NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars are looking to complete what coach Rick Bowness called unfinished business after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final last season.
“Everyone has one goal: to win the Stanley Cup, and none of us are going to be satisfied until we reach that goal,” Bowness said. “We came close. We’ll keep pushing until we get there. We’re not going to change what we do. We want to be a well-coached team, we want to be a hard-working team, and we want to be a difficult team to play against.”
There weren’t many offseason changes for the Stars, who lost to the Lightning in six games, but they will start the season without goalie Ben Bishop and forward Tyler Seguin.
Bishop had surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus on Oct. 21. Seguin had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Nov. 2. General manager Jim Nill said Bishop and Seguin have begun rehab and are expected to return in March.
The NHL has targeted Jan. 1, 2021 as the start date for this season with camps opening in mid-December.
Anton Khudobin, who played the final 13 postseason games and helped Dallas reach the Cup Final with Bishop out, will start the season as the No. 1 goalie after signing a three-year contract on Oct. 9.
“The good thing about Anton is, he plays so hard for the guys that the guys want to play hard for him,” Nill said. “There’s that feeling when he’s in the net that we’re going to do what we can for him. He delivers on his end and players want to deliver on their end. There’s a great camaraderie they have with him.”
Jake Oettinger will back up Khudobin. The 21-year-old made his NHL debut in the postseason, playing two games and making saves on all eight shots he faced.
The Stars will need production from others in the absence of Seguin, who scored a Dallas-leading 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 69 games last season. Some of that will fall to forwards Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, who played on the top line with Seguin, and Joe Pavelski, who can play wing or center.
Dallas will also lean heavily on two players each entering his third season: defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forward Roope Hintz. Heiskanen scored 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 68 games, third on the Stars behind Seguin and Benn (39). Hintz scored 33 points (19 goals, 14 assists) in 60 games, fifth on Dallas, one point behind Radulov.
“I think it’s an opportunity for everybody,” Nill said. “It’s the Roope Hintzes, the (forward) Jason Dickinsons, the (forward) Radek Faksas. Then we’ve got some young kids, (forwards) Jason Robertson, Nick Caamano, [Joel] Kiviranta, Ty Dellandrea, Joel L’Esperance, Rhett Gardner. We have some guys in the minors that are knocking on the door. So this is a great opportunity for those guys.”
Bowness, who replaced Jim Montgomery as coach on Dec. 10, 2019, agreed to a two-year contract on Oct. 29. Nill said he expects the Stars to improve offensively this season.
“We had a bit of an off season (178 goals in 69 games, 29th in the NHL), but we showed more in the playoffs (77 goals in 27 games, tied with the Lightning for first in the League),” he said. “I think that’s a little bit of Rick getting his fingerprints, and the coaching staff getting their fingerprints on the team, that there’s more offense there and it’s just finding ways to create it.”
Dallas will need everyone contributing to get off to a good start, which was a problem when it began last season 1-7-1. Nill said the Stars did well handling challenges in the postseason, from schedules to an ever-changing lineup because of injuries. That should help them moving forward.
“That’s what excites me, because we’re going into the same environment now,” he said. “We don’t know when the season will start, what’s the season going to look like. Nobody knows, and I think our guys are very good at handling those type of mental situations. I think we have a very mature group with our leadership group, and the young guys have really learned from that group and there’s a lot of growth there.”
The Stars like the direction they’re headed and they’re confident they can challenge for the Cup again.
“When you go as far as we did and you’re two games short, it does stink,” Nill said. “Especially with the environment, the bubble and all that, everybody poured their hearts out. They know how close we were, they know we can compete with anybody. I think the guys have that drive in them, that we have unfinished business, and that’s a good sign.”