Welcome to Dallas Stars Trade Deadline Week at The Hockey Writers! The trade deadline is fastly approaching (March 21) but there is still a lot to be decided. The Stars are currently sitting in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference so these next three weeks will help narrow down exactly how they will approach the deadline.
Stars Inconsistency Is Concerning
When looking at the 2021-22 Stars season, it is hard to define. The team has surged through franchise-tying winning streaks, hit rock bottom with long losing skids, beaten some elite teams, and lost to the bottom dwellers. The theme so far has been inconsistency.
“One of our downfalls has been inconsistency, up and down,” Braden Holtby said. “That’s one thing we want to fix in this playoff push. Win or lose, you go about your business the same way the next day. That’s going to go a long way for us.”
The inconsistency has been on display as of late. Dallas was smothered by the Colorado Avalanche, losing 4-0 at home only to beat the Avs in Denver 4-1 two nights later. They nearly swept a tough road trip against four Central Divison opponents but after defeating Colorado and Chicago, lost in Arizona to the worst home team in the league. However, their overall record is 6-2-1 since the All-Star break, propelling them into a playoff spot as of today.
“For the most part, it has been good,” Bowness said when asked about his team’s intensity. “It certainly wasn’t there on Sunday [in Arizona] for two periods. Chicago was good, the game in Colorado, they’re a good team.”
Which Version of Secondary Scoring Will We See From Dallas?
Along with inconsistency, the search for secondary scoring has been a huge topic this season. Early in the year, it was nonexistent, then there was an uptick, then a downfall, and now it seems that some key players are finding their groove and supporting the dynamic top line.
Those players are Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Denis Gurianov. After slow starts for all three, each player has found a new level over the past month or so. Seguin has led the charge since moving back to center, recording 17 points (8G, 9A) over his last 17 games. Meanwhile, Benn has 10 points (4G, 6A) in his last 11, and Gurianov has been slowly trending upwards with seven points (2G, 5A) in his last 11 games.
“If you look at everyone outside the three guys that lead the way, then everyone has got a little bit more, some guys maybe a lot more,” Seguin said. “You look at the potential there, and there’s excitement, but then you also realize you’ve got to look in your own mirror. It’s like back in training camp, where we’ve got the pieces and to the eye on the paper it looks great.”
Saying that secondary scoring is important to Dallas is an understatement. As a team, the Stars have been near the bottom of the league in scoring for a few seasons. Usually, they have an elite defense to keep them balanced, but this season, even that has been up and down. I think it is completely fair to say that as long as the top line keeps going like they are, this team will only go as far as forwards like Seguin, Benn, Gurianov, and Alexander Radulov will take them.
“We’ll get a couple or three of the lines going and we can beat anybody, and then it’s a point where one line is going and then we’ve struggled,” said Stars general manager Jim Nill. “We’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t happened as much at home this season, but it has seeped in a little lately. But you can look at our road record and the fact that we’re so inconsistent and we’ve had trouble scoring beyond the top line, that’s the reason we were struggling earlier in the season.”
On top of the secondary scoring upfront, Dallas has been desperate for some production from their blue line. With dynamic skill like John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, and Ryan Suter, the Stars should be near the top of the league in defensemen goals. However, Klingberg has only recorded one goal all season while Heiskanen and Suter have combined for just eight. While the assists have been there for this group, the team needs them to start adding to the goal column as well.
“We’re implementing new things,” Rick Bowness said. “It’s about getting our defense more involved. We score goals when our defense is getting 10-15 shots a game. 5-6 shots, we don’t score any goals. When we see things, we work on them.”
Are The Stars Sellers, Buyers, Or Neither?
With some tight salary cap space, many older veterans, and a mix of young talent, it is not known how Dallas will approach the trade deadline this year. It is possible they could add some pieces for a playoff run but also realistic that they decide to go younger and move some veterans as rentals. Only time will tell.
“It’s so different this year because it’s so much later,” Jim Nill said a few weeks ago. “We have a lot of games to play before we get to the trade deadline, so a lot can happen there with injuries and how teams are playing. With the schedule we have, we’re going to be playing a lot, so we’ll know a lot more in six or seven weeks. You look at last season and while we had a condensed schedule, the road trips were a lot easier. We only traveled to a few cities, and we would stay there for two games. This year, we’re all over the continent and we still have a condensed schedule, and it’s going to be a grind for everyone. The teams that handle that grind will be the ones that succeed.”
For now, the Stars are in a dogfight for a playoff spot. After a solid month of February, they have put themselves in a much better position overall. The team believes that they are not only capable of making the postseason but also of securing a better seed and making a run.
“I think we’re just aware of where we are right now in the season,” said Seguin. “You have that at the beginning where you’re excited for the year and then halfway through, you kind of get in those dog days, every team goes through that. But we’re at the point right now where there’s that push and we’re right on the cusp. It’s exciting hockey and it’s an exciting opportunity for us. We feel like we’re all trending in the right direction.”
Latest News & Highlights
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!