Dallas Stars

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Behind Enemy Lines: Dallas Stars Predictions & Thoughts Of Opposing Central Division Cities

September 27, 2018 - 9:59 am
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By Gavin 'Hockey Hawk' Spittle 

Opinions on the new look Stars are flying across social media as fans gear up for this upcoming season. I wanted to offer a different voice in the room. What better way to do that than to go “Behind Enemy Lines” to see what the outsiders think of this team and their chances.

CHICAGO

Jay Zawaski @JayZawaski670 - Executive Producer / Host at 670 The Score Chicago

When I look at the Dallas Stars, I want to believe they're finally going to be great. They're loaded with offensive star power and seemed to figure out how to unlock Alex Radulov better than any team in the past.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are as close to sure things as you'll find in the NHL.

I think Jason Spezza could have a bounce back season now that Ken Hitchcock is gone. My only concern with Spezza is his age.

Is it fair to blame Hitchcock for his down year, or is the natural aging process underway? It's probably a little of both, but at 35, I'm not sure how much Spezza has left.

On defense, I really like the Stars young talent. I'm interested to see what Mark Methot will add in his first full season. I think I like him better than most, but having a steady veteran defenseman is never a bad idea in my book.

COLORADO

Sandy Clough  @1043TheFan - Host at 104.3 The Fan in Denver

I've gotten to know Coach Jim Montgomery well during his time at the University of Denver across the last four years. 

Dallas will play fast, as Montgomery's DU teams did in reaching the NCAA Tournament four times and the Frozen Four twice (winning the national title in 2017).

Coach Montgomery will do for the Stars much of what Brad Stevens has done with the Boston Celtics--create trusting relationships and play a speed-and-pressure game that accentuates strengths and camouflages weakness.

Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza, in particular, will thrive under Montgomery's tutelage.

MINNESOTA

Craig Schroepfer  @CDSWCCO - Producer, Sports to the Max and the Al Mamberg Show

What I like most about the Stars is the depth they have up the middle at center.

Tyler Seguin is the type of player you want to build your team around. Jason Spezza is in the twilight of his career but is still reliable on the ice. A healthy Martin Hanzal has the skillset to be a top six center but can also fit in nicely on the team’s third line. Radek Faksa rounds out the team’s depth at center and has shown the ability to be in the top six.

On the wing, Dallas has two proven goal scores in team captain Jamie Benn & Alexander Radulov. What concerns me about Dallas’ wings is who steps up if Benn & Radulov aren’t finding the back of the net. The Stars don’t have a lot of scoring depth at wing. Another good season from Janmark and Nichushkin returning could be the answer.

On the blue line, John Klingberg is the Stars best defenseman. Klingberg has averaged at least 40 points in each of his four NHL seasons. The rest of the blue line is mix of youth & experience with Miro Heiskanen, Stephen Johns, Julius Honka & Esa Lindell providing the youth on defense and Marc Methot and Roman Polak providing the experience.

In goal, the Stars have a proven net minder in Ben Bishop. Bishop helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. His arrival in Dallas last year helped solidify what was the Stars weakest position.

The task of returning the Stars to the playoffs belongs to new head coach Jim Montgomery. Montgomery has proven he can coach at the collegiate level, winning a national title with Denver in 2017. Dallas however may be in the toughest division in the NHL. A playoff berth is possible if the Stars get more scoring depth at wing. However, it will be in the form of a Wild Card spot.

 

NASHVILLE

Jeremy K. Gover  @govertime - The Nashville Predators Radio Network/102.5 The Game Nashville

From a Nashville perspective, the Dallas Stars are a team that demand respect. On any given night, when the two teams are playing each other, the Stars can jump up and beat the Predators. Are they a team that I have penciled into the playoffs, however? I can't say that I do.

Dallas has a lot of fire power but it comes from the same places every time. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, blah blah blah, you know the drill. I would've changed my tune had they been able to land John Tavares via free agency or Erik Karlsson via trade but they struck out on both. So now they're back to the same ol' formula of "score a lot and hope the defense holds up." Heck, their big claim to fame is offense and, despite that, Greg Wyshynski of ESPN just ranked them 14th among the forward groups in the NHL recently.

Look, it's not their fault they play in the Central Division and, in theory, they've solved their annual goaltending issues with Ben Bishop between the pipes. But let's be real, the defense just isn't what you'd call "elite." John Klingberg should throw his name into the Norris Trophy conversation hat every year and that's great but the Dallas blue line is void of game-breaking talent and/or shutdown talent otherwise. Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns are solid blue liners who I like a lot but I'd hesitate to call them top pairing material in this League.

The wild card in all of this is Jim Montgomery. I'm very excited to see what the former Paul Kariya linemate at the University of Maine can do behind an NHL bench. He'll certainly be a change of pace from Ken Hitchcock and that's a good thing. If he can muster up some Texas magic, I could see the Stars squeaking into the post season. If he goes through the usual rookie coach learning curve, however, I see them finishing toward the bottom of the pack once again.

ST. LOUIS

Tom Ackerman @Ackerman1120 - Sports Director and Host. St. Louis Blues Radio Home KMOX

Well, I’ll give you the St. Louis perspective on the Stars.

First of all, they received plenty of attention here last season because of Ken Hitchcock. Hitch’s departure here landed him at a Dallas reunion...and on paper the Stars looked like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in 2017-18. But as it turned out, under Hitch’s watch, the team stumbled to the finish and didn’t make the playoffs.

Will a new message and a different philosophy from Jim Montgomery do the trick? Maybe.

Ultimately, it comes down to players and just like the Blues have improved the roster for their coach, Mike Yeo, the Stars will certainly benefit from some of their additions, most notably Valeri Nichushkin at forward.

If Montgomery is more aggressive offensively and gives his players more freedom than his predecessor, Dallas would certainly seem to have the firepower to score, especially on its top line.

Starting goaltender Ben Bishop (St. Louis native) is now backed up by Anton Khudobin, which makes for a strong tandem in net. Roman Polak (a former Blue) provides some toughness on the blueline.

I would expect the Stars to be a contender in the Western Conference if Montgomery can navigate through the inevitable first month of adjustments as his players adapt to his style. If that happens, look out.

WINNIPEG

Kevin Olszewski  @SportsKevinO - Winnipeg Jets Radio Host/TSN 1290 Host of the Donvito Roundtable

Any team that no longer employs Antoine Roussel is inherently more likeable.  Don’t @ me.  A backhanded compliment to the well paid Canuck, from a guy who appreciates an effective agitator… (We can smell our own) 

The term that first comes to mind when I think of the 2018-19 Dallas Stars is WILD CARD.  

While I think they could certainly nab third in the Central (behind Nashville & Winnipeg) I’m hesitant to lock them in, based on their underachieving recent past. 

The Jets and Preds aren’t guarantees, of course, but they proved they could survive and thrive last season, even with some significant injuries along the way. Neither team got worse. 

The Central is what it is: Awesomely competitive, but impossible to predict.

The Stars are as good and as flawed, as the rest.

The Blues have loaded up, but netminding is still a huge question mark.

The Avs bolstered the crease, but need their youngsters to build on breakout seasons.

The Wild are still plenty pesky enough and even the Hawks core could bounce back.

Every club in the division has dangerous high end talent.  It certainly doesn’t all reach the apex of Benn, Seguin, Radulov, & Klingberg, but with it being close enough to cancelling out, the supporting cast plays more of a determining role in the final standings… and I still question if Dallas has enough depth.

Goaltending is the great equalizer, of course. Even average puck stopping in the Central means little chance of spring hockey.  

When Ben Bishop is on his game, he is scary good. However, until he proves otherwise, I still see him as a touch fragile, both mentally AND physically. 

While the issue is rarely the same, the net result is, and the Stars need their starter to live up to his big ticket contract.  Khudobin is a decent backup, but isn’t good enough to challenge for #1.  Individual wild cards are the impacts of Nichushkin and Heiskanen.  The latter is potentially an instant difference maker.  While it usually takes years for a blueliner to perfect his overall play, speed and puck moving ability in kids today, means offensive production can spike early and offset the inevitable defensive mistakes.  He’s a stud, who won’t be forced to do it all with Klingberg already anchoring the backend… And he just might have the most freedom to attack, among rookies, because there’s a Texas sized wild card, behind the bench.

I have no idea what a Jim Montgomery coached NHL squad will look like, but I do know who usually wins a game of 3-card Monte, so I’m not going to bet against him. Like Jim Nill, I think his philosophy meshes well with this roster. Letting horses like Benn and Seguin (in a contract year) run? They may never be caught… and who knows, maybe even Jason Spezza’s smile and offensive touch will make an occasional appearance…  The Dallas Stars might not have a winning hand this season, but with some timely help from the dealer, I think they can sneak into the playoffs as a wild card in every sense of the word.

 

Spittle: Interesting thoughts from our Division foes. The consensus seems to be with improvement and more consistent play that this is a Wild Card team battling for that third spot in the Central. Huge thanks to each of them for their insight. Opening Night is right around the corner boys and girls!!