Dallas Stars(34-37-11: 6th Central):
Dallas found themselves outside the postseason race last season in which was one of the more shocking things to happen in the NHL. After Dallas shifted its defensive focus towards developing their youth plus the two goalie tandem failing miserably yet again, Dallas faced a disappointing 2016-17 season. John Klingberg faced some struggles last season, Dallas could not find a starting goalie and they slowly fell off the map as the year went on. Despite Dallas blunder of a season, Tyler Seguin still managed to tally 72 points in 82 games and Jamie Benn tallied 69 in 77 games. Luckily the Stars have Benn-Seguin still in tact firing at all angles, add on some major upgrades this offseason the Stars are looking to be a postseason team come May. With the addition of Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, it helps make this Dallas team deeper and even more dangerous on the front end. Between Radulov, Seguin, Benn they three combined for 195 points last season, add in Jason Spezza, Hanzal on the other line the Stars top six, looks pretty good right now.
With the Stars offseason addition of Marc Methot helps add some depth and sturdiness to the Stars defense but Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns have a lot of ground to makeup, the two didn’t even crack 20 points in their 65 plus games played last season. The Stars defense is still a question mark right now. But with Ben Bishop in net, the Stars defense can afford to make a few mistakes this season as Bishop will be returning to #1 goalie duties, looking to help this team make a postseason run.
The Central is real close right now, go on a losing streak early and teams may find themselves in a hole tough to climb out of. The Stars should be much more consistent next season with a high powered offense, strong goaltender and a few key pieces on defense. Some players for the Stars that will be seeing some extra attention and will need to produce next season are…
John Klingberg: Is Klingberg a top 20 defenseman? After last season he proved not to be, he’s right on the cusp of being in that conversation. After hitting a rough patch in the middle of the year and only producing 48 points and 17 power play points the Stars will need more from Klingberg. Klingberg is the real only difference making defensemen on the Stars line up if he’s struggling their whole defense will be struggling, the Stars need Klingberg to produce consist numbers and lead the power play effectively. Klingberg has the tools and talent to be an elite defenseman, with some adjustments to his defensive game and learning to effectively play a two-way game will help others see the value in this 25-year-old defenseman. Klingberg will be looked upon in Dallas to lead this defense into the postseason and produce big numbers to be considered an elite defenseman.
Martin Hanzal: Hanzal failed miserably in Minnesota he scored 4 goals in 20 games and a -2 plus/minus, Hanzal all together last year only had 39 points in 71 games. As the 30-year-old center was brought into Dallas to help with some depth at the center position and be a body in front of the net on the powerplay, Hanzal will have some expectations to live up to in Dallas. Hanzal will more than likely be paired with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark or any other bottom six that can crack the top six. But paired with Spezza, Hanzal should find the back of the net more and also see his production total increase a slight amount, Spezza is a great puck moving power forward who is a sure 30 assist player each year, paired with Hanzel’s size and shot, the two should work nicely together. Hanzal has been a top six guy his whole career, but paired with some other great talent Hanzal should look to excel next year and that’s what the Stars hope to see in the veteran forward.
Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, Julius Honka: Three for one special here, I couldn’t pick out just one of them. Anyways these three are the question marks on Dallas’s defense, we saw Lindell produce 18 points in 73 games, Johns had 10 points in 61 games and Honka played in just 16 games last season. Two of three will be in the top four of Dallas defense, and if Dallas wants to be a postseason team these three need to step up and show some signs of reliability and capability. More than likely Lindell will be a full-time guy next season and Johns and Honka may see some healthy scratches to let the other two defenseman play. Lindell has shown the most signs of progression and is probably the most talented. Johns is 25-years-old still looking to make a name for himself in the NHL, Honka is still 21-years-old and with little NHL experience, we can see Honka playing more time as well next season. Furthermore, though these three need to help out and do their fair share in the lineup, 20 points will not cut it, compared to other top four defenseman that’s not good enough. Expect to see two of three playing more minutes and stepping up more for Dallas.
Ben Bishop: I’ve spoken about Bishop before, but he has proven his starting ability in Tampa Bay and his sturdiness in the playoffs as well. There’s really no doubt with Bishop here, but after a few injuries and seeing less time recently, is Bishop going to be healthy for a full season and if so, can he do it once more? It’s fair to question but I think on a team with this kind of offense and a defense that can hold off some top guys for the most part and Bishop having the confidence back in him, he’ll be a top 10 goalie once again. Bishop has the size and ability to be himself once again, on a team like Dallas he should pan out well. Aside from all that though, Bishop will be asked to do a lot in Dallas as they have not had a legit starter in net for quite some time now, Bishop is the guy many are looking to, to help shut the door on this topic of Dallas’s goalie issues.