Out: Stu Barnes (retirement), Niklas Hagman, Johan Holmqvist, Anti Miettinen, Mattias Norstrom, Brad Winchester
In: Fabian Brunnstrom, Sean Avery
Much has changed in Dallas this offseason and much has stayed the same. It seems like a long time ago, well 10 years to be exact, since the Dallas Stars last won the Stanley Cup. Despite having a new youth movement in the Lone Star State, several constants remain from 1999, a year that saw Brett Hull score his now infamous triple-overtime, skate-in-or-out-of-the-crease, game-winning Stanley Cup goal. For starters, Brett Hull is now the team’s co-general manager alongside Les Jackson. And a defense that was once led by the likes of Darryl Sydor, Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Craig Ludwig and Sergei Zubov is now run by well, Sergei Zubov (who recently suffered an injury). Forwards Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen remain from that 1999 Cup-winning team and are still the team’s elder statesman, but new leaders Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Steve Ott have replaced legends like Guy Carbonneau, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Skrudland and Mike Keane.
Dallas surprised many hockey observers by getting to the Western Conference Finals last season. Although the Stars lost to the eventual Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings in six games, they showed that their current group had the passion and grit necessary to compete in the late stages of the playoffs and also, that in Marty Turco, they had a world-class goaltender who could perform at a high-level when it mattered most. Dallas will compete for a top-three spot in the Western Conference this season and will be one of the nastiest teams the National Hockey League has seen in years.
Dallas scored 242 goals last season, which was second most in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Those numbers should go up with the addition of Swedish League prospect Fabian Brunnstrom, who created a bidding war for his services earlier this year. Dallas had five forwards last season with 20 or more goals (Brad Richards only scored two goals in twelve games with Dallas, but had 20 goals on the year) and had ten players with at least ten goals. Brunnstrom and Avery are better offensive options than Barnes and Hagman were last season and should round out Dallas’ top three scoring lines rather nicely. Watch for rookies James Neal, Ray Sawada and Perttu Lindgren in training camp as they will certainly be given an opportunity to play spot duty this season on the team’s third and fourth lines.
Matt Niskanen, 21 and Niklas Grossman, 23, emerged as top-six NHL defensemen during the 2007’08 regular season and will be counted on heavily this year particularly since Sergei Zubov is expected to miss the first month of the season. Veterans Stephane Robidas and Phillipe Boucher are excellent minutemen and will provide solid leadership for one of the youngest defense corps in the entire National Hockey League. 24-year-old Trevor Daley will be expected to play 20-23 minutes a game this season and has shown tremendous poise playing for defensive-minded Head Coach Dave Tippett. Dallas has enough depth on D to overcome an early injury to Zubov and will expect the likes of Mark Fistric, Ivan Vishnevskiy and Maxime Fortunus to log significant amounts of ice time.
Super-stopper Marty Turco carried his team deep in to the third round of playoffs last season and silenced all the remaining naysayers who said he was a regular season goalie. Turco can play 60+ games a year and is one of the most athletically endowed goalies in the league. Turco isn’t big (5’11”, 183 lbs.) or flashy, but his lateral movement and puck-handling ability have made him a perennial Top-5 goaltender in the league. Turco should improve on his numbers from last season (32-21-6, 2.32 GAA) and will play more as Tobias Stephan gets first real permanent taste of the National Hockey League.
Ceiling: 2nd in West
Floor: 4th in the West
The Stars and Sharks will battle for the Pacific Division crown all year long…