Jamie Benn

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Five Under the Radar Keys To The Stars Success

October 03, 2018 - 3:30 pm
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By Gavin Spittle (AKA "The Hockey Hawk)

Sure, I could talk about a bounce back year for Jason Spezza, the emergence of Valeri Nichushkin or how the team will adjust to Jim Montgomery’s style but I want to bring you some huge under the radar determining factors in the success of this year’s Stars squad heading to the postseason.

1. Home cooking is good cooking so take advantage of it. The schedule Gods have given the Stars an opportunity to get off to a fast start. Of the Eleven games in this opening month, seven are at home including four in a row to start the season. Three of the road games are against teams that are rebuilding (Ottawa, Detroit and Montreal). A great October builds confidence, fills the American Airlines Center and is a huge step towards the playoffs. 

2. Stay out of the Box this year. Even though it was preseason, we saw on Sunday against Colorado how penalty after penalty digs a giant hole for your team. The Dallas Stars were third in Penalty Kill Time on Ice and 4th overall in Penalties last year. It's tough to have a high power offense when you are a man down so much. Not to mention the energy spent by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin killing penalties. Antoine Roussel was the third most penalized player in the league in 2017-18 so his departure should help that stat. Jim Montgomery preaches aggressive play and I’m sure part of that preaching includes smart aggressive play to improve on that stat. 

3. You have the talent to be a top Power Play Unit. Benn, Seguin, Radulov, Klingberg, Spezza. These are talented names and I’m not even including the second unit. You need to be better than 19th in the NHL, which is where they finished as far as conversion percentage. New Assistant Coach Todd Nelson takes over the coaching duties in this department and already in the preseason, we’ve seen some new looks when the Stars have the man advantage. A big-time Power Play unit is a huge difference maker in whether or not you make the postseason. 

4. Jim Nill deserves credit for building depth. I know that many wanted to land that big offseason free agent but think about these moves. Last year, Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie were playing on the second line at times. Now they are fighting for 4th line time. If and when Martin Hanzal comes back, that depth becomes stronger. Blake Comeau isn’t a sexy signing but he does everything well. He improves the penalty kill, will score some goals, is a solid defensive forward and comes with a lot of NHL experience for the room. Connor Carrick and Roman Polak bring blue line experience to this team and that’s needed with the Stephen Johns injury. Gavin Bayreuther should be the first man up from the AHL on defense if needed. Anton Khudobin was a big factor last year in net for Boston. While the Stars will thrive if Ben Bishop stays healthy, Khudobin is an extremely reliable backup. The Stars added depth and experience which is great both on and off the ice. 

5. Probably the most important key is to have better success against the Central Division. Sure, you can have success against the Eastern Conference but you can’t go 12-14 against your division especially when four of those wins came against a struggling Chicago. Against Nashville and Winnipeg, the Stars were 1-7 last year. Against the four Central Division teams that made the playoffs (WPG, NSH, MIN, COL) their record was 5-12. Two points for the good guys means two less points for the team that you are fighting for division position. 

If the Stars improve in all five of these areas, they will land in the NHL playoffs, which fans of this team deserve. I look forward to seeing you on the concourse at the AAC. Go Stars!