Ed. Note: This month we have previewed each of the teams in the new-look Central Division. We have asked Josh Lile of Defending Big D to help us preview the Dallas Stars, as he answers 5 questions we posed to him…
1. Dallas made a lot of headlines by hiring Jim Nill (GM) and Lindy Ruff (HC). What kind of effect do you see them having right off the bat?
The hirings immediately gave the franchise credibility again. The moves orchestrated by the new leadership group after they took charge drove the point home further. The combination of the skins they both have on the wall and the ruthless way with which they went about molding the roster left no doubt about their feelings about the roster they inherited. It needs to improve. They did their part off the ice.
On the ice, the accountability Ruff brings is going to put to the test when the games begin counting. He has stressed the need for the Stars to be a better possession team. They have brought players in who fit that example. Nill comes from Detroit where possession is the name of the game. The expectation is that the Stars are going to be smart with the puck, possess it more than the opposition, and play a smarter game overall.
2. How has Valeri Nichushkin looked in preseason, and what can we expect from him this season?
He is exactly what you would expect from an incredibly talented 18-year-old Russian. Early in camp he reportedly looked less than stellar. He dominated at Traverse City. He has had spurts of offensive brilliance, including this goal he scored against the Blues where he created his own chance by stealing the puck at the blueline. He has amazing potential, but the ups and downs will be there. He likely fits in on the Stars’ third line with veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Erik Cole. He has the ability to be a dominant player in the near future, but expecting him to do so as a rookie is unfair. I don’t think a 20-goal season is out of the question, though.
3. Which off-season addition will have a bigger impact this season: Tyler Seguin or Sergei Gonchar?
Seguin, and it really isn’t close. Rich Peverley is likely going to be the second biggest impact of the new additions. Gonchar is going to help the Stars’ unimpressive power play, but Seguin is a star. He got railroaded out of Boston despite promising underlying numbers last season. Seguin gets the puck on net when he is on the ice. He and Jamie Benn have looked phenomenal together in the preseason. They are going to be one of the top lines in the conference when this season is all said and done. Given the Stars’ need at center, Seguin’s potential, and the impact he has already had on Benn, I don’t think there is much of a doubt about who will make the bigger impact.
4. How do you feel realignment impacts the Stars?
The shorter travel can’t hurt. Realignment puts the Stars back where they should be and will allow more local exposure since fewer games will start at 9 p.m. local time. The extra prime time exposure is going to make a pretty big impact.
5. What needs to happen for the Stars to break their five-year playoff drought?
They need to stay healthy, and they need their younger players to develop enough to be positive contributors. Some combination of Alex Chiasson, Jamie Oleksiak, Kevin Connauton, Brett Ritchie and Valeri Nichushkin needs see NHL success this year. Cody Eakin needs to continue to develop. None of those circumstances are outlandish. The path is there for the Stars to return to the playoffs barring something unforeseen.
You can follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshL1220