Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2017-18, where LastWordOnHockey.com 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 2017-18 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2017-18 Dallas Stars
Puck Drop Preview: 2017-18 Dallas Stars
With the start of the 2016-2017 season, the Dallas Stars were hoping for a great season and another chance at the playoffs, and their 4-3-0 record in the pre-season seemed it would be a foreshadowing of what was to come in the regular season.
Of the 82 games played, the Stars only won 34 games, finishing 6th in the Central Division and 11th overall in the Western Conference. This was a big let down as in the previous season, the Stars had finished 1st in both the Central Division and Western Conference with a record of 50-23-9, clinching themselves a playoff spot until their defeat to the St. Louis Blues in Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Playing dynamic can’t be the only blame for the crumby season as it was chalked full of injuries. Throughout the entire season, injury after injury occurred as the team lost several players to multiple injuries. Among those was center Mattias Janmark who missed the entire 2016-2017 season with a knee injury. One of the only players on the team to play all 82 games was center Tyler Seguin along with fellow teammate Devin Shore.
Despite the negativities of injured players, it was a semi-decent year for the Benn/Seguin duo. At the end of the season, Benn tallied 26 goals with 43 assists while Seguin scored 26 goals with 46 assists.
As the season drew to a close, with no chance of a Wild Card slot in the playoffs, the Stars closed out the season at home with a 4-3 shoot out win against the Colorado Avalanche. With the season prematurely over, it was time for the Stars organization to think about how to improve for the 2017-2018 season.
Boy was it a busy off-season for the Dallas Stars. From the beginning of summer until now, it has been non-stop for general manager Jim Nill. Let’s begin with the change of coaching staff.
From 2013-2017, Lindy Ruff coached the Dallas stars with the team making playoffs in 2014 for the first time since 2008. It was announced on April 9th that Ruff would not return for the 2017-2018 season. Taking his place would be Ken Hitchcock, former coach to the Dallas Stars. Name sound familiar? Some fans may remember that Hitchcock coached the Stars back in ’96 up until his firing in ’01. During his coaching of the team, her led them to a Stanley Cup win in ’99 over the Buffalo Sabres. The return of Hitchcock to Dallas is a positive sign and high hopes of another playoff position and possibly even another Stanley Cup win.
Things don’t slow down from there. Seeing a problem with Dallas’ goaltending, Hitchcock acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Problem with defense? Snag up Marc Methot. And to add even more to the team dynamic, the Stars sign Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal. With the loss of Patrick Sharp and Cody Eakin, Radulov and Hanzal seemed to be the perfect duo to replace the two players.
Now let’s talk about the 2017 NHL Draft. The Dallas Stars acquired Miro Heiskanen as a 3rd overall pick, followed by Jake Oettinger (USA, 26th overall), Jason Robertson (USA, 39th overall), Liam Hawel (CAN, 101st overall), Jacob Peterson (SWE, 132nd overall), Brett Davis (CAN, 163rd overall), and Dylan Ferguson (CAN, 194th overall).
As well as acquiring some new faces, the Stars resigned a couple of their veteran players. Esa Lindell was signed to a 2-year, $4.4 million contract, Brett Ritchie to a 2-year, $3.5 million contract, Radek Faksa to a 3-year, $6.6 million contract, and Jamie Oleksiak to a 1-year, $964,688.
But with good things come some sad. The Stars were sad to see Patrick Sharp return to Chicago to play again for the Chicago Blackhawks, along with the loss of Ales Hemsky to the Montreal Canadiens and Antti Niemi to the Pittsburg Penguins.
With training camp just around the corner, it will be interesting to see where the Stars will go this season and how they’ll make it even better than the last.
2017-2018 Line Combinations
This season will be one of the best so far for these forwards. Benn and Seguin have proven over the past few seasons that they are a dynamic scoring duo. With the addition of Radulov to that top line, the points will rack up.
Under the coaching of Hitchcock, positive changes will be made to ensure that the Stars score and keep scoring. With these lines, a playoff spot is sure to be secured.
Defense seemed to be lacking during the 2016-2017 season. This season should be different as some key players were obtained. With a mix of new faces and veteran defenseman working together, that shouldn’t be a problem this time around.
No doubt, Bishop will be starting goalie as he seems the more fit of the two. Don’t get me wrong, Lehtonen is a great goalie but it’s time to start with a fresh face in Dallas and that someone is Bishop. There’s not to say that the two won’t fight for the starting position but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens after training camp to hear the results.
Players to Watch
Radulov has played 4 seasons in the NHL, 3 being with the Nashville Predators and one with the Montreal Canadiens before being signed to the Dallas Stars on July 3, 2017 to a 5-year $31.25 million contract. He will prove to be a powerhouse scorer alongside Dallas’ best duo, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Radulov has scored 65 total points with 91 assists. Alongside the Benn/Seguin dynamic duo could be beneficial for scoring stats.
Acquired by the Stars in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights on June 26th, Methot will be sporting the Victory Green sweater this upcoming season. With 11 seasons in the NHL under his belt, Methot is not a stranger to the game. He will be a key player in the rise of a better defense.
Players on the Rise
What’s not to love about goofy center Devin Shore ? After being recalled to the NHL by the Stars on November 1, 2015, Shore has proven that he’s here to stay. With 2 seasons under his belt in the NHL, Shore has scored 13 goals with 20 assists. Although he finished the 2016-2017 season with a -2, this upcoming season could be the season for the young star to shine.
Players on the Decline
With Ben Bishop replacing Antti Niemi, Kari Lehthonen will eventually be put on the back burner. Lehtonen has had a great 7 years with the team but Bishop will definitely outshine the Stars veteran goalie this season.
2017-2018 Season Prediction
Failing to make the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Dallas Stars will use this as fuel to make their way to the top once again. With strong key players obtained during the off-season, the Stars will fight their way to the top of the Central Division once again and get back to the way things used to be.
The Stars will make a comeback and we will see them once again at the top with a predicted 1st place in the Central Division but fall just short of winning the Stanley Cup in the 3rd round.
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