The Dallas Stars have come up short of a playoff spot in the last two seasons. What do they need to do in order to turn it around and punch a ticket to the postseason?
All NHL teams go through changes, playoff droughts, and rough seasons. Teams that have struggled as of late, for example the Dallas Stars, Arizona Coyotes, or Buffalo Sabres, need to focus on aspects of their game that are lacking or in need of improvement. Here are five points of focus (in no particular order) that the Stars should pay attention to if they want to rack up games in the win column.
5. A Smooth Transition at the Helm
Among many changes, Dallas hired former Denver University head coach Jim Montgomery as the new head coach. The Stars’ head coaching job has been a revolving door in the past three seasons, with Lindy Ruff getting fired after the 2016-17 season, Ken Hitchcock being hired (then consequently fired) for the 2017-18 season, and now bringing in Jim Montgomery to help solve Dallas’ coaching issues.
Montgomery played at the University of Maine in college and even won an NCAA National Championship in 1993. He played for five different NHL teams (Blues, Flyers, Canadiens, Sharks, and Stars) in his 7-year NHL career, logging 34 points (9 G, 25 A) across 122 games.
After his NHL career, the Montreal native took on a bevy of different coaching jobs, including Notre Dame, RPI, Dubuque, and eventually Denver. Montgomery even led Denver to two Frozen Fours and won the NCAA Championship in 2017.
Monty certainly has the experience — however, will he be able to lead Dallas to the promised land?
4. Veterans Need to Stay Healthy
You’ll recall a few seasons back where it seemed like every player on the Stars’ roster was injured in training camp and during the first half of the season. Of course, staying perfectly healthy isn’t always possible, especially when playing in a league as competitive and physical as the NHL.
Dallas dealt with a few injuries last season — namely Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot, and Ben Bishop.
If you take a second to notice, they are all veterans. All teams in the NHL have players, young and old, that get hurt and miss games. That said, keeping players off the injured reserve (IR) is always a must. Dallas’ young studs may be promising. However, they need the guidance of older players to help grow and mentor others on the roster.
3. Road Wins are Crucial
Like most teams, Dallas ended up losing more than they won as the visiting team last season, finishing with a 16-20-5 road record.
Among teams in the Central Division, three had winning road records; two of them made the playoffs (Winnipeg and Nashville — St. Louis was one point shy from making the postseason). Among teams in the NHL, 13 ended with winning records while on the road, and 11 of that 13 made the playoffs (Calgary and St. Louis being the two exceptions).
You’d think it’s obvious, mentioning that the team that wins the most will play in the playoffs. However, winning road games are far more vital to a team’s season than home games. So many factors affect the players when they are on the road, and they tend to be more comfortable playing in front of their own fans, being able to sleep in their own beds in their houses, and living their lives at home.
If Dallas is able to secure a winning record in games that they play as the visiting team, their chances of being able to play in the postseason next year will go up exponentially.
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2. The Roster “Point Gap” Needs to Close
Having All-Stars like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg is great. The one caveat, however, is that the Dallas Stars tend to lack offensive depth. After the “fab four” named above, the next highest point scorer on Dallas’ roster is Mattias Janmark at 34. Although he had a career year, Janmark finished 33 points behind the player above him, Klingberg, who finished with 67.
The Stars point leaders are productive, but if they lack depth, which they did, it’s nearly impossible to only rely on your best players to carry the team. Jamie Benn, for example, is a fantastic player who can consistently put up 70 to 80+ points per season. He can help lead the team to win games, but if he and Seguin are the only point-producers on the ice, Dallas won’t win games.
All in all, the Stars need offensive depth in their roster to help make plays.
1. Blue-line improvement is everything
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll find that I often mention that the Dallas Stars’ defense is one of, if not their biggest issue standing between them and a Stanley Cup Playoff run. Other Stars fans know this, and this is why people (myself included) were extremely hopeful that a trade to bring Erik Karlsson to Dallas would fall into place. As of now, nothing has happened, and the sports media has turned their attention elsewhere.
Regardless of whether Karlsson becomes a Star or not, it’s no secret that John Klingberg is a top 5 defenseman in the NHL. Klinger, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, and Marc Methot makes for a decent top four. However, the blue line doesn’t come to fruition when you look at the numbers. When you also factor in Miro Heiskanen, fans will hope that Dallas’ defensive dilemmas will soon be solved.
The Dallas Stars finished with a plus 10 goal differential — nothing fantastic, but not awful either. If you compare that to Winnipeg or Nashville, who finished with a +59 and +56 goal differential, respectively. It’s not disastrous, though, when you look at Buffalo’s goal differential, which was a whopping -81 goals against.
If the Stars want any chance at making the postseason, their blue line will make it or break it.
- Published on 07/30/2018 at 20:01 PM
- Last updated at 07/30/2018 at 16:41 PM