The Stars enter this season with the forward position as good as it’s been in a long time. The team actually has a true top-six instead of a top-four and two late line grinders and signed a couple of guys to shore up a horrific power play.
It’s a solid mix of veterans, a couple of guys in their primes on the verge of superstardom and a rather talented group of young prospects just starting their careers. All in all, I’m pretty damn optimistic about the group of forwards that the Stars are going to put onto the ice this season.
With that said, on to the previews and prognostication.
Benn has improved his numbers each year throughout his short career and the face of the franchise should have another great (albeit shortened) season this year. He’s healthy and should be more comfortable playing center in this system now.
He’ll most likely anchor a line with Loui Eriksson and Jaromir Jagr that should have Stars fans giddy with anticipation. Benn is in a golden situation with those two on the wings and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t manage a point per game pace this year. He’s got a great rapport with Loui and Jagr should take some of the load of responsibilities off of his shoulders. It’s time for Benn to really cement himself as one of the foremost sports figures in the Dallas area this year.
Benn’s been keeping in shape during the lockout by playing hockey over in Germany so he’s good to go. He would have probably been able to put career numbers again this year if it had been a full season but his half season should still be quite impressive.
2013 Prediction: 24 goals, 29 assists, 53 points, +16, 28 PIM
It’s good to be Loui Eriksson. The most consistent player on the Stars gets more help this year as he’s going to be playing with Benn and opposite Jagr. He’ll be primed to do one thing all year, shoot the puck.
It’s very tough to see a situation in which he doesn’t score at least 20 goals with the chances that he should be able to get himself this year. He’s been consistent for the last three seasons for at least 25 goals and 40 assists and should be able to get close to that many goals again (but not that many assists).
He should be able to get some numbers back on the power play with the additions of Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy to the team.
Like Benn, Loui would have easily been able to put up career numbers across the board if this had been a full season.
2013 Prediction: 24 goals, 22 assists, 46 points, +19, 2 PIM
Jagr may be 40-years-old but he can still really play and he’s absolutely tearing it up right now in the Czech Extraliga.
He’s not going to be going crazy scoring goals but should do a great job setting up Benn and Loui this season. His defensive liabilities shouldn’t be as glaring as long he’s on a line with those two guys as they can cover quite well for him.
The biggest boost from Jagr will be on the power play. He’s the type of player that can run the point in a non-Mike Ribeiro type of way that should be beneficial to the team. The travel schedule shouldn’t be too much of a problem for him.
2013 Prediction: 12 goals, 31 assists, 43 points, +14, 12 PIM
Roy is going to be a very interesting case. He’s coming off of a tough season statistically and just recently had shoulder surgery and hasn’t really been able to do much on the ice. Is he in shape? Does he know the system well enough to run the second line? Those answers should come quickly enough.
He’s had little to no time to learn the offense on the ice or to get acquainted with his teammates. Training camp is going to be an extremely important time for him to get some kind of chemistry going with (most likely) Michael Ryder and Ray Whitney.
Having those two with him should be a situation that’s perfect for him. Roy is a playmaker and he needs snipers around him. Ryder is just that and Whitney is a proven goal scorer. If he can’t handle all that just yet coming off the surgery, Whitney can take some of the playmaking duties from him.
Roy’s line could have some difficulties on the defensive side of the ice so he’ll need to work hard on that side of his game. Roy is playing for a contract this year so that should be all the motivation he needs. To top it all off, he got out of Buffalo. That’s a godsend right there. He should do well just as a thank you to the Stars for that.
2013 Prediction: 11 goals, 26 assists, 37 points, +7, 24 PIM
First off, does anyone know what Whitney has been up to this offseason? Seriously, there’s not been one peep from his for the past four months. I assume he was in hibernation to preserve his game and unleash it on opponents when the lockout ended.
All kidding aside, I was a big fan of the Whitney signing when it happened way back in June. He’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career while on a poor offensive team and is somehow as healthy as ever (played all 82 games for only the second time in his career + a deep playoff run).
He’s here just to provide offense and should do plenty of that playing with Roy and Ryder. Another big boost from him should come on the power play. Basically anything is going to be better than what the Stars threw out there last year and Whitney is a solid playmaker. I’m looking forward to watching what he brings to the team.
2013 Prediction: 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points, +12, 14 PIM
Ryder was one of the biggest surprises last year for the Stars. He led the team with career-high 35 goals (good enough for top-11 in the NHL) and for a while was the only real offensive option for the team.
This year will be interesting for Ryder. He did most of his damage last season while playing with Benn and Loui and struggled a bit when playing with other guys (guys like Ribeiro, Morrow and Ott). His 16.6 shooting percentage was also the best of his career and well above his career percentage of 12.6.
His game is going to be decided how well he meshes with Whitney and Roy. Get up to speed with them quickly and he should be a goal scoring machine again as there will be more than enough pucks to shoot. He’ll also be a key cog in the power play and should hopefully get close to double digit goals on the man advantage.
2013 Prediction: 26 goals, 14 assists, 40 points, +13, 18 PIM