For much of the 2010-2011 season for the Stars, the storyline was whether or not Brad Richards would re-sign with the team. The offseason came and went and the Stars now find themselves entering the season without their best player and leading scorer the past two seasons.
His departure leaves an obvious hole at the center position and left the Stars scrambling to find replacements. Of course, no one person can replace what Richards brought to the team so the Stars went in a different direction.
Mike Ribeiro gets bumped up to the number one center spot and the Stars’ season will rest on his shoulders. He doesn’t get the public recognition that Richards does, but Ribeiro has proven himself capable of providing enough points to be counted as anumber one center in the league. In his five years here, Ribeiro has been in the top three on the team in scoring every year except for the 2009-2010 season. His point totals have been, except for that one season, in the top 10 among all the centers in the league.
If the Stars hope to succeed this year, they will need Ribiero to go above and beyond what he has done before and get his scoring near the 90-point mark (his career high is 83).
The problem lies in the depth of the position. Besides Ribeiro (and the departed Richards), only one center from the team last year scored over ten points. That’s right, only one player had over TEN points and that player, Steve Ott, is considered more of a winger.
It’s possible, and actually pretty likely, that Jamie Benn will find himself playing center a lot this season. He has the size and skill to excell at the position and he experimented a little at the spot last year.
What the Stars don’t have in playmakers, they do have in tough gritty guys. Returning to the team are Toby Peterson and Tom Wandell, a couple of guys that are excellent defensive centers. New to the team, Vernon Fiddler and Jake Dowell. Again, these two new guys are two-way forwards, something this team has had disturbingly few of these past few years.
Both Fiddler and Dowell were the leaders among forwards on their respective teams (Phoenix and Chicago) in blocked shots and they can provide a few points as well. Fiddler averages around 25 points a year and Dowell has 21 during his first full season with the Blackhawks. These four guys will be rotating on the third and fourth lines and will be instrumental during penalty kills.
Without the high-scoring Richards, the Stars have dedicated themselves to a new team philosophy, one based on grit and toughness as is evident in their center position. With Richards gone, the spotlight will be on these guys, Ribeiro and Benn especially.