Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Pool Outlook for Dallas

The Dallas Stars finished 11th in the Western Conference this season and that seems about right, if you ask me.  The Stars were not going to be priding themselves on their defense, to which they were 13th in the West in goals against, but I thought, like most of us probably did, they would score a bunch more goals then they did, finishing tied for 8th in goals for and finishing with a -39 in goal differential.

Injuries on the top heavy offensive side of the puck were a likely reason for the downturn in scoring, as Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler were all down for significant portions of the season and the Stars couldn't support their scoring leaders, as the season wore on.

Of course, a lot of people are going to point the finger at the goaltending tandem that the Stars have, as their numbers were hardly impressive, but the Stars have no stalwarts on defense and only some reasonable skaters on the blueline, the goaltending were hung out to dry for the majority of the regular season.  And if you're a defensive coach, your team is only as good as the pieces that you have been given and that was the downfall of Lindy Ruff, who didn't see his contract renewed at the end of the season and the Stars are among a handful of teams looking for a new bench boss in this off-season.

Given the offensive potential of the Dallas Stars, before the 2017 season even got started, it's a little surprising that they were not picked as often as the Colorado Avalanche or the Arizona Coyotes, rather, the draft only saw 11 Stars taken, maybe knowing that the offense was concentrated in so few spots in their lineup.  There was a solid swap, three out, four in, at the initial Waiver Draft, then it was two out and three in at the next Waiver Draft, but the trade deadline saw some bodies leave and the Stars were left with 11 players at the end.  Go figure.

There wasn't any lightning in a bottle in the top six of the Stars forwards, as Tyler Seguin led the team, thanks to playing a full 82-game season, scoring 26 goals and 72 points, ranking him 26th overall in pool scoring, 14th among all forwards.  His numbers were below expectations of about an 80-point season, but not off by too much.  To his credit, however, he is a money-winning player this year, as he was Brian's 1st round pick, 17th overall, and still managed 2nd place money.

The lack of scoring meant that the Stars only had five forwards in the top 200, as Jamie Benn had a down year, Jason Spezza saw injury troubles again and then youngsters Devin Shore and Radek Faksa rounded out the pool worthiness.  Only two defenders finished in the top 100 of their position, as John Klingberg had an okay year (10th), followed a ways back by Finnish blueliner, Esa Lindell (90th).  It wasn't a 50/50 split of ice-time for the goaltending, as Kari Lehtonen took the better part of the reps in the 2017 season, but Antti Niemi did see enough time this year and they were both pool worthy.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

I don't believe that this team has the leadership core that teams need in this NHL to succeed and that will be their Achilles heel until that problem is solved.  One may have thought it would have been solved by the acquisition of Sharp, but he adds scoring to a team that had a lot to begin with, it wasn't like they were adding a Jonathan Toews or a Patrice Bergeron, who are bonafide leaders in this NHL today.  Benn, Seguin and Spezza are all talented players, they'll score many goals in the regular season, but they are in desperate need of real help at the leadership position.  Solve that and the Stars will be a team worth talking about in the playoffs.  For the hockey pool though, do continue to look favourably on their side for your picks.  They have scoring talent and that's what you want.

The Stars didn't solve any of their problems in the last off-season, the injuries caught up to Spezza and Sharp and this team wasn't a very good hockey pool team in the end.  They had their standard pieces, but when Seguin and Benn weren't lighting the lamp like they did in 2016, this team was bound to suffer even more and they did.  I didn't think they'd do well this season and they didn't, full stop.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Jamie Benn 9.500 John Klingberg 4.250 Kari Lehtonen 5.900
Jason Spezza 7.500 Antti Niemi 4.500
Tyler Seguin 5.750
Devin Shore 0.870
Cody Eakin 3.850 Dan Hamhuis 3.750 Landon Bow 0.698
Antoine Roussel 2.000 Gavin Bayreuther 0.925 Philippe Desrosiers 0.662
Denis Gurianov 0.925 Julius Honka 0.863
Jason Dickinson 0.894 Greg Pateryn 0.850
Nick Caamano 0.745 Dillon Heatherington 0.771
Remi Elie 0.745 Niklas Hansson 0.746
Curtis McKenzie 0.700 Stephen Johns 0.725
MattIas Janmark 0.700 Andrew Bodnarchuk 0.725
Adam Cracknell 0.675 Chris Martenet 0.703
Cole Ully 0.647 Ondrej Vala 0.680

Looking at what is already signed on for the 2018 season, the outlook for the upcoming season still doesn't look too pleasant.  There are some hockey pool regulars still on the team, you can pick out a handful of forwards, a defenseman and their top two goalies, but that's about it, really.  That doesn't translate well into results, so there's a lot of work to be done, before anyone changes their mind about them.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

Only Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have the No-Move Clauses in their deal for required protection on the Stars, so they're not getting held hostage by a terrible contract exactly.  I believe the Stars will try to protect their more youthful players and protect the rights to Valeri Nichushkin, although with the Olympics decision pending, I can't see him coming back to the NHL next season.  I believe the Stars will opt to protect Lehtonen, leaving Niemi exposed, but I think that's a good risk, given the contracts of either/or.  The defense left exposed could be where Vegas looks towards, someone like Greg Pateryn has some value for a fledgling team.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The Stars budget will have some flexibility to it, especially if they decide not to go back to unrestricted free agents like Sharp, Hudler or Ales Hemsky.  That clears a lot of cap space off the books in a big hurry.  They may need that space for kids like Faksa and Lindell, who are starting to come around to the NHL

Currently, I am showing a cap hit of a tad over $62.2 million for the 29 contracts above, which would require paring down, of course, and that leaves them with even more space for the expected salary cap number, which has yet to be announced.

The Stars are still developing an offensive defenseman in Julius Honka, giving him lots of time in the AHL to flourish, mixed in with 16 games in the NHL, where he was able to pick up 5 points in that time.  The smallish Finn defender is widely regarded as a player with huge offensive upside, which is good for us poolies, but the Stars really need someone who can do the job in front of their own goalies or else they're just going to be spinning their wheels.  Honka, however, is one to watch and maybe even give a flyer to at the draft, late on next season.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The last of the big winners at the draft lottery were the Dallas Stars, moving up to the 3rd overall pick, moving from 8th overall and that's a big windfall for them, as they have some flexibility, as to what they can do.  They can go ahead and pick one of the top centres in scouting rankings or they could use their pick, using the 3rd overall or trading down for more assets, and pick a defenseman like Callan Foote, who could really help out their franchise long-term.  Teams will be chomping at the bit for more scoring up front, while Dallas craves stability on the blueline and this would be the direction I would take, undoubtedly.

The Stars will have a new coach this season and that may dictate a lot of what goes on next season, but just looking at the roster, as it stands today, they still lack defense.  Of course, the outgoing coach, Lindy Ruff, stressed a fair bit of defense in their play, but how the roster is made up, it's meant to go forward.  An offensively tilted coach may try to turn this team into a run & gun team of the 1980's, but even that has very little chance for success, unless they stack their team with more offensive weapons.  Either way, this Stars team is still in need of some pieces to ensure that pucks stay out of their net and until that happens, I think they still will be vying for a lottery pick at this time next year.
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