Their head coach: Lindy Ruff. Perhaps the most well-established coach AND player currently in the league. He played in the NHL for thirteen seasons; ten of which were in Buffalo while the other three were for the Rangers. Shortly after he hung it up, he became the coach of his longtime team, the Sabres, and was in Buffalo for another long stretch of time, all the way up to 2012-13, upon which he was relieved of his duties. Dallas scooped him up to start the 13-14 season with him, and have unsurprisingly been much improved ever since. This will be his fourth year behind the bench at American Airlines Center.
Their captain: Jamie Benn. No one really scores at will more than he does. The funny thing I’ve always thought about Benn is that he doesn’t seem like a superstar player. Maybe that has to do with the fact he plays in a small hockey market in Dallas, but you don’t hear him in the discussion of elite hockey players very often. Yet last season he had 41 goals and 48 assists, and the season beforehand he got 35 goals and 52 assists. Hefty. You could make the argument pretty easily he’s the most underrated player in the league.
Their 15-16 season: A massive surprise to most of us. The Stars crushed the Western Conference and finished the league 2nd in points. No one saw that coming after missing the playoffs the season before, and being the last team to make it into the playoffs in 13-14. From a recent history perspective, this came out of nowhere, but it does make sense. They’ve got the most offensively aggressive team in the league, headlined by Benn. A more detailed breakdown of some of their players is to come below, but when you can score as easily and readily as the Stars can, making it to a Game 7 in the 2nd round can become pretty easy to understand. They beat the Wild in the first round (very grateful for that), and gave the Blues a good run in the following round before St. Louis clocked them in that previously mentioned Game 7.
How did they do against the Avs? The Stars had gone many a game without beating the Avs entering the season, and Colorado won the first two meetings to continue that streak. It wouldn’t last, however, as the Stars won the last two games making it a season split at 2-2. Carl Soderberg did score the best goal of the entire Avalanche season against the Stars. Remember this beauty? That never gets old.
When do they play the Avs this season? In Denver on October 15th (season opener!), at Dallas on November 17th, in Denver on December 3rd, at Dallas on December 29th and April 8th.
Will they be good? Yes, they will be. The one issue for Dallas lies in their goaltending situation. I look at Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen as each being somewhere between 20th and 30th among best goalies in the league. Rotating between the two of them proved to be a big part of their downfall last postseason, and it could be again this season if something isn’t resolved. I realize the Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with a rookie goaltender in Matt Murray, but I don’t believe Niemi or Lehtonen are capable of leading a team to a championship. Not even as a rotating tandem, which honestly makes things worse for the Stars’ cause. Luckily, their offense can carry them. Benn. Tyler Seguin. Cody Eakin. Patrick Eaves. Radek Faksa. Patrick Sharp. Jason Spezza. Ugh, what a lineup. Their defense ain’t so pretty, but Johnny Oduya and Dan Hamhuis can definitely help them score even more goals and run up the score.
3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, Defending Big D:
-It was quite the rise in success for the Stars, going from wildcard contender the prior 2 seasons to accumulating the most points of any team in the West. What changed? The offense had a season to gel and figure itself out. The power play finally clicked at the high rate we anticipated it would with the addition of guys like Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza, and the addition of Patrick Sharp was an integral part of that. The defense got a year older. John Klingberg followed up his rookie season and showed that he's a top blueliner. A lot went right for the Stars last season, and without much turnover and some good additions up front, there's no reason not to believe that the offense won't continue to be the most explosive and dynamic in the league this season.
-I do not believe the Stars can win a Stanley Cup with the Karri Lehtonen/Antti Niemi duo. Tell me why I’m wrong or right. Does anyone believe they can? Because I've got some beach front property in Arizona I think you'd love!
-What would you call a successful season with the Stars? And what would make you deem it unsuccessful? A successful season would see the Stars in the Conference finals at the least. They're window is opening now, and winning more than one playoff series would be the next logical step for them. An unsuccessful season would be a first round exit or (unlikely but in the wonderful #MDK division anything is possible) not making the playoffs at all. But if that does happen, something catastrophic occurred to the Stars lineup to cause it.
Thanks to Taylor Baird for taking the time to answer!