Yesterday we looked at the Western Conference finalist St. Louis Blues. Today, we look at the team they beat to get there: the Dallas Stars. Taylor Baird of Defending Big D is here to answer three questions for us about Dallas’s outlook:
1. There's no question that John Klingberg is a #1 defenceman, but after him things don't look that solid. What will be the Stars' top six entering the year? Do you see the team looking for more help there?
The Stars' top six entering the year is most likely going to be a combination of:
Hamhuis - Klingberg
Oduya - Johns
Benn - Oleksiak/Nemeth
While the Stars have two prospects that they feel could be ready to make the jump, led by Esa Lindell who was named to the Finnish World Cup of Hockey roster and Julius Honka, the fact that they are (yet again) carrying 8 defensemen (including Mattias Backman) that have to pass through waivers to be sent down will make it harder to bring them up on the opening day roster. Of course, that's dependent on whether the Stars don't find a trade partner to either unload one of those defensemen or include some defensemen in a trade for goaltending before opening night. Injuries always happen, and so a trade of one of the younger blueliners is not outside the realm of possibility. My gut says that the three pairings listed above are what we see opening night, but that won't be where the defense is by the trade deadline
2. The question everyone is asking: what will happen with the Stars' goaltenders? Will they be able to trade one away? Will they go after an available goalie like Ben Bishop? Or will Jim Nill be happy to ride the same tandem into another playoffs?
The goaltending is a bit of a complex issue. On the one hand, they won over 50 games between them last season. I think people forget that. While a lot of those wins came in spite of the goaltending, the fact that the Stars have a badass lethal scoring potential can cover a lot of issues on a given night. So I think Jim Nill, the purveyor of patience, is more likely to ride his goaltending tandem as-is until the right opportunity comes along. However, I do think they'll be sniffing at Ben Bishop around the trade deadline as a rental. The thing is, the Stars' window seems to be now, and I don't think the Stars can win the Stanley Cup on the backs of the two men they currently have within the pipes. The question really comes down to more of "when" not "if".
3. The Stars made the division finals last year, despite not having Tyler Seguin for the entire playoffs. How far will they have to make it for 2016-17 to be considered a success?
Success in 2016-2017 will be defined as an appearance in the Western Conference finals. It's a daunting task for any team to make it that far, much less one in the #murderdeathkill division. But the forward corps remains largely intact, they'll find the voodoo doll that has a pin stuck in the "injure Tyler Seguin in March" part of the body and remove it, I think the blueline will be sturdier than people expect today, and they'll figure out a way to solve and/or accommodate the goaltending in a way that gets them a step further. Barring a major trade for an upgrade in goaltending, an appearance in the finals would be deemed quite a success for this Stars team today.