By Parker Ward
With a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators April 11, the Dallas Stars experienced a triumphant end to one of the most disappointing seasons in the team’s history.
Coming off a 2013-14 season where they established themselves as a legitimate threat, made the playoffs for the first time in almost five years and signed one of the NHL’s best forwards in Tyler Seguin, Stars fans had high hopes. The Stars must have felt great after the end of that season. Some of the veteran players witnessed all the years of almost making the playoffs. I was excited to see the Stars clinch a spot.
Several offseason acquisitions made it seem like the Stars were going to have an even better season than 2013-2014. Anders Lindback came in to be Kari Lehtonen’s backup goalie after the departure of Tim Thomas. The Stars re-signed veteran center Vernon Fiddler and young guns Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel. The most surprising acquisition was former Ottawa Senators captain and three-time all-star Jason Spezza. Until recently, NHL teams typically kept their captains around until they retired.
They discovered a young star in Swedish defenseman John Klingberg. This young talent eventually posted 39 points in 65 games as a rookie and spent a significant amount of time on the first line power play.
An explosive offense overwhelmed highlight reels this season. Eight of the 23 Stars players either set or tied a career high in goals scored, including Klingberg (11), Tyler Seguin (37) and Trevor Daley(16). Captain Jaime Benn even won the Art Ross trophy for leading the league in scoring.
But at the end of the season, the Stars lost must-win games against Western Conference opponents and missed the playoff. So did this playoff-caliber team fail?
The Stars finished second in the league in goals scored but fifth in goals allowed, just behind the four worst teams in the NHL.
Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen had the best season statistically of his career. He tied his career best in wins and had the least losses in his career. But he ranked second in goals allowed this season as well as posting career worsts in goals against average (2.91) and total save percentage (.903).
Lehtonen seemed to be playing in every game, but his backups’ terrible play forced it of him. The backups went for a combined 7-14. If the Stars could find a decent backup goalie, Lehtonen would not be so overworked and the team could win more games.
Local media have labeled the Stars’ threatening power play the “Supernova,” but they never mention anything about their sub par penalty kill. Pair this with the fact that the team is fifth in the league in penalty minutes, the Stars were always playing from behind.
For such a young team, the Stars suffer from the same problems as older teams. More often than not they would begin the first and second periods strong.
However, when the third period would come around, the Stars would fizzle out and fail to score on key possessions. The Stars have a good team built. Benn and Seguin will be the primary means of offense. On defense there is a good mix of young and old talent. The Stars will need help for Lehtonen to make sure that he can play to his full potential. Above all else, the Stars need to close out games.
The Dallas Stars disappointed fans this season, but I’m hopeful for next year.