After coming up short for a fourth-straight season, the Dallas Stars look to find their bearings during this offseason and gear-up for a playoff run in 2012-2013. This season appears to be one of the most promising for the Stars franchise in the past few years. Building around their foundation of young talent and veteran experience, the Stars finally have an owner who is willing (and able) to lead the team back to a Western Conference contender.
New Faces in the Front Office
The organization has already added a few key names to the front office and management. Most notably was the recent addition of Bob Gainey, who served with the organization a decade ago during the Stars pinnacle. Gainey will be the Stars Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department. He will assist General Manager Jim Nieuwendyk, President Jim Lites, and Owner Tom Gagliardi. Gagliardi and Lites are also relatively new faces for the organization, although Lites, like Gainey, served with the franchise years ago. The fact that the Stars franchise is able to bring aboard names such as Lites and Gainey shows determination and understanding of pursuing a Stanley Cup. Lites and Gainey both have ample experience and wisdom concerning the NHL. Shoring up a strong front office and management is key to building the foundation of a strong organization.
Bringing strong leadership to the front office helps the Stars in two ways: It helps steer the franchise in the right direction, and it also helps convince prospective free agents that the Stars are going in a promising direction. What the past two years have shown is that the Dallas Stars roster is on the cusp of something special but lacks in key areas, most notably, depth. Although management tried to makeup for the loss of Richards during last offseason with multiple free agent signings, the Stars showed a streaky inability to score timely goals during this season, particularly coming down the stretch. The Stars need to add one top playmaker to complement and catalyze the other talent up front. The Stars have size and physicality up front but lack a reliable speedster to create a more well-balanced attack. Dallas also drastically needs strength and depth on their third and fourth lines. Although players such as Radek Dvorak and Eric Nystrom showed promise at times, their play was often streaky, and injuries to any player on the top lines created noticeable vacancies on the second or third lines.
Perhaps even more important than adding to the offense is filling holes on the spotty defensive corp. The addition of Sheldon Souray was a surprising addition, and the Stars would be well-suited to keep Souray in a black and green uniform. However, the Stars would still need to add at least one and probably two quality defensemen to suffice their defense. These defensemen do not need to be goal scorers or playmakers, as Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, and Souray already fit this mold. The Stars need defensemen who, more than anything, can confidently handle the puck in their own zone as well as be physical to oncoming and forechecking forwards. Opposing teams were given too much room in the Dallas zone last season. Dallas got in the habit of running around and tiring themselves out trying to quell an attack. Bringing aboard more experienced defensemen is vital to the Stars playoff hopes. The Stars should also make a point to give extensions to the better defensemen on the team, such as Goligoski.
One area of the roster that needs no changes is goaltending. Kari Lehtonen has shown himself to be the most reliable player on the team over the past two years and one of the hardest workers. Richard Bachman is a dependable backup to Lehtonen, and Bachman certainly held his own when he got the nod to man the net.
Head Coach Glen Gulutzan proved himself to be a worthy NHL coach last year. If I had to grade his rookie performance, I would give him a B or B+; even though the Stars missed the playoffs, considering the resources and tools Gulutzan was given to lead an NHL team, he did a surprising job in his first season. Gulutzan should continue to be a strong leader for the roster.
Although the past few seasons have ended in disappointment for the Dallas Stars, this offseason has more excitement and optimism than any recent year for the organization.