Fantasy Puck Preview: Dallas Stars

Scott Cullen

9/10/2009 10:22:17 AM

Coming off a season in which they finished with their lowest point total since 1995-1996, the Dallas Stars overhauled their front office, but the changes on the ice weren't quite so dramatic.

Looking ahead to the 2009-2010 season, the biggest impact on the ice for the Stars should come from the return of captain Brenden Morrow, who played just 18 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Presumably healthy now, Morrow has tallied 89 points and 154 penalty minutes in 100 games over the last two seasons, showing nice chemistry with playmaking centre Mike Ribeiro in the process.

Ribeiro has improved dramatically since arriving in Dallas and, while he still has some hot-dog tendencies, he's very skilled with the puck and shows greater commitment to play a complete game. With 161 points over the last two seasons, Ribeiro figures to challenge for point-per-game status once again.

Brad Richards' production has dropped off quite a bit from his 2005-2006 season, when he tallied 91 points for Tampa Bay. Injuries limited Richards to 56 games last year and he finished with a career-low 48 points. It's certainly possible, given the right situation, that Richards could challenge for a point per game, but he appears to be a tier below that these days and it's also worth noting that he's also been a minus player for three straight seasons.

A breakout performer last season, Loui Eriksson notched a career-high 36 goals and 63 points in 2008-2009 and did it while posting just a dozen points on the power play. If Eriksson is deemed worthy of more consistent power play time this season, he could show that last year's jump in production was no fluke.

39-year-old Mike Modano still has the graceful stride as well as the know-how accumulated through his years of experience, but his fantasy appeal is dwindling after he scored 46 points and posted a minus-13 rating last season. Modano still gets power play time, but he's no longer a premier offensive threat and his ice time and linemates reflect that.

Pressed into service due to injuries and ineffectiveness, power forward James Neal made an immediate impact, scoring 24 goals to rank second among all rookies. Neal may not get the same kind of power play time in his second season, however, assuming that Morrow will return to a prominent role with the man advantage.

Agitator Steve Ott emerged as a viable -- and valuable -- fantasy performer last year, setting career highs in goals (19) and points (46), despite playing just 64 games. For those in leagues that reward penalty minutes, Ott has also accumulated 678 penalty minutes in 337 career games and shows no signs of slowing down in that department either.

In deep sleeper mode, consider veteran Jere Lehtinen, who's had trouble staying healthy, and Fabian Brunnstrom, who has skills, but was overmatched often as a rookie. Also keep an eye on rookie Jamie Benn, a 20-year-old winger who had 82 points in 56 regular season games with Brandon of the WHL, before adding 33 points in 19 playoff games.

Dallas' defence lacks a big-time point producer now that Sergei Zubov is gone.

Third-year blueliner Matt Niskanen may have the most offensive upside, as he put up 35 points in his second NHL season, but he's not much more than a fantasy depth guy at this stage of his career, unless he sees increased power play duty.

Aside from Zubov (who only played ten games), Dallas' defence leader in power play ice time per game last year was Stephane Robidas, who managed a total of 26 points, so he's not the most appealing for fantasy purposes outside of very deep leagues.

Trevor Daley put up a career-best 25 points last season, but he rarely sees the ice on the power play, so his scoring upside is limited.

In goal, the Stars brought in a more reliable backup in Alex Auld, but they still need a dramatic bounceback season from veteran Marty Turco. The 34-year-old played in a career-high 74 games last year, while posting the worst numbers (2.81 GAA, .898 SVPCT) of his eight-year career.

At the same time, Turco has won at least 30 games for six straight seasons and should be expected to do it again if the Stars show even some improvement as a team.