Last season, it seemed as if the Stars had a solid spot in the 2017-2018 playoffs.. that is until they dropped 8 games in a row eliminating them from first round contention. The extended summer felt disheartening, not only for fans I’m sure.
But this season I feel as if the Dallas Stars have been reinvigorated. The summer was a stressful stretch, with Seguin’s resigning and meeting some new free agents and prospects, but it seems like things have been looking up at training camp these past few weeks, and I must say that I am excited to see what’s in store.
Tyler Stays Home
The focus of the summer was off of the new blood coming in, rather the focus was on Stars’ center, Tyler Seguin. Seguin’s expansion contract was on everybody’s mind this summer, seeing as him and the Captain, Jamie Benn, are magic on the ice together. Last season, the top line, consisting of Benn, Seguin, and right winger Alexander Radulov, scored a total of 103 goals of the team’s total 235 goals.
The uncertainty of Seguin’s extension lasted through the summer and definitely left the fans sweating, but at last on September 13th Seguin signed a deal keeping him in Dallas until at least the 2026-27 season.
“At the end of the day I knew where I wanted to be. I knew where home was, and that was here in Dallas. I’m thrilled that we got things worked out.” – Tyler Seguin about resigning with Dallas.
Seguin’s deal begins after this upcoming season, a smart idea on Jim Nill’s part, for a whopping $9.85 million a season. Captain Jamie Benn is also on an eight-year expansion at $9.5 million a season but he doesn’t feel bad for making less that his center. It’s astonishing that Nill has been able to keep his top boys under $10 mill a season.
Along side the expansion of Seguin, the Stars acquired Blake Comeau, a right winger from Colorado, Roman Polak, a defenseman from Toronto, and Anton Khudobin, a goalie from Boston.
- Blake Comeau was signed on July 1st as a UFA. In the 2017-2018 season, Comeau played in 79 games getting 13 goals and 21 assists. (And I’ll ignore when he sucker punched Antoine Roussel back in 2015).
- Roman Polak is a defenseman coming from Toronto, playing only 52 games last season with 2 goals and 10 assists. Polak has been in the league for 12 seasons, playing on 3 other teams so it’s hopeful that his experience can bring some luck to a group of relatively young players.
- Lastly, Anton Khudobin, also a free agent, played in 31 games last season with a 16-6-7 record and a saves percentage of .913 (Ben Bishop had a .916). Considering the loss of Kari Lehtonen as a UFA and Bishop’s problem staying healthy in the past, Khudobin will play a big role in goal keeping this season, along with helping Bishop’s workload.
There were notable loses to the roster too. Even though the focus of hockey is “who works here” and “who can we trade to get better”, there’s always some notable characters that will be missed. The same goes for every team.
- Antoine Roussel, a left winger and a personal favorite of mine, was signed to Vancouver on July 1st. Rous had 5 goals and 12 assists in 73 games last season, his +/- at the end of the season was 1 which is better than his average of a -5. Roussel was a joy to watch because he, as well as newly signed Roman Polak, is scrappy and is not afraid to get right up in the goalies space to get a goal. Not to mention that even though he is a fighter, he was also a french man who just loves his cats a lot.
- Curtis McKenzie, a left winger, had played in 7 games with the Stars and had 2 assists.
- Kari Lehtonen, a goalie, is an unrestricted free agent after spending 9 seasons with the Stars. He had a .912 save average last season, according to hockey-reference.com. The man doesn’t look a day over 27, but he also looked light he just stepped out a time machine from 2005.
- Dan Hamhuis (which sounds like Ham Juice to me), a defense man, was whisked off to the Nashville Predators, the team who drafted him in 2001 and 12th overall. He signed a deal for 2 years and $2.5 million. Hamhuis played in 80 games last season, with 3 goals, 21 assists and was -6 at the end of the season. In his last season with the Stars, Hamhuis hit the incredible milestone of playing in 1,000 NHL games.
- Greg Pateryn, a defense man, achieved 1 goal and 12 assists while playing in 73 games last season. Pateryn signed with the Minnesota Wild with a three year contract worth $6.75 million. Pateryn is an two-way player although he is not a big offensive force considering he has 3 goals in 167 NHL games total.
What We’re Seeing This Preseason
Preseason is sometimes a good judge of what is to come this season, it shows how team chemistry is building between guys who are going to make the roster and guys who will be put on the back burner and used if need be. This season preseason has been going pretty well so far, with a record of 4-0-1 and two more games verse St. Louis and Colorado, the Stars seem in a pretty good place for this upcoming season.
Jim Montgomery, new coach not only to the Stars but to the whole NHL, describes his players preseason play as “relentless” and he wants to keep that going, so hand picking guys who are determined is essential to this seasons success. Everyday the roster keeps getting shorter and shorter, with players getting sent down to the AHL or signed onto the team. There’s one prospect that has astonished everyone, including the soft spoken captain. Roope Hintz got his shot to play on the first line with his captain Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, racking in a goal and an assist that game. Hintz, while battling for a roster spot says that he “just try to do my best every night” which is the kind of determination and young blood the Stars are going to need this season. Hintz has what seems to be some good chemistry with players on the ice already, he describes his assist on Benn’s goal as “a blind pass” which is the kind of hockey chemistry that is amazing to build on and leads to promising places.
Special teams, which is the group of plays that are on the ice on a power play, has been a bit of a problem with the Stars. Last season where the Stars were in 19th in the league with power play goals, with a 19.3% chance of scoring. New Head Coach, Jim Montgomery, had some words to say about special teams in an interview on Thursday (September 27th) after practice.
“It’s not really where we want them. There’s not enough urgency on the power play, they’re not outworking the penalty kill right now. The chemistry is not there … Its early in the year and we’re starting to work on it right now in preparation for next Thursday (October 4th).” -Jim Montgomery on special teams
There is quite a bit to be improved upon and so much more we haven’t seen yet. Who knows what some of the returning stars are going to bring this year, what the newer kids (I say kids but they are my age) will bring to the table, or what trades are looming in the future. I can not exactly say why but I, personally, have a very good feeling about this season. Maybe this will finally be the Stars year. All I know for certain is that I’m excited for this new season to start.
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Information used above comes from:
“The Hockey News” Magazine “Yearbook 2018-2019” edition