It wasn’t long ago that the Dallas Stars were the class of the Western Conference, perennial foes of the Red Wings and Avalanche for the Western Conference title. Now, however, despite a surprising amount of talent on the roster, for whatever reason, the Stars have been left behind in the Pacific Division arms race. Even Phoenix and Los Angeles, two teams that were thought to be at least a season away from competing, made the playoffs with significantly better records than the Stars. Losing longtime legends Mike Modano and Marty Turco won’t do anybody any emotional good, but it is long past time that the Stars began a new era in their franchise.
*Offense:’ Dallas wasn’t terrible offensively last year, putting up 237 goals with four players breaking the 50-point mark. Loui Eriksson is the real deal, and he should be an integral piece of this franchise for some time. Brad Richards bounced back after an injury-plagued season to score 91 points, and provides the Stars with a legitimate top line center. Mike Ribeiro could be better than the 53 points he mustered, while James Neal and Jamie Benn both have tons of upside. Throw in Brenden Morrow, a great all-around player who can produce more than the 46 points he put up last year and this is a decently dangerous club.Grade: BDefense:Where the Stars struggled most last season was on defense, and they didn’t exactly go out and break the bank to fix it. Most of the Dallas defensemen were significantly below even in their +/-, except Mark Fistric, who somehow turned in a fantastic +27 rating over the season. The 24 year old will likely see more ice time, since aside from Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley, the Stars’ blueline is barely even recognizable. The penalty kill needs to be a lot better than they were last year when the Stars allowed 65 powerplay goals against and had the 2nd lowest success rate in the conference.Grade: D’'’Goaltending:’’’ While Marty Turco did drop off during his last three seasons in Dallas, the dearth of quality defensemen in front of him probably had alot to do with that. He’s gone, though, and the Stars will hope that Kari Lehtonen can bounce back from last year’s season-ending injury to give them some quality play in net. With Andrew Raycroft the only other option even close to a starting goalie, the Stars don’t have any other choices.Grade: C’'’Key Additions:’’’ Adam Burish, Kari Lehtonen*Key Losses:’ Mike Modano, Marty Turco