It didn’t take long after the final horn sounded last season before the Dallas Stars began making widespread changes. GM Jim Nill and head coach Lindy Ruff were hired. The organization unveiled a new logo and uniforms. Most importantly, the team made noise by adding several veteran free agents. The question is, which of these veterans will shine the brightest in their debut Stars season?
Tyler Seguin – Seguin grabbed the headlines as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal which sent Loui Eriksson and a handful of prospects to the Boston Bruins. A former second overall pick, Seguin has reams of talent and in three years has proven adept at scoring, but allegations of immaturity and off-ice behavior surfaced at the end of his tenure in Beantown. Fans have to wonder why Boston would part with the youngster who at 21 may still be years from displaying his full potential. How fast he adapts to a larger role (likely as the top line center) will be critical in determining his impact.
Rich Peverley – Seguin’s less-heralded Bruins teammate joins the Stars as a reliable journeyman who is a versatile forward that can slide into any spot on the third or fourth line. Having spent the past couple of seasons in Boston, he knows what it takes in the way of hard work and sound fundamentals to succeed in the NHL. He’ll compete with the team’s stable of young forwards for playing time.
Shawn Horcoff – The longtime Edmonton Oilers captain comes to the Stars with a good/bad reputation: he’s great at faceoffs and strengthens the team down the middle, but is also injury prone. At 34, Horcoff may be on the downside of his career but when he’s on the ice, he’s a proven leader who gives the team a reliable third or fourth line center.
Dan Ellis – In the years since Ellis last donned a Stars sweater, his performance was all over the charts. The hope is he gives team a more reliable backup than the now departed Richard Bachman or the unproven Cristopher Nilstorp (assuming Nilstorp doesn’t outplay him in the preseason). Given that Kari Lehtonen is arguably the team’s best player and that Ruff prefers to ride a star goalie for 65-70 games, Ellis won’t see the ice much unless Lehtonen suffers an injury. If he can come close to providing the reliable netminding Lehtonen does for 10-15 games, he’ll have done his job.
Sergei Gonchar – The Stars fielded one of the league’s youngest defensive corps last season and at times, it appeared the newbies were in over their head. With Gonchar, the Stars get a grizzled warrior who can still contribute offensively but adds a much-needed veteran presence. His years of experience as a power play quarterback could help Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley develop into the well-rounded point of attack Gonchar was in his heyday.
Performance on the ice will determine which of these newcomers does the most to help the Stars improve and hopefully return to the playoffs after a five year drought. They’re each in Dallas to fill a different need, but my prediction is Gonchar will have the greatest overall impact as he stabilizes the back end with his sound discipline and mentorship of the youngsters.