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Photo Credit: © Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Know Your Central Enemies: Dallas Stars

In case you missed it, we are working through the Central Division and previewing each team. We are looking at their performance from last season, what they did during the off-season, and how they might fare in the upcoming year. Today’s team is the Dallas Stars.

Last Year’s Performance

  • 42-32-8
  • 92 points, 6th in Central Division
  • 51.45 CF%, 53.62 xGF% (courtesy of Corsica, all numbers adjusted)

The Stars have been consistently mediocre for the past decade. In the last ten seasons they have only been in the playoffs twice. This doesn’t mean the team was bad as they have finished with an average of 90 points in that span. While the team has been remarkably consistent over the last decade, looking at the last three years is where it gets interesting.

In 2015-2016 the Stars finished first in the Central with 109 points. They lost in the second round of the playoffs but appeared to be on the right track. During the next year in 2016-2017, the Stars only picked up 79 points, finished 6th in the division and missed the playoffs. Then in 2017-2018 the Stars rebounded and finished with 92 points although that only placed them sixth in the Central again as they missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

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So, who are the real Dallas Stars, and are they getting better or worse?

At first glance, the roster seems impressive. They have one of the highest scoring lines in the league with Radulov, Seguin, and Benn who scored 72, 78, and 79 points respectively. The defense is lead by Klingberg whose 67 points last season tied him with Brent Burns for second in defensemen points. Lastly, Bishop rules the crease and put up a respectable .916 sv% last year.

They seem to have the right pieces in place and are not lacking ‘star’ power (pun intended) but struggled to gain ground in a tough division last year.

One of the main reasons the Stars struggled last season was their lack of depth scoring.

As mentioned previously, Radulov, Seguin, Benn and Klingberg all had great point totals last season. Unfortunately, beyond these four players the scoring was awfully hard to find. Matthias Janmark was fifth on the team in points and only finished with 34. In fact, only two other Stars scored more than 30 points. With this large variance, there might not be another team with such a disconnect between their first and second lines.

Courtesy of hockeyviz.com

This graph really says it all. Almost the entire offense was run through only four players. If a team is able to shut down the first line, there is a very good chance they will beat the Stars. The Stars need to look at other line combinations to try and spread out their scoring. Maybe putting Seguin, Benn, and Radulov on different lines would help stimulate more chances across the board.

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The numbers back up the claim that the Stars struggled with depth scoring as they only produced 2.82 goals per game which put them 18th in the league. They did this while boasting the second highest scoring defensemen and three players in the top 31 for points.

If the Stars struggled to score goals, what did they do well?

The answer to that is very simple, they were excellent at keeping the puck out of their own net.

Dallas was superb in goals against as they finished 6th in the league with only 2.71 goals against per game. While their netminders played admirably during the year, it was their team defense that helped propel them to the upper end of the league.

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This graph illustrates why the Stars were so good at not allowing goals. They gave up very few shots from the inner slot and they kept most of the offense to the outsides of the rink. This allowed both goalies to face fewer dangerous opportunities which resulted in Lehtonen and Bishop having fairly similar numbers over the course of the year.

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Last Season Against Winnipeg

Last season the Stars were dominated by the Jets and lost all four meetings. The Jets outscored the Stars 18-8 and were destroyed by Scheifele and Laine. Of the 18 goals the Jets scored against the Stars last year, Scheifele and Laine each had six of them including a memorable night in November where Scheifele recorded his second career hat trick with his parents in attendance.

Off-season Performance

Additions:

  • Roman Polak
  • Valeri Nichushkin
  • Anton Khudobin

Subtractions:

  • Kari Lehtonen
  • Dan Hamhuis
  • Antoine Roussel

Outside of rumors about getting Erik Karlsson and/or John Tavares, The off-season was fairly boring for the Stars. There wasn’t many big names moving in or out of the organization but they did address their depth issue by signing Valeri Nichushkin.

Nichushkin is a former 10th overall pick in 2013 and scored 29 points in 2015-2016 before moving to the KHL for two seasons. In his most recent season at CSKA Moscow, he scored 16 goals and had 11 assists in only 50 games. This put him slightly over half a point per game last year. If Nichushkin can keep improving he will certainly help the lack of depth in the Stars organization.

2018-19 Forecast

The Stars have been all over the place during the last few seasons and it’s tough to get an accurate read on them. On one hand, they have tremendous talent all over the ice with Seguin, Benn, Klingberg, and Bishop all playing key roles. On the other hand, their lack of depth is astounding and makes it tough to win if the top line isn’t scoring multiple times a game. Given their underwhelming off-season, there is no reason to expect the Stars to be much better than last year. Ultimately this team will go as far as their top line can take them.

Predicted finish: Sixth in Central Division


Previously in the series

Chicago Blackhawks