NHL Season Preview 2016-17: Dallas Stars

Mandatory Credit: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images   Mandatory Credit: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images Mandatory Credit: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images /

Will the Dallas Stars be able to build on their success from last season and win the Stanley Cup in 2016-17? 

The Dallas Stars nearly won the Stanley Cup in 2015-16. However, two things cost them in the end. The first was the injury to Tyler Seguin. It doesn’t matter how deep your team is, when you lose your top center, you’re going to suffer. The second was their goaltending. Their goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi finished with the fourth-lowest save percentage in the NHL last season.

Despite those two flaws, the Stars still took the St. Louis Blues to seven games before losing in the second round. Dallas will be icing a very young team this season, which could be a good thing for their fast-paced offense.

Offseason Review

Let’s take a look at what the Stars did this offseason.

Additions: F Jiri Hudler (Panthers), D Dan Hamhuis (Canucks)

Losses: D Alex Goligoski (Coyotes), D Jason Demers (Panthers), D Kris Russell, F Travis Moen, C Vernon Fiddler (Devils), C/F Colton Sceviour (Panthers), F Valeri Nichushkin (KHL)

Retained: F Patrick Eaves, D Jamie Oleksiak, D Jordie Benn, F Jamie Benn*

*contract does not begin until after 2016-17 season

Jiri Hudler is a great low coast addition by the Stars. He is a terrific fit on any of the Stars’ top three forward lines and slots in well all over the lineup. Hudler is an underrated playmaker who makes things happen. He should put up some impressive point totals in the Stars’ high octane offense, especially if he earns power play time.

Dan Hamhuis replaces Alex Goligoski. Goligoski is a better defenseman, but Hamhuis is quite similar to him and the term isn’t terrible (two years). Hamhuis is underrated because he has spent his past six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.

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The former Canucks defenseman fits in well with the Stars because he moves the puck efficiently and is strong in the defensive zone. While his point totals aren’t eye-popping, the Stars don’t need him to rack up points. Expect him to potentially get big minutes next to Norris Trophy candidate John Klingberg.

Patrick Eaves is an important top nine forward for the Stars and he comes at a cheap price. He has been solid when healthy, but injuries have plagued him the past two seasons. Dallas has enough forward depth that they can replace him if he can’t stay healthy. That said, they will miss Valeri Nichushkin.

Jordie Benn’s extension might only see him spend one year with the Stars. Dallas has a lot of young defensemen and with expansion draft rules, they have to expose a certain number of defensemen with NHL experience. Benn will definitely be one of them.

It’s a bit surprising to see the Stars not upgrade their goaltending, but to be fair, Lehtonen and Niemi’s contracts are both close to impossible to move.

Player Spotlight: John Klingberg

The Dallas Stars took a huge gamble by extending defenseman John Klingberg after a strong 2014-15 rookie season. While he’s only one year into it, it has been an incredible bargain for the Stars. Klingberg was an early Norris Trophy favorite before Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty ran away from the rest of the pack. He wound up finishing sixth in Norris Trophy voting with 58 points in 76 games while playing 22 minutes per game.

Klingberg’s true value lies in the power play. His 20 power play assists put him seventh among defensemen and his 9.73 on-ice power play goals for per 60 minutes ranked second. Klingberg’s ability to distribute the puck from the point makes the Stars power play very deadly.

Could Klingberg win the Norris Trophy in 2016-17? That’s quite plausible. He finished 11th among defensemen in even strength points per 60 minutes last season. Ideally, that number should be higher. But with Goligoski gone, Klingberg will likely get more ice time. That should lead to more points, which will help his Norris Trophy case.

So if you’re looking for a dark horse in the 2016-17 Norris Trophy race, Klingberg could be your guy.

2016-17 Outlook

The Dallas Stars lost quite a bit on defense, as Goligoski and Demers both left in free agency. However, they have young defensemen who could be ready to replace them. Stephen Johns appears to be a top four defenseman. Esa Lindell put up impressive numbers in the AHL (42 points in 73 games) and could be ready to for a regular spot in the lineup. But that’s quite a bit of faith to put in them. It’s a risk, but it could pay off.

On paper, the Dallas Stars only have one glaring weakness: their goaltending. It’s hard to be optimistic about Lehtonen and Niemi, but if they can provide the Stars with league average goaltending, that’s probably enough for them to make a Stanley Cup run.

Their offense is simply outstanding. Jamie Benn is one of the best players in the NHL and Seguin is a dynamic talent on offense. Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp provide excellent secondary scoring options. Cody Eakin could make the Dallas Stars’ third forward line an efficient scoring line, giving the Stars three lines capable of scoring.

Dallas has cap space so look for them to make a move for a goalie at the NHL trade deadline. General Manager Jim Nill has a knack for getting what he wants. The Stars are going to be the most fun team in the league. If their goaltending improves and their young defensemen prove to be capable, they could also be the best.