I haven't blogged since about a week after the trade deadline; that's largely due to immense amounts of important schoolwork.
The trade-deadline analysis blogs will restart once the season ends, starting over from the beginning. This is so I can include the impact that acquired players may have had on the playoffs-or-non playoffs status of the team, as well as how well that player did in the playoffs if the given team did make it.
This article, however, will focus on the fate of the Stars that likely won't be changed within the last 5 games of the season.
Firstly, the Stars would have likely have to win each of their last 5 games, and have several other teams go on losing streaks, in order to reach the playoffs. They currently sit in 12th, with 78 points.
The Stars have definitely had a strange season; they started out the year with a Conference Finals "hangover", and dropped as far as 15th in the conference at one point. They played without captain Brenden Morrow, who was injured after 18 games, and defenseman Sergei Zubov, who started the year on injured reserve and has only gotten into 10 games this year. Often going Lose-Win-Lose-Lose-Win, it was only after superpest Sean Avery, having made comments about former girlfriends and fellow NHLers, was suspended and officially kicked off the team, that the season began to turn around. The Stars then went on a relatively good streak, rocketing up the standings into a playoff position, and managed to hold onto either the 7th or 8th spot for the better part of the year until approximately the trade deadline.
It was a few games before the deadline that things began to fall apart once again. Already without Morrow and Zubov, the Stars lost the services of Brad Richards, Toby Petersen, and Fabian Brunnstrom within a matter of days. Richards suffered a fractured arm, made it back to the lineup for one game, and left partway through that game due to a broken hand, which has kept him out since. Brunnstrom has made it back and stuck in the lineup, but Petersen, perhaps the Stars' hardest worker, has yet to make a return.
The Stars attempted to offset those losses with the acquisitions of Steve Begin (from Montreal for Doug Janik) and Brendan Morrison (waivers). While each player has done his part and contributed (Morrison scored two goals including the game-winner last night against the Kings), the Stars have yet to snap out of their slump.
If the pattern continues, Dallas will most likely finish the year out of the playoffs in what might be the worst possible position.
Finishing 12th in the conference means the team doesn't make the playoffs, but has a poor chance of getting a good draft pick, likely picking 7th or 8th. While that isn't normally too bad of a spot (THN Blogger Mark Seidel ranked Magnus Svensson-Pajaarvi 7th and Landon Ferraro 8th last year), rankings change quickly, and players that have been drafted that high have still turned out to be busts on occasion.
The Stars will also have to clear some roster space over the summer; they have potential overcrowding at both center and defense once players return from injury.
The most pressing issue right now is UFA defenseman Sergei Zubov. Zubov's been a great defender since his first season in the NHL, and has been a Stars veteran since before they won the Cup. However, he's been injury riddled for the past two seasons, minimizing his contributions and making his salary seem too high for what he's done. If he doesn't retire to avoid more injury issues, I think the Stars should let Zubov test the UFA market.
However, the defense will still be crowded even with the departure of Zubov. The Stars who deserve a roster spot next season line up like this:
Stephane Robidas - Trevor Daley
Matt Niskanen - Nicklas Grossman
Darryl Sydor - Andrew Hutchinson
Mark Fistric - Ivan Vishnevskiy
Hutchinson is the most likely candidate for a trade, seeing as he doesn't have very many ties with the team. However, he played well for the Stars when he was in the lineup and his contributions are highly valued.
Vishnevskiy will likely have to play another year in the AHL, although he'll be among the first to get the call when an injury comes up. Garrett Stafford is another defenseman who could hold his own in the NHL if there were more space available for him.
The Stars will also soon find themselves to have quite the crowd at the center position. Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Mike Modano, Brendan Morrison, Toby Petersen, and Brian Sutherby have all performed well for the Stars, although Sutherby has spent a fair share of time playing wing due to the crowding. But still, Petersen doesn't deserve a year in the AHL after all he's contributed this season, and Morrison probably wouldn't be happy on the fourth line anyways. My guess is that Morrison gets traded and Sutherby plays wing on Petersen's line; the Stars were at their most consistent when the line up went Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, Petersen.
So depending on whether or not the Stars draft an out-of-nowhere-NHL-ready kid, and depending on who they trade, the ideal line up would look like this:
The goaltending most likely won't change. Turco's had his ups and downs during the year, but management probably has enough faith to let him rule the crease next year. Richard Bachman will almost definitely be the top AHL goaltender for Dallas next season.
Steve Begin's spot on the team will also likely fall into question after all the injuries are through. He was essentially hired to take the place of Toby Petersen.
Despite Begin's addition, though, the Stars are in need of a little more wing depth. The Richards-Eriksson pair has no solid left winger, and the Neal-Modano pair has no solid right winger. Richards and Eriksson could potentially get help in the next two years, when Jamie Benn decides to make the jump to the NHL. The Stars could also trade Hutchinson or Morrison for an experienced right winger to join Neal and Modano, or they could wait for Colton Sceviour to develop.
Three prospects to look for in the next two or three seasons: Jamie Benn, Colton Sceviour, and Richard Bachman. All three will be entering their first AHL seasons, and the Stars will be looking for them to develop into the leaders of the franchise's new AHL team, the Texas Stars.
Benn is the most natural scorer of the group. He's said to have lightning fast hands, and has the potential to become a Dany-Heatley-style player, although perhaps just consistently in the 30-goal range, not the 40-50 range.
Sceviour's game is similar to that of Daniel Alfredsson when it comes to the numbers game–this season, Sceviour's most productive, has him with a total of 29 goals and 51 assists for 80 points. However, Sceviour also likes to play the rough-along-the-boards game, putting him in the range of Jarome Iginla as well. While his NHL numbers and leadership might never reach that high, his potential is definitely there.
Richard Bachman is most likely the Stars' future in net, if numbers and awards can tell anything. In 2007-08, Bachman won 25 of 35 games and won player of the year and rookie of the year for the WCHA. While his 08-09 numbers aren't quite as impressive (14-11 in 35 games), he's still the top goaltender for his team and could be an AHL starter as early as next season.
To sum up the general feelings of the Stars fans, and, most likely, the Stars organization, Dallas just needs this season to be over so they can begin fresh next year.