With the NHL currently sitting in the middle of a mandatory COVID-19 break, it feels like a good time to reflect. The Dallas Stars made some big changes this summer, bringing in some new faces while losing some familiar ones. Let’s see how those recently departed players have faired since leaving Big D.
Andrew Cogliano was a staple on the Stars checking line for years. Along with Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau, the well-known “F-C-C” line consistently shut down the opponents’ best offensive players. While they were never going to lead the team in scoring, they were more than capable of pitching in a few goals when needed most. Last season, however, was Cogliano’s worst offensively, recording only 11 points total.
After the season, Dallas parted ways with Cogliano as they had many similar players in the organization they believed could grow into that role while producing a bit more offensively. In his first year with the San Jose Sharks, Cogliano has played a familiar role. Spending most of his time on the fourth line, he continues to excel, killing penalties and outworking most players on the ice. The offense has not come easy this year either as he currently sits at just seven points through the first few months of the season.
Always a fan favorite in Dallas, Jason Dickinson was the do-it-all player for the Stars. Throughout his years with the team, he played just about every position on every line, killed penalties, took faceoffs, and added some offense, including four overtime-winning goals. To put it simply, the Stars were a better team with Dickinson on the ice. Unfortunately, as the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft neared, he was the odd man out upfront.
Not being able to protect him, Dallas decided to trade him to the Vancouver Canucks before the draft to ensure they received something in return. In his first season in Vancouver, Dickinson has continued to show his versatility all over the ice. His offense has not shown much, currently with only four points at this point in the season but he holds a plus-3 rating and plays around 15 minutes per game.
Sami Vatanen was only a Dallas Star for nine games at the end of last season. He played his minutes on the bottom pairing and did not produce any points but he did provide Dallas a much-needed veteran presence and stability on the backend. After the Stars missed the playoffs, Vatanen was not re-signed and actually ended up leaving the NHL altogether. He currently plays for Geneve-Servette of the Swiss National League.
Mark Pysyk was an interesting addition to the Stars roster. The defenseman had an up-and-down career and most recently was swapping between defense and forward for the Florida Panthers in 2019-20. In his only season with Dallas, Pysyk played the same role, filling in wherever needed on any given night. He added four points that mostly came while playing forward and was not re-signed after the season. In his first season with the Buffalo Sabres, he has recorded six points, still bouncing around between positions and helping the team any way he can.
Justin Dowling was an excellent teammate. Although he spent most of his time as a healthy scratch, 12th forward, or even dropping back and forth between the American Hockey League and the NHL, you would never know it by his attitude or personality. He was an extremely hard-working player that never complained, finding ways to help his team win when he did draw into the lineup. He scored his first NHL goal in Dallas during the 2019-20 season, a beautiful goal off the rush that he actually duplicated the following night.
Last season, he added five points in 27 games, including a two-point night against the Detroit Red Wings. After being released in the summer, Dowling signed along with teammate Jason Dickinson, with the Canucks. In a similar role this season, Dowling has recorded three points in 17 games.
Last but not least, Jamie Oleksiak. Standing at 6-foot-7, the “Big Rig” came alive in his second stint with the Stars after being traded to and from the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his return, he found a home on the second defensive pairing alongside young superstar, Miro Heiskanen. The two played off each other perfectly, playing consistent defense while also both adding to the offense. Their best moment was without a doubt their performance during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs when both players dominated on both ends of the ice.
Oleksiak was a physical force that gave Dallas a presence that they desperately needed to play against the big Central Division. While his defense was his strength, he found a way to surprise fans and his opponents with an incredible goal off the rush at least once per season.
Similar to Dickinson, the Stars were in a tough spot with Oleksiak when it came to the Seattle Draft. With his recent performance and his contract coming to an end, the big defenseman was due a substantial raise and Dallas simply could not afford to bring him back. In the end, they left him unprotected and unsigned and the Kraken scooped him up just like that. In 29 games with Seattle, Oleksiak has tallied 10 points, holds a plus-1 rating, and usually plays over 20 minutes per game. That is not too shabby playing for a team that sits near the bottom of the NHL standings overall.
While the Stars mostly found key replacements for the names above, there is no doubt that they are missed both on and off the ice. With each player finding a new home across the NHL and even in Switzerland, it gives Stars’ fans something to keep their eye on other than their hometown team.
Sam Nestler is a 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 NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!