Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Dallas Stars are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Stars!
2009-10: 37-31-14 (12th in West, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Joe Nieuwendyk (2nd Season)
Head Coach: Marc Crawford (2nd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
A major changing of the guard took place in Dallas this summer, as Stars icons Mike Modano and Marty Turco left town through free agency, Modano destined for Detroit and Turco landing in Chicago. Rarely has a team let two more recognizable franchise mainstays walk away at the same time. Modano hasn't been the same dynamic offensive player for several years, and the writing was on the wall for Turco last season when the club signed Kari Lehtonen, a new direction for the goaltender position. Joe Nieuwendyk didn't have a lot of money to make many moves this summer and it showed as no major pieces were brought in to help bolster a team that finished a disappointing 12th in the Western Conference last year. The Stars will gamble on developing young players and draft picks as they try to avoid a third straight year without a playoff appearanc. Nieuwendyk was able to add some needed grit by signing ex-Blackhawks forward Adam Burish and get some insurance for Lehtonen by acquiring backup goalie Andrew Raycroft. In a low cost/low risk move, the Stars also invited former Rocket Richard trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo to training camp on a tryout basis.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The Stars most immediate goal is to get sniper James Neal under contract and in training camp as both sides continue to play a game of contract chicken. Assuming that deal gets done then the Stars brass still has some work to do in other departments. To make matters worse, the Stars have yet to come to terms on a new deal with promising young defenceman Matt Niskanen, There is reportedly plenty of work to do with both players as the sides remain far apart with training camp looming.
Besides missing two of their top young players, the Stars are also noticeably shallow in the veteran department as well. With the losses of veteran leaders Modano,Turco and the likely retirement of Jere Lehtinen, the question now for the team is who steps in as the leader and the face of the franchise? Brenden Morrow, who is battling to get back to the player he was in 2008? Brad Richards, who finished 7th in the league in scoring last season?
Regardless of who leads the way, this team must dramatically trim its goals against if it wants to win more games this season. Dallas has allowed way too many goals over the past two seasons: 254 last season and 257 the year before. And that was in two different systems under two different coaches; first Dave Tippett and then Marc Crawford. Further, the club's penalty killing unit ranked 27th in the NHL, so Crawford plans to introduce some significant changes to tactics and structure on defense, and he's betting on improved goaltending than the Stars had in the last 20 games of the ‘09-10 season.
Crawford arrived in Dallas last season and installed a new up-tempo, aggressive offensive system that seemed to suit the Star's talented forwards well, but addressing the defensive struggles is paramount.
Player to watch:
Stars' captain Brenden Morrow was perfectly positioned to become one of the NHL's premiere two-way talents after his stellar playoff performance of 2008, but a torn ACL and a mediocre return have limited his effectiveness in the last two seasons. Remember when he tried to fight Alex Burrows on one leg in the 2007 playoffs? Or when he put the Stars on his back in 2008 and pushed them through Anaheim and San Jose en route to the Western Conference finals? Morrow simply wasn't that same player last season, and perhaps that was largely due to having major knee surgery, or to the distraction of playing for Canada at the Olympics. Or perhaps he wasn't adjusting well to Crawford's new offensive system. Morrow got off to a quick start with 10 points in the first nine games, but late he and linemate Mike Ribeiro were moved to the second line' behind James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson. Morrow and Ribeiro will have to see if they can fit better into this high energy system and find a new right winger who fits along with them. Morrow is integral to the Stars' hopes for the 2010-11 season.
For additional analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.