Friday, May 11, 2018

Pool Outlook for Dallas

The Dallas Stars were a busy team last summer, trying to tinker their way back into the playoffs for the 2018 season, but when the last horn sounded on the regular season, the Stars hadn't scored enough goals or won enough games and they were only 3 points out of the last wild card spot.  So close, yet so far away.

In previous years, the Stars had their struggles keeping the puck out of their own net and they couldn't score enough goals to make up for that lack of defense.  The 2018 season was much different, a different perspective, as they ranked 6th in goals against in the season, but their offense suffered, ranking 25th overall in goals for.  They still had a positive goal differential, but they still found ways to lose more games than they needed to to make the playoffs.

Injuries certainly didn't help the Stars, key players at the back end were lost through the season and that led to some key losses in the middle of the season and it was all something that the Stars couldn't really recover from at the end of the year.

The Stars will have to move forward with a new coaching staff, as Ken Hitchcock, who helped lead the team to a much better record, retired from coaching and the Stars hired NCAA coach Jim Montgomery and now we'll see if there will be further improvement or not.

Maybe it was the design of playing more of a two-way game, but Jamie Benn didn't quite have the same kind of season as years past, but it certainly wasn't a year to sneeze at.  In all 82 games, Benn posted 36 goals and 79 points, good enough for 29th overall in pool scoring, which would make him a high 2nd round pick in the draft redo.  It wasn't an amazing goal scoring season, which I'd argue may have been one of the Stars' biggest downfalls in the year.  They just couldn't find that balance for their captain.

Tyler Seguin wasn't very far behind, only 1 point back, and off-season acquisition Alexander Radulov fit in well and had 72 points, both well within the pool worthiness conversation.  In total, the Stars had 10 players on the list, including Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa up front, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Dan Hamhuis on the blueline and both goalies, Ben Bishop and Kari Lehtonen were good enough from the crease.  The lack of forwards in this conversation does give you a pretty good indication about where their scoring was in the season.

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

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.

We arrive at the same time of the season and the Stars are looking to next season, already with a new coach in tow.  The similarities are shocking.  The Stars tinkered with keeping the puck out of their net, which they did accomplish and they did quite well at, but it came at a cost.  That cost was their offense, where they just didn't have enough.  So, back in the lottery they went, but were unlucky again and they'll pick from the 13th spot in June.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

One of the biggest acquisitions in the Stars' off-season was starting goalie Ben Bishop and missing 14 of the last 15 games of the regular season certainly was a huge back breaking injury for the Stars, who, as we said earlier, were so close to the playoffs and they probably could have used their number one guy to carry them in.  Still, Bishop posted 26 wins in 53 appearances, ranked 14th among all goalies in pool scoring, so all in all, it wasn't too bad of an intriguing pick.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Jamie Benn 9.500 Marc Methot 4.900 Ben Bishop 4.917
Jason Spezza 7.500 John Klingberg 4.250 Landon Bow 0.698
Alexander Radulov 6.250 Esa Lindell 2.200
Tyler Seguin 5.750 Miro Heiskanen 0.925
Martin Hanzal 4.750 Gavin Bayreuther 0.925
Radek Faksa 2.200 Julius Honka 0.863
Brett Ritchie 1.750 Niklas Hansson 0.746
Tyler Pitlick 1.000 John Nyberg 0.745
Denis Gurianov 0.894
Jason Robertson 0.826
Roope Hintz 0.812
Nick Caamano 0.745
Justin Dowling 0.650

The Dallas Stars are going to be a busy team in this off-season, as they don't have a whole lot of players signed to deals for the upcoming season, so they will be using a lot of ink.  They do have a good portion of their core group coming back already, four of their worthy forwards, a couple of their worthy defense and their number one goalie, but with a new coach and an influx of new players, who is really to say how the Stars will fare here?

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Mattias Janmark is their only pool worthy restricted free agent, while Dan Hamhuis and Kari Lehtonen will need a new deal or they'll hit the open market on July 1st.  Free agency will clear out a lot of names from this roster and the team's management will have some flexibility to get some new faces and possibly a new approach moving forward.

As for their cap number, this makeshift 23-man roster, plus a buyout, is only coming in at $65.3 million against the cap, which could leave them nearly $15 million in space, if the cap hits $80 million this summer.  That will buy a lot of bodies, if need be this summer.

Just because some of those names of young prospects are on the outlook table above, doesn't really mean they're going to be making the team.  I was just filling out a roster, more than anything else.  Defenseman Miro Heiskanen, the Stars' top pick last summer, appears to be ready to move to North America for the 2019 season and it will be interesting to see where the 18-year old slots in, be it on the big club or in the minors.  The Stars are getting a good all-around defenseman and maybe a year in the minors will help him adjust to the smaller ice or maybe he can step right in an play.  It will be all up to him.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
With some good, young, talented defensemen already in the fold, I could see the Dallas Stars revert to something a little more offensive at the draft.  Centre Joe Veleno was an exceptional inclusion into the QMJHL in the 2015 Bantam Draft and he really didn't disappoint with his numbers with the Saint John Sea Dogs and most recently, the Drummondville Voltigeurs.  Veleno is tapped as a hard working playmaker with lots of offensive upside.  The Stars could use a few more guys with very little quit in their game.

The Stars are starting to trend in the right direction, definitely a positive, but with a new coach and a new approach, it's far too early to suggest that it will continue to trend in the right direction, maybe it gets a little bit better, maybe the team has some growing pains under a new coach that hasn't seen any NHL time before... who knows?  If the Stars can add one of their blue chip defensemen into the fold and he succeeds, the new coach has some good ideas and Ben Bishop can stay healthy, there's no reason why they can't make themselves a more formidable force in the Western Conference, even challenge for a playoff spot.
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