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By Mike Meyer
Dallas Stars Writer
St. Louis Blues Writer
Edmonton Oilers Writer
Thursday, October 13th 2016. American Airlines Center. Home ice against the Anaheim Ducks. This will mark the start of a new season. A new chance for Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg to lead their team back to the playoffs and to prove that last season was no mistake. The Stars ended their 2015-16 regular season as the second best team in the NHL. The team was able to secure the Central Division title for the first time since 1998. The Stars were able to best the Minnesota Wild in six games to advance to the second round. However, the Stars were burnt out in the by the St. Louis Blues in Game 7, mirroring the same result the last time these two Central Division rivals faced off since 2001 in the playoffs.
Many questioned the defense of the Stars and thought they couldn’t carry the load. They couldn’t weather the storm of the playoffs. They were proved wrong. Plenty questioned what the Stars fate would have entailed had Tyler Seguin been healthy and in the lineup. We will unfortunately never know. Questions still surround the value and worth of the netmiders. They have a chance to prove everyone wrong.
The 2016-17 season will return plenty of familiar faces, and look almost identical for the forward roster, as I’ve noted above. Jamie Benn got a hefty contract extension. The management has brought in depth forwards Adam Cracknell and Brett Ritchie to help counter the losses of Vernon Fiddler, Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour. Questions will certainly come from once again the backfield. The defense and the goaltending could without a doubt the be Achilles heel of the Dallas Stars once again throughout the upcoming season.
The defense will once again this season be faced with adversity, and leaning on youth. With the loss of Goligoski, Demers and Russell, the group will likely have to lean on its youth’s prior success and hope that it can translate in to success at the NHL level. The most notable acquisition came from ‘Day 1’ of Free Agency when Dan Hamhuis signed a 2-year contract with the Stars. He will likely be leaned on as the ‘Number 2’ Defensemen and paired with John Klingberg throughout most of the season to help balance the loss of Goligoski. In recent seasons, Hamhuis has not been known as a point producing defensemen or as reliable to produce, as compared to Goligoski. Since the 2011-12 season, Dan has not produced more than 37 points produced in a single season. Granted those seasons have come with the Vancouver Canucks, it is still unlikely that he will bring much offense to the squad. It is likely, however, that Hamhuis will still be relied on as a veteran to help lead and shepherd the young, upcoming defensemen on this squad and provide the unsung, defensive qualities that will help out the Stars netminders.
Speaking of goalies, it will be a shock to the NHL community if both Niemi and Lehtonen end their season both a Dallas Star. Niemi, a previous Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, holds more value to the Stars when it comes to pressure situations in the playoffs. He’s literally been there, and done that. Lehtonen may be the odd man out. But hey, I could be wrong. Stranger things have indeed happened. Taylor Hall was traded for Adam Larsson straight up. What could Lehtonen fetch for to a desperate GM? The question remains though of where to, for who, and who replaces him? The question comes of why did Jim Nill not seek to trade one of the two goalies at the draft? There were certain rumblings of teams willing to trade or add a starting goaltender. Or better yet, if Jim was asked, was the trade value simply just not there to even consider moving? Better men that are deeper down the rabbit hole than I know the answer to these questions.
Finally, lets wrap things up with talks of the forward group that is so beloved. And who better to start talks with than the best duo in hockey: Benn and Seguin. Tyler Seguin, playing in 223 games with the Dallas Stars, netting a ridiculous 234 points in that time, good for 1.05 points per game. Since the acquisition of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn has gone on to play 245 games, scoring 255 points, good for 1.04 points per game. Let’s do the math here. Since the 2013-14 season, Seguin and Benn alone have combined for 489 POINTS. The Stars hope that these two can continue that run and help lead their team to a Stanley Cup Championship. And though Patrick Sharp has not always been the most consistent of forwards that the Stars had hoped for, his 55 points in 76 games certainly ranks up as impressive for the bouncing around the lineup he was managing. His -3 overall ranking ranked for fourth worst on the entire team. In order for the Stars to succeed and commpete during this upcoming season, the Stars will need help from the likes of Nichuskin, Ritchie, and Faksa to help balance out any shut down the Top 6 might recieve from opponent defense.
Where will the Stars finish this upcoming season? Will Benn and Seguin continue and build off the bromance and build another 150+ points to their combined record? Will the Stars even trade one of their goalies? Stars fans, stay tuned and get ready to #bang October 13th