The St. Louis Blues will meet their Central Division rivals 26 times during the regular season, which includes three matchups against the Dallas Stars. How will they fare against a team that rosters several veterans infused with several high-end youthful players making their way into the NHL? Let’s find out.
2021-22 Record: 46-30-6 (98 points – Lost in first round against Calgary Flames)
Notable Additions: Mason Marchment, Colin Miller, Riley Barber, Will Butcher
Notable Losses: John Klingberg, Vladislav Namestikov, Alexander Radulov, Braden Holtby
Blues 2021-22 Season Series Against Colorado: 3-1-0
Stars Looking to Contend for Cup
Over the last three seasons, the Stars have a record of 106-73-28. They have punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs twice, once to the Final. The team has a multitude of highly paid veterans on their roster, infused with several youthful members taking the reigns and lead on the franchise. This coming season will be a large indicator determining the state of the team and the direction they are heading in as they look to make their way out of transition and make their way back to the Cup Finals.
Opening the 2022-23 season, the top line in Dallas is projected to be occupied by Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski. The trio was well and above the most productive forwards on the team, combining for 103 goals and 232 points. Pavelski continues to defy Father Time by producing at a point-per-game rate this past season and amassing 163 points over 205 games during his three seasons in Dallas, all of which have been at or over the age of 35.
While the club is beginning to see a new wave of Stars players earning roles in the NHL, the team also has multiple aging veterans that are experiencing significant regression at a costly rate. The duo of Seguin and Benn are no longer the key players of the Stars lineup moving forward despite costing the combined cap hit of $19.35 million this coming season. Seguin returned from significant surgical repairs after undergoing hip arthroscopy and labral repair in November 2020 and a knee scope one month later. At only 30 years old, he could still rebound and prove his worth. However, at $9.85 million per season, he would need to see a substantial increase in point production from his 24-goal, 49-point season.
Over the offseason, the Stars brought in 27-year-old Mason Marchment after inking a four-year, $18 million contract. The forward has only played three seasons in the NHL, scoring 58 points (20 goals, 38 assists) in 91 games. The team seems poised to use the combined size and speed of Marchment, Radek Faksa, and Luke Glendening on their third line.
The coming season brings options for the Stars’ fourth line. While he is no longer the player he once was, Benn can still produce in all areas of the ice and could benefit from a reduced role. Over the final month of the season, he averaged 16:36 of time on ice with one goal and seven points over 16 games. Benn is a player that could be moved up and down the lineup while contributing in various ways. Alongside him, players such as Joel Kiviranta, Jacob Peterson, and Marian Studenic could all see time and be asked to play a defensive role for the team.
The Stars have two prospects in Ty Dellandrea and Wyatt Johnston, who could crack their way into the lineup this coming season. After a 50-point campaign in the American Hockey League, Dellandrea seems poised for a jump to the NHL and could likely earn a role on the team’s third line. The 19-year-old Johnston remains a wild card heading into training camp. After scoring 124 points (46 goals, 78 assists) over 68 games for the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he continued his offensive tear with 14 goals and 41 points over 25 games in the postseason. The team could use both players as depth scoring options throughout training camp and the preseason, which could be useful should the aging veterans continue to regress.
The Stars’ defense should see very little change this coming season. The club’s top pairing should remain the same with Ryan Suter and Miro Heiskanen. In his first season with the Stars, Suter (37) produced 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) over a full 82-game season, along with three assists in seven playoff games. The 23-year-old Heiskanen averaged just under 25 minutes of time on ice this past season, recording five goals and 36 points over 70 games. The departure of Klingberg could result in an increase in point totals as he enters his fifth season in the NHL.
The second pairing unit projects the combination of Esa Lindell and Jani Hakanpaa. The two were paired with one another through various points in the 2021-22 season but could see fluctuating deployment as Hakanpaa is one of only two right-handed defensemen currently on the roster. The two defensemen will look to contribute secondary offense and a physical, defensive mindset as well. Last season, Hakanpaa averaged just over three hits per game while blocking one to two shots as well.
The club projects their third pairing to be filled by Thomas Harley and Colin Miller. The 21-year-old, Harley, saw his first NHL season last year, playing in 34 games. He could be paired alongside the 29-year-old Miller for the 2022-23 season. The newly signed Miller has played seven seasons in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres, the Boston Bruins, and Vegas Golden Knights. The combination of the two defensemen could be a sneaky unit for Dallas this season as both are skilled puck-moving defensemen capable of chipping in offensively.
In net, the Stars have turned the page to their new franchise starting goaltender, Jake Oettinger. The 23-year-old has played only 77 regular season games over his first two seasons in the NHL with a stunning 2.46 goals-against average (GAA), a .913 save percentage (SV%), and 12.1 goals saved above average (GSAA). It was during the team’s 2021-22 playoff run against the Flames that he caught the eye of the nation. Oettinger started all seven games for the Stars, where he saw an average of 37 shots against per game, including 67 shots against during a Game 7 overtime loss.
Oettinger will be paired with 30-year-old goaltender Scott Wedgewood as his backup netminder throughout the year. Appearing in only eight games for the Stars last season, he recorded a 3-1-3 record with a 3.04 GAA and a .913 SV%. Wedgewood has yet to settle into an organization after playing for his third team in four seasons. This year, he will look to build off of his 2021-22 performances that saw him play for New Jersey, Arizona, and Dallas.
How Do the Blues Match Up?
With a mixture of veterans and youth filling out the team’s lineup, the Stars are a team currently in transition. This coming season, the team should see consistent starts in net from Jake Oettinger, who only faced the Blues twice, posting a 1-1 record, allowing five goals on 65 shots. The team has the talent and ability to compete under the newly appointed head coach Pete Deboer. The two teams will see each other three times over the 2022-23 season, with the Blues currently favored. However, the Stars are a team that is ranked closely behind and could prove to be pesky opponents this season that could play well enough to sweep the series.