Saturday, December 26, 2020

Dallas Stars 2020-21 Season Preview

 

From Getty Images

       The Stars surprised everyone last year, including me, who thought that they would be out in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they went the distance, winning the Western Conference before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, they will face Tampa Bay seven times a season with a chance for redemption. 

Additions: D/F Mark Pysyk.

Subtractions: F Mattias Janmark, F Corey Perry, D Roman Polak.

Best Move: Re-signing Anton Khudobin.

Worst Move: Letting Mattias Janmark leave.

One Move I'd Make: Trade away Stephen Johns to reduce the defensive clutter.

Best Contract: John Klingberg, two years remaining with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Jamie Benn, five years remaining with a $9.5 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Andrew Cogliano, Jamie Oleksiak, Blake Comeau, Stephen Johns, Mark Pysyk, Taylor Fedun, Justin Dowling.

Pending RFAs: Miro Hesikanen, Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Joel Kiviranta.


Forwards

A big theme for the Stars in 2019-20 was the lack of production from their stars. Tyler Seguin scored 17 goals and led the team with 50 points, which is nice, but in the previous six seasons, Seguin only scored less than 33 goals once, and had at least 70 points every year. He had a chance to make it all up in the postseason, and he didn't, scoring two goals with 11 assists in 26 games. The Stars announced that Seguin was battling injuries and had surgery in November with a four month timetable, meaning he will miss significant time in 2020-21. Joe Pavelski will need to step up to the top line in Seguin's absence. Pavelski, who was a consistent 30 goal scorer and 60+ point player in San Jose, scored just 14 times with 31 points in 67 games. The offensive production loss for Dallas' forwards could be seen as a defensive system being implemented, which helped them win the West last year. Jamie Benn's 19 goals and 39 points were his lowest in a season, minimum 50 games. Benn is 31 and you have to worry if he'll ever hit 30 goals again after only hitting the mark once in the past four years. Alex Radulov followed up on two consecutive 72 point seasons with a 34 point year, but unlike Seguin, he made it up in the postseason with eight goals in 27 games. Roope Hintz will earn a promotion to second line center after a nice second season. Playing in 60 games, Hintz scored 19 goals with 33 points. After being drafted 12th overall in 2015, Denis Gurianov had long been a disappointment, especially when many stars were picked after him. He finally became a full-time player last year, and scored 20 goals in 64 games. He adding an extra nine in the playoffs, and his 27 postseason games were more than he'd played in any other season alone. In his second season as a regular, Jason Dickinson scored nine goals with 21 points in 65 games, and led Stars forward in short handed ice time. He also had a GAR of 7.0. A second rounder in 2017, Jason Robertson dominated the OHL before heading to the AHL last year. He got into three NHL games, and with the Texas Stars, Robertson scored 25 goals with 47 points in 60 games. Radek Faksa scored 11 goals, hitting a double-digit goal total for the fourth consecutive season. He signed a five year extension in the offseason to be the third line center. Andrew Cogliano had just 14 points in 68 games, and he is much more valuable defensively. Dickinson, Cogliano, Faksa and Blake Comeau all spent significant time on the penalty kill last year. Entering his 15th season, Comeau is an assistant captain in Dallas. He scored eight times in the regular season and added two in the playoffs, which would be 10 goals in a 78 game season, better than he did in 2018-19. Playoff hero Joel Kiviranta captured a fourth line spot this year after his hat trick in game seven of the second round versus Colorado. He had two goals in his other 13 playoff games. 2018 first rounder Ty Dellandrea has a good chance at the fourth line center spot. In 47 OHL games last year, Dellandrea scored 32 times with 38 assists for 70 points. Dellandrea's main competition is 30 year old Justin Dowling, who had six points in 29 games last year, and got into two playoff games. 

Defensemen

Miro Hesikanen became a top-10, maybe even top-5 defenseman in the playoffs. After being snubbed in Calder voting last year, Heiskanen received Norris votes after a 33 point campaign that lasted 68 games. He led the Stars in postseason scoring, with 26 points in 27 games, and he's only 21 years old. He is an elite defender as well, and posted an 11.3 GAR last year. Like Heiskanen, John Klingberg is an elite defender who excels at moving the puck. Klingberg had 32 points in 58 games last year, but in his previous five seasons his low was 40 points. Klingberg's partner, Esa Lindell, also received Norris votes, and averaged over 23 minutes a night with 23 points, although he had a surprisingly low 46.1 CF%. Six-foot-seven defender Jamie Oleksiak doesn't offer much offensive value, but he can be a shutdown defender on the middle pairing. Oleksiak had a career high 52.7 CF% in 2019-20. Veteran Andrej Sekera enters his 15th season, and second with Dallas. He had eight points with a +9 rating in 57 games last year. Mark Pysyk could be Sekera' stable partner on the third pairing. He played a decent amount of fourth line right wing for the Panthers last year and scored a career high nine goals. He's still listed as a defenseman and I'd expect him to play that this year. The Stars could move Pysyk to the fourth line, and put Stephen Johns with Sekera. Johns missed all of 2018-19 battling with concussions, and played in 17 games last year. He was a Masterton finalist, but his future is uncertain after GM Jim Nill said that he wasn't comfortable playing in the postseason. Johns' replacement has been Taylor Fedun, who had nine points in 27 games last year, and played in 11 postseason games. 29 year old Joel Hanley and former first rounder Julius Honka round out the defensive depth. Hanley played in 12 playoff games, while Honka spent the season in Finland.

Goalies

The Stars rode on the back of Anton Khudobin during Ben Bishop's absence in the postseason. In the regular season, Khudobin had a 2.22 GAA and led the league with a .930 SV%, although he only played in 30 games. He started 24 playoff games with a .917 SV%. Bishop is still expected to start, or at least be Khudobin's 1A. Just one year removed from an amazing, Vezina finalist season, Bishop had a .920 SV% with a 13.28 GSAA last year. 


Projected Lines

Jamie Benn - Joe Pavelski - Alex Radulov

Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Jason Dickinson

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Jason Robertson

Joel Kiviranta - Ty Dellandrea - Blake Comeau

Extras: Justin Dowling, Mark Pysyk


Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Mark Pysyk

Extras: Taylor Fedun, Stephen Johns, Joel Hanley, Julius Honka


Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin


Projection

Winning their Conference obviously means that the Stars are good. This is just about the same team, minus some third line wingers and also Seguin for a chunk of the regular season. It might be too soon for them to face-off against Tampa Bay seven times, but they'll still cruise into a third place spot and a playoff birth. 

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