From now through the start of the NHL season on Oct. 4, TSN.ca presents '30 Teams In 30 Days,' a quick glimpse at each NHL club as the 2008-09 campaign approaches. Get the lowdown on every lineup, storylines to follow and Scott Cullen's fantasy analysis. It continues today with the Dallas Stars.
The Stars were a great story in the NHL last season considering the obstacles they endured. After a questionable start, the club fired general manager Doug Armstrong and replaced him with the tandem of Brett Hull and Les Jackson.
The move certainly raised a lot of eyebrows, especially with Hull just a few years removed from his playing career. But the front office shakeup was enough to get the team rolling again. Led by No. 1 centre Mike Ribeiro and captain Brenden Morrow, the team exhibited a better balance of skill, scoring and team toughness that could compete with any club in a challenging Western Conference.
With another playoff berth on the horizon, Hull and Jackson strengthened the team even further by acquiring centre Brad Richards from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Stars finished fifth in the Western Conference and continued to surprise everyone in the postseason. Labeled as the underdog, they knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round and also eliminated another Western power in the San Jose Sharks. But the Stars' impressive run came to a crashing halt in the conference final, bowing out in six games to the eventual champion Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings have been a thorn in their side the last four times they have met in the postseason, so it appears if the Stars want so much as a sniff at another championship, they have to get past their Hockeytown rivals.
General Manager: Brett Hull and Les Jackson (2nd season)
Head Coach: Dave Tippett (5th Season)
2007-08 Record: 45-30-7 (5th in Conference)
Points Leader: Mike Ribeiro - 83
Goals Leader: Brenden Morrow - 32
Assists Leader: Mike Ribeiro - 56
PIM Leader: Steve Ott - 147
+/- Leader: Brenden Morrow - 23
PP Goals Leader: Brenden Morrow - 12
SH Goals Leader: Niklas Hagman - 4
What they did: The Stars have plenty of tough and physical players, but their style of play didn't materialize in their matchup with Detroit. That being said, Hull and Jackson brought in super-pest Sean Avery to give them that much more of an edge. The team also won the Fabian Brunnstrom sweepstakes, signing the 23-year-old who slipped through the cracks of the NHL draft and wowed hockey scouts and pundits with his play on YouTube. With both new wingers on board, Niklas Hagman went to Toronto with a four-year contract and Antti Miettinen headed to Minnesota for a three-year deal.
What to watch for: Steve Ott, meet Sean Avery. The Stars were already a mean team to match up against before Avery's arrival, and bringing in the league's most hated player bolsters a fearsome lineup that already includes Ott, Morrow, B.J. Crombeen and Krys Barch up front. But another big selling point on Avery was the fact that the New York Rangers had a record of 33-14-10 with him in the lineup, and 9-13-3 without him. That, combined with his underrated speed and offensive skills, make the Stars that much tougher to beat on a nightly basis. A lot of eyes will also be fixed on Brunnstrom, a player that few people knew about last year at this time. Will he make an impact, or is he just hype? Richards settled in nicely with the team after the trading deadline, and should provide a reliable two-way presence down the middle with Mike Modano. The team's overall defensive play was solid, but will be much improved with a full season from three-time Selke Trophy winner Jere Lehtinen.
The Stars will also need injury-free campaigns from veteran blueliners Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov. Both players, along with Stephane Robidas, lead a very young defence that includes Trevor Daley (24), Mark Fistric (22), Niklas Grossman (23) and Matt Niskanen (21). Daley and Niskanen stood out well for Dallas in the postseason averaging about 20 minutes a game.
After years of being labeled as a playoff underachiever, Marty Turco turned in a great postseason. He earned two series wins last spring, so his next challenge is obviously winning a lot more in this year's playoffs and taking this team to its second-ever championship. Everyone knows what Turco can do in the regular season. His only challenge now is taking his game up another couple of notches in the postseason.
Parting Shot: The Stars are right up against the NHL's $56 million salary cap with little wiggle room through the season. Unless the team decides to trade off a relatively big contract, it seems they're settled in with the lineup they have. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how this team does with the addition of Avery and Brunnstrom.
Scott Cullen's Fantasy Analysis: A good playoff run last season means that the Dallas Stars enter this season with optimism and high expectations. 2007-2008 was a breakout season for both Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro and both are now high quality fantasy performers. More.