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Better now than later, that appears to be the mantra your 2016-2017 Dallas Stars harp on to stay optimistic going into the new season.
The Stars were last seen saluting the home fans after a game seven loss to the St. Louis Blues. Since then they went through a relatively quiet free agency period (compared to past Jim Nill offseasons), stood firm on the goalie situation and, most importantly, faces numerous of injury questions.
Starting with Jamie Benn.
The Stars captain went through another offseason recovering from a surgery. Last season it was double hip surgery that limited Benn’s play during the preseason. This year the winger had surgery to repair a core-muscle injury. The injury kept him out of the World Cup and limited him this offseason. The good news for Benn is he missed no time last season with his hip surgery and put up a career best in goals (41) and points (89). Benn played his first preseason game last Tuesday and is expected to be good to go for the season.
His line buddy Tyler Seguin faces a bigger question mark. He spent most offseason healing an Achilles laceration that keep him out of the final 10 regular season and playoffs games. Seguin return was set as the winger planed to play in the World Cup, but sustained a hairline fracture in his heel in Team Canada’s first pre-tournament game. His status is monitored day-to-day as the star scorer missed all preseason games and stayed limited in practice.
Having just those two injuries would be plenty to fret head coach Lindy Ruff. Yet, Cody Eakin sustained a knee injury and is out until November. Ales Hemsky injured his groin playing in the World Cup. Mattias Janmark is out for several months to surgery on a knee joint.
Adding insult to injury, there was some bizarre drama with Valeri Nichushkin that landed the winger signing a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow in Russia. The 21-year-old played his first three season with the Stars.
Those are some impactful guys with looming question marks. Luckily Jim Nill recognizes that and has built the depth to mask the severity.
Starting with the development of the young talent. At points last year it was thought that the Stars would trade prospects like Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie or Devin Shore who have the ability to play at this level, but had a hard time finding ice-time on the Stars last season. Now they’re thrown in the position to step up in the absence of missing guys.
Backing them is some veteran players acquired in the offseason. After losing a group of defensemen led by Alex Goligoski, the Stars added Dan Hamhuis. The 12-year veteran led the Vancouver Canucks defense core for the past six years, seeing action on special teams and the playoffs. Hamhuis will help the goaltender situation that remained null in the offseason. Nill and Ruff trust the two goalie system and adding Hamhuis builds a better defensive front in front of Lehtonen and Niemi.
The Stars signed Jiri Hudler and Lauri Korpikoski to help with the forwards. Hudler had his best year two years ago, putting up 76 points in 78 games. He can put up offensive number on the top three lines and will work on the power-play.
The Stars have a tall order if they want to match their first place finish in the conference last year. But the best part is they don’t have to.
As we saw last year with both conference winners, being the dominate team in the regular season doesn’t correlate to winning a championship.
The Stars have the team to finish top five in this conference. Adding a couple veterans from the offseason to compliment the crop of young talent keeps this team on track from the goals they set last year.
It was clear last season what the Stars wanted to do, start and stay in front while scoring at a top clip. Early injuries divert that plan this year. Yet moving past the injuries, this is a deep team with the coaching and the front office to keep this team relevant.
Expect another good year from your Dallas Stars.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
10/13 vs Ducks 7:30 p.m.
10/15 @Avalanche 8:00 p.m.