The title states the obvious. We all know that the Dallas Stars are going to be a different team next year, especially on the offensive end. Brad Richards is gone of course, another casualty of the ownership situation and big money being offered somewhere outside of Texas. But also departed from the team is the old coaching regime and style of play. So gone from the team are the ways of the old coaching staff and the team’s former best player.
Of course the departure of an elite offensive talent like Richards means that the team will be looking for others to step it up. The continuing growth of young Jamie Benn will be key. Jamie has started to really come into his own and looks like a future all-star, and this season he will see more ice time across the board. He is projected to be on a line with Loui Eriksson, and great offensive years from both of them could go a long way in helping the team.
But the gentleman that all eyes will be on this season? That honor will go to Mike Ribeiro. The 31-year old center now is the team’s top center and playmaker on the team, just like he was before Richards came over from Tampa Bay. Ribeiro is going into the 4th season of a 5-year contract for $25 million. Ribs will have some guys around him that can finish too. Captain Brenden Morrow and new free agent addition Michael Ryder are his projected linemates, and both are capable of scoring 25 goals. Along with that he could see Eriksson or Benn on the powerplay as well. So Ribs will have talent around him on the top two lines that can score. But another big thing to watch will be the play of Ribeiro under the new system and new offense. For a few years he was used to a more possessive style of play and having the ability to control the puck down low. But under the recent Crawford system, Mike was asked to do less of that which is natural to him and try to convert to a more up-tempo and fast-break offense. While some of the numbers were there, we did see and hear about his struggles with the style. Now Ribeiro and the Stars should see the apparent “aggressive and rush” (but really risky at times with this defense) style settle down a little bit. I very much look forward to it and believe that Ribeiro and Morrow could have a great season with Ryder on the right side, but of course just because it looks like it will work on paper, doesn’t mean that it will just happen that way.