If there’s one thing that can be used to describe the defensemen on this team, it’s turnover. Matt Niskanen was traded midway through the season last year for Alex Goligoski. Karlis Skrastins was released so he could go to the KHL, where he tragically passed away in the plane crash. The embattled Jeff Woywitka, who had a very difficult season, was also released. Mark Fistric, despite playing well, was frustratingly in and out of the lineup due to injuries and coaching decisions under Marc Crawford. The farm system is chock full of young guys ready to make the jump to the NHL and help out at the highest level.
Through signings, injury returns and a brand new system under a new coach, the Stars enter the season with a better feeling about their defense.
Alex Goligoski has had a training camp and a preseason to develop a better chemistry with the other guys on the team, which will be essential now that he will run point on the power-play. He had a solid impact on the team last year after getting traded from Pittsburgh. In 23 games with the team, he had 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) and you can expect him to be in the among the top-10 in scoring defensemen this year with all the ice time that he will be getting.
With the departure of Brad Richards, Goligoski becomes the main man on the power play and he should have it pretty nice working with the likes of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro. It might be blasphemy to say this, but I think Goligoski will do just as well, if not better, than Richards at manning the point.
He’s not the best on the defensive side of the ice, but he’ll have help as he will once again work with the tireless Stephane Robidas as our top pair of defensemen. Robidas does pretty much everything on the ice. He will make hits all over the ice (he’s almost always in the top 5 among all NHL players in this category), score a few goals here and there and add a good amount of assists throughout the season. He works the power-play and penalty kill so the hardest working man on the team will again find himself busy this year.
You can count on Robidas sacrificing his body to help out the team so hopefully he can stay healthy throughout the season. He’s already battling a bit of an injury as he recovers from offseason hip surgery so his ice time might be a little less than it usually is at the start of the season.
We can pretty much prognosticate how Trevor Daly will do this season, around 10 goals and 20 assists by the end of the year. Daly has been around that mark four years in a row and it shouldn’t be much different this year as his spot on the team should stay the same. He’s a dependable second line defenseman.
Daly’s likely backline partner, Nick Grossman, will be making his back from an injury plagued season last year, a year where he only appeared in 59 games. He’s also a guy that’s willing to put his body on the line for the team, but don’t expect much from him on the offensive side of the puck. The assists might be there for him, but he’s only scored three goals in his five year career.
Our later line defensemen include Mark Fistric, who actually played pretty well last year when he was on the ice. He was good for pretty much one massive, crowd rising hit a game. I would like to see him get some more work in this year now that a few guys have left the team.
Adam Pardy came over from the Calgary Flames and he will be a depth blueliner. He’s known for his shotblocking and defense, something the Stars would definitely like to have on their later pairs.
Some guys that could also make an impact this year include a couple of young guys, Brenden Dillon and Philip Larsen. Larsen has seen spot duty with the team in previous years due to injuries and I would expect him to get some good ice time with the Stars this year.
The wildcard this year is Sheldon Souray. The 6’4″ 35-year-old was once one of the most feared shooters on the power-play. During one three-year stretch in Montreal, he was a regular 15-20 goal scorer. He could be one of the steals of free agency if he can stay healthy and produce. He will be a huge asset on the power-play as he still has one of the hardest shots in the league. It’s unknown whether he’ll work with the first or second unit of the power-play, but he’ll be valuable no matter where he is. For the Stars to succeed this year, he needs to produce points.
All in all, the Stars have an excellent group of offensive forwards. It’s the defensive side that has given them trouble during the past few years. With a new coach, scheme and a roster full of two-way fowards, we could finally see a season where Kari Lehtonen isn’t facing a firing squad every night. If these guys can do what they’re supposed to do on our side of the ice, the playoffs are definitely a possibility.