Dallas Stars 2021-22 Season Preview

The bubble saw the Stars make a shocking run to the Stanley Cup Finals, behind a tough defense and great goaltending from Anton Khudobin. They lost to the Lightning, but they put everything on the line. That showed when the injuries in the playoffs carried over in 2020-21. Most notably, Tyler Seguin missed most of the season. It was a rough season for the Stars, but as they get healthy, the scene does get brighter for this upcoming season.

Offseason additions: D Ryan Suter, G Braden Holtby, F Luke Glendening, D Jani Hakanpaa, F Michael Raffl.

Offseason subtractions: D Jamie Oleksiak, F Jason Dickinson, F Andrew Cogliano, D Mark Pysyk, D Sami Vatanen.

Forwards

The return of Tyler Seguin is going to be a huge storyline for the Stars this season. Seguin missed nearly all of the season with a torn labrum, before returning for the final three games. He did score twice in those games, showing that he still has the scoring touch. While Seguin may not have fallen off just yet, his longtime winger Jamie Benn may have. Benn played in 52 games last year and scored just 11 goals with 35 points. For the first time since 2016-17 and for just the third time in his career, Benn did not reach triple-digit hits. Also missing most of the season was Alex Radulov after he had core muscle surgery. He was played his best hockey through his eleven games, scoring four goals with eight assists. That line, which has been Dallas’ go-to for many seasons, may have been usurped last season. Veteran Joe Pavelski had a great season, as he was a dominant two-way player at age 36. He scored 25 goals with 51 points in 56 games, both of which led the team. Entering the final year on his contract, Pavelski was the team’s best player last year and intends to do the same in 2021-22. Rookie Jason Robertson, a 2017 second-round pick, busted on to the scene to become a legitimate Calder Trophy threat. He ended up becoming the runner-up, but he still had a great season. Robertson scored 17 goals with 45 points in 51 games. He went on a heater in late March and early April, with 11 goals and 16 assists coming in about 40 days. Roope Hintz is the third player on the line and easily the most forgotten, despite being the only one on the team to average over a point-per-game. In 41 games, he scored 15 goals with a career-high 43 points. Hintz also finished sixth in Lady Byng voting. Denis Gurianov had a huge breakout 2019-20 season, especially in the playoffs. He followed that up with a solid campaign, scoring 12 goals with 18 assists for a career-high 30 points in 55 games. With how Dallas’ top-six works out, he gets shafted a bit, but will move up should there be an injury. Center Radek Faksa was a consistent scorer a few years ago, but had a rough season in 2020-21. Faksa scored just six times with 14 points. He also had exactly 100 hits with 30 penalty minutes. Top prospect Ty Dellandrea had six points in eight AHL games and also got 26 games of NHL experience. He scored three times with a pair of assists. Dellandrea gives the Stars flexibility at center and wing. Playoff legend Joel Kiviranta may never have to buy anything in Dallas ever again for his performance in game seven of round two in 2019-20. He had a solid 26 game season in 2020-21, scoring six times with five assists. Veteran leader Blake Comeau reached the 100 hit mark for the eighth consecutive season, and for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. He does not bring much on offense, with just 14 points last year, but he is a fine fourth line player. After spending the first eight seasons of his career in Detroit, Luke Glendening has come to Dallas. The fourth line center received Selke votes in each of the past two seasons and can be a decent penalty killer. His greatest skill, however, is face-offs. Glendening won an amazing 60.9 percent of draws he took in 2020-21. Another veteran joining the Stars is winger Michael Raffl. Raffl was a clutch player in the 2020 bubble for Philadelphia, scoring four goals in nine games. He was traded to Washington at the deadline last year, but did nothing in four playoff games. He had 11 points in 44 regular season games. Tanner Kero is a depth option. He got into 39 games for the Stars last year, with ten points.

Defensemen

The Stars made the move to lock up Miro Heiskanen this offseason. You can argue that his $8.45 million cap hit was high, but he has developed into a star. Heiskanen carried the team in the bubble and had another solid season in 2020-21. He is not the most physical defenseman, but he is talented and a great skater. Heiskanen scored eight goals with 27 points in 55 games last year. The Stars did lose out on big defensive Jamie Oleksiak when the Kraken took him in the expansion draft right before he would have been a free agent. The replacement is Ryan Suter, the 36-year-old veteran. Suter can still play, but the four years the Stars gave him is concerning. In his final year as a Wild, Suter had 19 points in all 56 games. John Klingberg’s offensive production has dropped over the past few seasons. He did have a nice 36-point season in 53 games last year, for an 82 game pace of 57 points. Klingberg’s prime has not been as nice as his youth, where he did not get paid enough. With an expiring contract, this could be his final year with the team. Esa Lindell has been a good second-pairing defensive defender next to Klingberg. For the second time in his career, Lindell had triple-digit hits and blocked shots. After a big offensive season in 2018-19, Lindell has not scored much. Veteran Andrej Sekera, once a threat to put up 30 points in a season, was sheltered a ton last year. Sekera averaged less than 16 minutes a game last year with just five points. Physical, right-handed shot defender Jani Hakanpaa comes to Dallas after playing in a league-high 57 games last season. Split between Anaheim and Carolina, Hakanpaa made 215 hits, second to just Radko Gudas among defensemen. Journeyman Joel Hanley got into a career-high 35 games last year. He has scored more goals in the Stanley Cup Finals than in the regular season. 2019 first-round pick Thomas Harley is also an option after he had 25 points in 38 AHL games.

Goalies

The status of Ben Bishop is still unknown at the time. The veteran net minder missed all of last year with a torn meniscus, and it remains to be seen when he will return. For now, the Stars have three NHL goalies, not including Bishop. Anton Khudobin led the league in save percentage in 2019-20, but that dropped all the way to .905 last year, along with a 2.54 GAA. Splitting time with him last year was rookie Jake Oettinger, who impressed, with a .911 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA. A tandem of Khudobin and Oettinger with the prospect of Bishop returning at some point would be good enough on its own. But then the Stars decided to give Braden Holtby $2 million. The former Vezina winner has completely fallen off as he has reached the age of 30. In 21 games for Vancouver, Holtby had a 3.67 GAA with a .889 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski – Jason Robertson

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alex Radulov

Denis Gurianov – Radek Faksa – Ty Dellandrea

Joel Kiviranta – Luke Glendening – Blake Comeau

Extras: Michael Raffl, Tanner Kero

Ryan Suter – Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg

Andrej Sekera – Jani Hakanpaa

Extras: Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger

Extras: Braden Holtby

Prediction

The Central Division could easily have five playoff teams this year. The question is, are the Stars one of them? They did not exactly have a flashy offseason, but it fits their team, one that is not flashy themselves. They are solid in every category, but not truly elite anywhere. Still, they will capture that second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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