of Perry and Pavelski heavily outweigh the loss of the now Minnesota Wild winger.
Overall, it is safe to say the Stars are a stronger team on paper heading into the 2019-20 season as a result of their offseason transactions.
Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski – Corey Perry
Jason Dickinson – Mattias Janmark – Blake Comeau
The new-look Dallas second line could put them in talks for one of the strongest top-six forward groups league-wide. Assuming head coach Jim Montgomery elects to keep the Benn-Seguin-Radulov line together, a lot of the Stars success could come down to the production they get from line two to help lighten the load put on the top trio in 2018-19.
While questions remain regarding Perry and Pavelski, the Stars gamble to acquire the pair this offseason has the potential to prove genius should the veterans find the fountain of youth in Dallas this season. Speaking of youth, expect playoff breakout Hintz to take on a bigger role in 2019-20 for the Stars.
Dallas’ bottom-six forward group offers an interesting mix of young talent and veteran leadership. The Stars should expect stability and strong two-way play from Cogliano, Comeau, and Janmark.
Perhaps the more intriguing questions lie in what Dallas might get from Faksa and young speedster Gurianov. With these two potentially suiting up alongside Cogliano on the Stars third line, the trio might be a dark horse to give Dallas some much-needed scoring depth (a feature in the Stars attack which was missing in 2018-19).
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen – Andrej Sekera
Jamie Oleksiak – Roman Polak
Dallas’ top defensive pairing features two of the most dynamic skaters on the blueline in the entire league. Klingberg has become a household name in the NHL thanks to his offensive production having scored at least 40 points in five straight seasons.
While Lindell might not have the reputation of his Swedish counterpart, his game is worth a mention. Having logged north of 24 minutes a night in 2018-19, only his third full NHL season, the 25-year-old Finn looks destined to become a bonafide top pair defenceman sooner rather than later.
While Lindell and Klingberg have their differences, the Stars second pairing is truly a pairing of polar opposites. In Sekera and Heiskanen, Dallas has two defencemen with 13 years between them in age.
Despite the contrast between the two, this pairing has the potential to round out a strong top four for Dallas. With Heiskanen’s high flying skating and ability to jump into the play going forward, Sekera could provide stability for the young Finnish flash. The big question mark lies in the health of Sekera as the 33-year-old has played just 80 games in the past two seasons due to various injuries.
There are no secrets in what the Stars will get from a Polak-Oleksiak partnership. Oleksiak stands at a towering 6 feet 7 inches, while Polak amassed nearly 200 hits in 2018-19. Conversely, the duo scored just 21 points combined in 2018-19.
It would be unreasonable to expect the pair to play much more than 15 minutes a night. With the top-four eating major minutes, expect the gritty combination to get a lot of defensive zone starts and penalty kill opportunities.
Bishop is coming off a career season statistically, finishing as the runner up for the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19. While his .934 SV% and 1.98 GAA might be difficult to sustain, Dallas has little to no concern regarding a reliable starting goaltender (assuming Bishop can stay healthy.)
In the absence of Bishop last season, Khudobin proved to be more than a replacement-level backup for the Stars. With 37 starts to his name in 2018-19, Khudobin posted a very impressive .923 SV%. Although Bishop will ideally be available for more games this season for Dallas, in the event of an injury, Khudobin will certainly be ready to fill the void.
Players to Watch
Anyone who saw Heiskanen play for Dallas for the first time in the 2018-19 playoffs would have a hard time believing he was a rookie. The 20-year old looked incredibly stable for the Stars all season playing in all 82 regular-season games, averaging over 23 minutes a night.
The elite skating ability of the rookie blueliner certainly did not go unnoticed within the Stars squad last year, particularly grabbing high praise from fellow teammate Tyler Seguin. Perhaps the star-studded rookie class of 2018-19 featuring the likes of Rasmus Dahlin and Elias Pettersson kept the Heiskanen hype train from going off the tracks last season. With that said, if the Stars blueliner continues to get better as he did throughout 2018-19 it won’t be long before his name is known throughout the entire NHL.
Unlike Heiskanen, Gurianov is much less of a sure thing for the Stars. The 22-year-old Russian has appeared in only 22 games for Dallas so far in his young North American career. Despite this, the potential for his game is sky-high.
Gurianov scored 48 points in 57 games for the Stars AHL affiliate in 2018-19. Similarly, his point per game effort back in the 2017 World Juniors for Russia (seven points in seven games) has had Stars fans buzzing about the future of the skilled winger. With a lack of scoring beyond the top line problematic in previous years, Gurianov could be an interesting option for Dallas to put more pucks in the net in 2019-20.
Prediction for the 2019-20 Dallas Stars
The 2019-20 edition of the Dallas Stars is one of the more intriguing teams in the league. Their offseason additions have made them a stronger team up front, while their blueline should once again be strong, albeit a top-heavy group.
Unfortunately for Dallas, they find themselves contending in the Central Division, which is once again shaping up to be arguably the NHL’s toughest division in 2019-20. Much of the Stars success will come down to their ability to pick up points against division rivals throughout the regular season.
It seems improbable that Bishop will be able to sustain his play from 2018-19 moving forward. On the other hand, adding Pavelski and Perry should help the Stars win more games by simply outscoring their opponent.
Overall, the Stars hopes should be as high as any other team in the league heading into 2019-20. Having been bounced from last year’s playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, Dallas made changes to try and improve on their second-round effort from last year. With this in mind, a lengthy playoff run, if not genuine Stanley Cup ambitions should be on the mind of Stars players and fans alike.