The COVID-19 pandemic is still sweeping the nation, which has resulted in no details of the 2020-21 NHL season becoming set in stone. Speculation runs rampant in the discussions that feature a wildly different season, but, for the Dallas Stars, it needs to be business as usual. With talks of division realignments, hub cities, and a shortened season, the Stars have their own expectations for the upcoming season, one with high hopes and aspirations.
With their recent Stanley Cup Final appearance, the Stars are looking to win just two more games in the playoffs. However, they should strive for certain expectations to consider this a successful season. Other possibilities could put their season as a failure. Here are some of those expectations.
With talks of division realignment, the Stars likely are not staying in the Central for 2021. With COVID-19 impacting the border situation with the United States and Canada, there likely will be an all-Canada division. For realignment, we predict the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche will be joining the Stars in a division with the Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Stars eliminated two of these teams in last season’s playoffs, so the matchups could get pretty dicey. The Stars have many years in separate divisions with all of these teams minus the Golden Knights. For regular season expectations, Dallas has an opportunity to win their newly formed, temporary division.
Seguin and Bishop Get Healthy
With the injuries to forward Tyler Seguin and goaltender Ben Bishop, the Stars lose two elite players. Both have a return window starting in April and are key pieces to the team. These two players have a history of injuries, especially in the 2020 playoffs.
The Stars would like for these two to get healthy because they play pivotal roles for the team. Seguin recorded 50 points last season and Bishop was part of one of the top goaltending tandems in the league alongside Anton Khudobin. These two are great players and it’s a shame they have problems with lingering injuries.
Into the Depth: Scoring Must Step Up
Denis Gurianov was the Stars’ scoring highlight of the previous season. 20 goals seems low but he led the team in scoring. The Stars were 29th in the league with 178 goals in 69 games. With Seguin out to start the season, the depth scoring needs to step it up.
Look for Joe Pavelski, Gurianov, Joel Kiviranta, Blake Comeau, Radek Faksa, and Roope Hintz to step up their games next season. The Stars should average more goals per game than they did last season. If they don’t increase their scoring, they better rely on great defense and goaltending, otherwise the next scenario may happen.
Disaster Scenario: No Playoffs
Missing the playoffs leads to a lot of soul-searching within an organization. The Stars are looking to secure a third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After a Stanley Cup Final appearance, to miss the playoffs, as some teams have done in the past, would prove to be disastrous for the Stars. Expect them to slip into a rebuilding phase if this happens.
Unsuccessful Season: One and Done
The Stars have won a series in their last three playoff appearances, last suffering a first-round loss to the Ducks in 2014. Winning one series should be the bare minimum expectation they have for a playoff run.
The season would be unsuccessful if they only play in just one series. Getting eliminated in the opening round is a double-edged sword. Sure, a team made the playoffs, but they lost a chance to win the draft lottery while doing so.
Win a Game 7
This one may or may not be an important stepping stone to a Stanley Cup. The Stars have a strange history with Game 7s. A team can go the whole playoffs without playing in a Game 7. The Tampa Bay Lightning never played in a Game 7 this summer while on their way to a second Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Kings won three consecutive Game 7s on their way to a Stanley Cup in 2014.
The St. Louis Blues handed the Stars a soul-crushing defeat in 2019 during double overtime of Game 7 in the second round. The Stars erased many years of frustration in that particular round and game after defeating the Avalanche in 2020. Their next Game 7 will be their eighth since the team moved to Dallas – they are currently 3-4, with all wins coming against the Avs.
2021 Stanley Cup Champions
Every team that doesn’t enter a season with Stanley Cup hopes sells themselves short. The ultimate prize is something people spend their entire careers looking for. Stars captain Jamie Benn is looking to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship after coming just two wins shy last season. The Stars are looking for their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, and they have the talent and experience to win in 2021.
What Determines a Successful Season?
As previously mentioned, winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize the Stars should strive for this season. Another Western Conference Final appearance would put 2021 as a success for the Stars. Even though we don’t know the current playoff format yet, the Stars should at least set their sights on winning a playoff series or two.
Being eliminated in Round 2 like they were in 2016 and 2019 was a real stinger. A “deep” playoff run means you made it to the Conference Final and that would be considered a success for not only the Stars but any team.
Every team wants to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. The Stars surprised people last season with their Stanley Cup Final appearance. They know what it takes to win the Stanley Cup and what it’s like to lose after being so close. The Stars have everything it takes to win it all in 2021. Although the ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup, they can do other things to call the season a success. A Western Conference Final appearance and a division championship are just some of the aspirations the Stars can check off.
Whatever happens, let’s just hope we at least have NHL hockey in 2021.