Last season the Dallas Stars had the best record in the Western Conference, so it would be natural to expect them to pick up where they left off. Through the first five games of the season, the Stars are 2-2-1. Each new season brings about change. Going into this season, the Stars said goodbye to steady veterans Vernon Fiddler, Travis Moen, Colton Sceviour, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Kris Russell.
While some change is always expected, the Stars were also hit with unexpected changes due to offseason/preseason injuries, etc. Last season’s impressive rookie forward Mattias Janmark, is out until April, if he comes back at all this season. All purpose forward Cody Eakin also went down in preseason, but is expected back in November. Valeri Nichushkin went back to Russia. Meanwhile, captain Jamie Benn and his sharpshooting sidekick Tyler Seguin missed most of training camp recovering from injuries.
Adam Cracknell was drafted in 2004 back when the NHL draft was nine rounds . He was selected 279th overall by Calgary or 16 picks after Washington selected longtime Texas Stars forward Travis Morin. Cracknell only has 13 career goals in 139 NHL games, so don’t expect him to keep up this season’s pace of two in five games. Though not fleet of foot, the 31-year-old native of Prince Albert plays a heavy game. He leads all Stars in 5×5 Corsi (64.0) Ahead and 5×5 Fenwick (65.0) Ahead.
Kari Lehtonen is tied with Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby for 7th overall in save percentage at .924. Four games is a small sample size but Lehtonen, who turns 33 years old in less than a month is off to a great start.
Devin Shore continues to impress with his composure with the puck and is nose for attacking the net. Created a nice scoring chance just now.
— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) October 23, 2016
Devin Shore started off last season by scoring 15 goals in 23 games for the Texas Stars. However, a shoulder injury ended his season. In the early going this season, coach Lindy Ruff has been impressed with Shore’s game. The rookie has one goal and three assists thru five games. He’s tied with Jamie Benn for second in team scoring.
Antti Niemi is 1-0 despite giving up seven goals in less than 87 minutes of hockey this season. It’s a tiny sample size, but being pulled in one of the two games he’s appeared in, is not a great start. His .873 save percentage is good for 48th among NHL goaltenders.
John Klingberg must know what Aaron Rodgers feels like (well, that is until last Thursday when Rodgers may have busted out of his slump). Through five games, Klingberg’s two assists leave him tied with Jordie Benn. He doesn’t seem as assertive in his decision-making with or without the puck. Perhaps he is still getting used to new D partners after Goligoski’s departure. Klingberg led all Stars last season with a 55.64 Corsi in 5×5 play. So far this season he is 15th with a 46.26 Corsi in 5×5 play.
Injuries continue to plague the Stars. A brutal hit by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb caused Patrick Sharp to suffer a concussion. The Stars placed Sharp on injured reserve retroactive to October 20th. Currently, his return date is unknown. The Stars also lost forward Patrick Eaves the same night. Eaves injury (lower body) is considered day-to-day. Also, the Stars placed newcomer Jiri Hudler on injured reserve while he recovers from an illness.
Stars overall play has been pretty ugly. Due to the injuries and free agency the Stars are a different team than the team that ended last season. Also, Seguin and Benn having missed most of training camp are still working their way back timing-wise. Ales Hemsky returned for last night’s 3-0 loss to Columbus and appeared to have good jump. It’s only a matter of time before the Stars big guns play through the rust.
Hockey Fights Cancer
Finally, a stick tap to Trevor Strader for doing a great job singing the national anthem before the puck dropped. Strader is the son of Stars broadcaster Dave Strader who is battling cancer. Keep Strader and his family in your prayers.
I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree is Sociology from Bridgewater State College. I have covered amateur hockey prospects with Texas roots for the scoutingreport.org, and I am a Dallas Stars writer for The Hockey Writers. I can be reached via Twitter @EdTexmass09.