The Dallas Stars have had a whirlwind of a season so far. The team started off slow and sluggish, with many of their veteran players struggling to find their groove. They had a few moments in October where things looked as though they were going to turn around, and they didn’t. But now, with their top line of Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski, the Stars have found it, whatever it is to them. Even the usual top players like Jamie Benn and John Klingberg are suddenly finding their game. With how the Stars have been playing lately, it almost feels like the beginning of a new era, much like Stars fans experienced 10 years ago. Just like today’s team, yesterday’s Stars were also trying to find their identity.
Let’s enjoy a glimpse into the past — a decade ago when the Stars roster was made up of almost entirely different skaters and embarking on a season with a very different team — and compare it to the Stars as they are now.
Playoff Possibilities for Current Stars
The Stars started the season off looking less than optimal. Now, while it may have seemed impossible, they are currently sitting third in the Central Division, which seemed like a faraway dream a few weeks ago, with six wins in their last six games. In their last 10 games, their record is 8-2-0, and after each game, it seems they crawl further and further to the top of their division.
They are starting to look more and more like the Stars of the 2019-20 season, who made it to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning — the first time they had done so in 20 years.
But back in 2011, the Stars dominated their pre-season, only losing once to the Colorado Avalanche. In October, their season began to pick up, seeing more wins than losses. Then November hit, and the team seemed to have lost their stride — the opposite of the current Stars team now. The rest of the season remained pretty inconsistent, despite a winning streak near the end of February, and the Stars finished the season after losing their last five games in a row. They struggled during the second half of the season, much like the 2021-22 Stars did for much of the start of the season.
Benn was one of the team’s top goal scorers that 2011-12 season, tied with Loui Eriksson with 26 goals. Eriksson also finished the season with the most points at 68.
The team didn’t make the playoffs that season, despite having a winning record of 42-35-5. The Stars of today actually look as though they have may have a shot at playing past the regular season if they continue to have consistency in their game.
Stars Goaltender Difference Over a Decade
Kari Lehtonen was solid for the Stars in net during 2011-12, ending the season with a .922 save percentage. He was their go-to netminder, with Richard Bachman and Andrew Raycroft serving as backups. He also played in his 300th NHL game that season.
That goaltender situation was a far cry from the 2021-22 Stars, who are still in a “goaltender pickle,” with Braden Holtby putting up stellar performances with a .927 save percentage, Jake Oettinger showing consistent promise between the pipes, Anton Khudobin struggling to dominate, and Ben Bishop set to go to the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League (AHL) to play three games and evaluate his playing condition post-injury (The Athletic, ”Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop will have conditioning stint in AHL”, Dec.6, 2021).
Bishop will play with the Texas Stars on Thursday. He said three games should be enough to allow him to know where things are at. Texas plays Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. https://t.co/VPrbigRWXn— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) December 6, 2021
While it seems like the 2011-12 Stars had their goaltender situation figured out, the 2021-22 Stars are still figuring out who is their true starter, although Holtby is making a strong case for himself.
Klingberg’s First NHL Year
During the 2011-12 season, many NHL youngsters broke onto the professional scene. Among them were some well-known names of today — Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith, Jamie Oleksiak and current Stars defenseman John Klingberg. While the other three players have moved on to other NHL teams, Klingberg settled into Dallas. It still remains the only NHL team he’s ever played for.
He signed with the Stars in 2011 on a 3-year entry contract and bounced around between Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Elite League and Frölunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League, as well as Texas in the AHL, before landing with the Stars permanently in 2014-15. He wore an “A” on his chest in the 2017-18 season and has been sporting it ever since. Needless to say, the signing of the defenseman in 2011 was an important, and now pivotal, move the Stars made.
During his first season, it didn’t seem like the Swede was going to become an integral part of the team. Ten years later, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A New Era Without Mike Modano
Longtime face of the Dallas franchise Mike Modano left the Stars during the 2009-10 season, and ended his professional career after playing with the Detroit Red Wings for one year. The centre had been with the Stars before the team moved to Dallas (after being the Minnesota North Stars). The 2011 Stars were in a state of transition as new players came in and current players began to rise. Fans were upset to see Modano go, despite the fact that he was no longer the player he once was.
The 2011-12 season was the start of a new era for the Stars, with Glen Gulutzan starting as their new head coach and no superstar player for fans to believe in. The team was still “figuring it out” and fighting a bad habit of playing an inconsistent game.
Now in the 2021-22 season, the Stars are finding their feet after a rocky start, putting up wins, showing consistency, with not one but several faces to their franchise, with several other players proving they’re meant to play in Dallas.
Ten years have passed since the 2011-2012 season, and the Stars are showing now more than ever that they aren’t that team anymore. They aren’t even close.
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Raylene Lung is a journalist based in Ottawa and has a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University. She has previously written for The Victory Press, The Hockey News, Canadian Geographic and most recently worked at CBC Edmonton. She still reads magazines religiously and loves women’s hockey. When she isn’t writing, she is riding her horse. She currently covers the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers.