The Dallas Stars have one of the best all-around teams in the Western conference.
However, they are getting older, so they only have a short window left to be competing for the Stanley Cup.
Forwards: Mike Ribeiro finally had his breakout year last year. A former Montreal Canadien, Riberio was seen as a diver, and was traded for a seventh defenceman. But last year, he set career highs in goals (27), assists (56), points (83), and plus-minus (21).
While Riberio could be on the upside of his career, the other Mike on the team, Mike Modano, is on the way down. He has been with the Stars since they were known as the Minnesota North Stars (he and Joe Sakic must hold the longest active streak for a player staying with one team). Modano may not be the captain, but he is certainly the leader of this team.
It will be interesting to see what Brad Richards does with a full season with the Stars. He had 11 points in 12 games last year after the trade from Tampa, but that can be a little misleading, as he had a five-assist game in there. Still, he’ll now have a whole season to get used to his new linemates.
Defence: Sergei Zubov is a great offensive defencemen. But he was hampered by injuries last year, and is starting off the season on the injury list this year. He’s getting older, which isn’t helping either. But he’ll be dangerous whenever he plays.
Philippe Boucher is another Stars defenceman who was injured last season, playing in only 38 games. This was coming off a career year for him, so hopefully this won’t stop any momentum or confidence he may have been building.
Stephane Robidas benefited the most from the injuries, as he established himself as more of a presence in the league and with the team, especially in the playoffs when he came back from a broken nose to help his team win its first round matchup.
Goaltending: While most people agree that Marty Turco is a great goalie, his name isn’t brought up when people talk about the best goalies in the Western conference. He’s always consistently good, is a great puckhandler, will steal games for the team when needed. What more do you want from your top goalie?
Pool picks: Jere Lehtinen may be off the radar screen for most folks, but the right winger had 37 points in 48 games last year. Over an 82-game season, that equals 63 points. Not great numbers, but he could be worth a gamble. Stay away from: Philippe Boucher. The defenceman looked like he was on his way up with 19 goals and 51 points a couple of years ago, but injuries held him back last year. He needs another decent year before he should be considered.
Miscellaneous: Sean Avery is a superpest. He knows you hate him, and he likes it. It makes him be even more of a pest. Sometimes he takes it too far, but he knows how to get under other players’ skin. However, if you ignore him, it throws him off his game. He’ll do his job and chip in with the odd goal.
Expected finish: First in the Pacific division, second in the Western conference.
Overall: The Stars will be better than they were last year, simply because they’re injured players are back. And that’s scary, considering they had 97 points and 45 wins last year. That is enough to get them over the hump and win a strong division.