For quite some time now, various things have prevented me from blogging, school and working with my band, Drayned (myspace.com/drayneband) amongst them.
However, tonight I managed to secure some time to write.
Let's start with examining the changes made by the Dallas Stars since I last checked in:
New Players: The Stars have added Alex Auld, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, and Warren Peters through free agency/trade over the summer so far.
With Tobias Stephan and Brent Krahn failing to provide a steady back-up presence in goal, and prospects Tyler Beskorowany, Matt Climie, and Richard Bachman needing seasoning with the new Texas Stars AHL team, the Stars brought in Alex Auld from the Ottawa Senators. Auld was a surprise last season, coming from a reputation of inconsistency to ursurp Martin Gerber as the Sens starter. However, he failed to stay at that level of performance, and became expendable after Brian Elliot showed some strong play and the Senators traded for Pascal Leclaire. With Marty Turco perfectly capable of bouncing back from last season's poor play, Auld will be a reliable veteran back-up, the likes of which haven't been seen in Dallas in several seasons.
A combination of age and salary cap limits have forced the Stars to let longtime fan-favorite defenders Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor test the free agent market. Zubov, facing the trials of age and injury, managed only 10 games this past season. However, his leadership will be sorely missed. Darryl Sydor is a consistent defenseman who will surely have a solid NHL job in another location this coming season. He's been on a couple Stanley Cup teams.
To make up for the loss of these two defenders, the Stars have brought in Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka. Skrastins is a servicable defender who had an iron man streak for many seasons. He'll be a solid veteran addition. Woywitka had a tough time breaking into the NHL, but last season he was a steady presence for the St. Louis Blues.
However, the Stars have a serviceable crew of Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas, Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, and Andrew Hutchinson already signed. Skrastins will surely get a role, perhaps replacing Fistric, but Woywitka and Hutchinson will have to vie for ice time in training camp, and one of Fistric, Woywitka, and Hutchinson will have to accept a role as a veteran leader in the AHL.
Up front, the Stars only added Warren Peters, who is likely to accept an AHL job. The Stars will have Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards returning from injury, leaving the following players vying for ice time (listed by official stars.nhl.com positions):
CENTER: Mike Ribeiro, Mike Modano, Brad Richards, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, Tom Wandell
LEFT WING: Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson, Fabian Brunnstrom, James Neal
RIGHT WING: Jere Lehtinen, Krystofer Barch
Now, obviously, a couple players will swing over to play right wing, most likely Steve Ott and Brian Sutherby. Left wing presents a problem, as Morrow, Eriksson, Brunnstrom, and Neal can all play roles as scorers. Morrow and Neal can play top line roles, but Brunnstrom is the only one suited for a third-line-scorer role. Wandell will be a top center with the Texas Stars, and Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, and Petersen had no problems last season being on the lines they were.
The lines could then play out as such:
Last season developed some chemistry which will be interesting to work out. While Morrow was injured, Steve Ott took a role as enforcer/scorer on his line. Not long after, the line of Ott-Ribeiro-Lehtinen became one of the Stars' most productive, and most efficient at creating scoring chances. Ott reached career highs of 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points. Whether he can return to that level on a line with Eriksson and Richards remains to be seen, if the lines are formed as predicted above.
The other major change the Stars made during the summer was the decision to no longer go with the dual GM role of Les Jackson and Brett Hull. Replacing the duo is former Maple Leafs, Panthers, Devils, Flames, and Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk's hiring was accepted happily by many fans, as he was a fan favorite during his days with the Stars, and won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1999.
In the 2009 NHL draft, the Stars chose Scott Glennie, Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith, Tomas Vincour, and Curtis McKenzie. While none of those players had big enough names to come out from under the shadow of John Tavares and Victor Hedman, they caught the eyes of Stars personnel.
Scott Glenie: A right winger for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL for the last two seasons, Glennie is a speedy playmaker. Last season he scored 28 goals and 42 assists in only 55 games. He also cut his penalty minute total in half, from 50 PIMs in his first season (during which he scored 26 goals and 32 assists) to 25 PIMs in 08-09. He'll likely play another year of junior before enduring some AHL seasoning.
Alex Chiasson: Another right winger, Chiasson played for the Des Moines Bucaneers in 08-09. A tough playmaker, Chiasson scored 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points in 56 games, while garnering 101 PIMs. He'll need a few more years of seasoning before attempting to crack the lineup.
Reilly Smith: In light of the lack of true right wingers with the Stars, Smith, yet another right winger, was drafted out of the OPJHL as a long-term project. In 08-09, Smith played in 13 games with the St. Michael's Buzzers, scoring 2 goals and 7 assists. He also had 22 minutes.
Tomas Vincour: Drafted out of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, Vincour is a low-scoring center. In 49 games last year, Vincour scored 17 goals and 19 assists.
Curtis McKenzie: A left-winger for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, McKenzie is another long term project for the Stars. He scored 3 goals and 7 assists in 49 games for the Vees, while recieving 81 PIMs.
While most of the changes made by the Stars aren't terribly major, the biggest impact will be from captain Brenden Morrow returning from an injury-riddled season. Expect a steadier season from Marty Turco, and a younger, more mobile defense corps.