Back to the regular end of the season grades for the Dallas Stars. While the postseason is in full swing with many glitches and questionable happenings, the Stars are still in the same position. Four straight seasons without a playoff appearance, and the fanbase is getting restless. After giving my grade for first year coach Glen Gulutzan last week (click here to read the article), today I will start the first of four parts grading the Stars’ roster looking at the goaltending, and continuing it by looking at the defense later this week before moving to the forwards early next week.
Kari Lehtonen: The Stars top netminder for the second season proved to be another impressive one. In the midst of another season of questions and missing the playoffs, Lehtonen elevated his game. Most of us knew that after last season, the Stars didn’t have to question if Lehtonen was an NHL starter and that they had someone that could steal games for them. But this season Kari went from a good story and positive in net to top-ten netminder and someone that started to get some national attention. He followed up numerous career highs by breaking a few again. In ten less games he had only two less wins than the 2010-2011 season. He had the sixth best goals-against average in the league among starters at 2.33 (breaking his career best of 2.55 from last season), and his .922 save percentage was sixth best among starters as well (another career best). Lehtonen again was able to keep a team with a less-than stellar defense in the playoff race and he consistently was the Stars’ best player throughout the season. If not for a groin injury that cost him about a month of the season around the holidays, he might have garnered some award talk for what he was able to do this season. But his injury might have been a small blessing for the Stars. It gave them a chance to see what the next player could do and it might have helped keep him fresh further into the season. In the end his second full season with the team solidified his position as a strong goalie in the NHL and erased any remaining doubts about what he could do. I don’t think the Stars could have asked for more from him with the roster they had. Final Grade: A+, and the Stars’ MVP for this year.
Richard Bachman: Before the season started, young Richard Bachman wasn’t expected to become a big thing in Dallas. He was one of two players set to man the crease with the Texas Stars, and someone that I thought could possibly be a backup option down the road. But that’s the great thing about sports, anything can happen and you never know what could happen. Bachman got the call-up after Lehtonen was injured, and saw his first action on December 8th as he came out to play the third period after Andrew Raycroft allowed five goals in the first two periods. The “under-sized” netminder stopped all 11 shots he face and from there things took off. He then started the next three games and won all three on the road with only three goals allowed. With his recent success, Bachman took the back-up job from a struggling Raycroft once Kari Lehtonen was back. In the end had some good and bad games when he did start down the stretch, but he only started three games after the trade deadline as the team relied almost solely on Lehtonen. He finished the season 8-5-1 with a 2.77 GAA and .910 SV% in his first taste of NHL action. But the big stat is that he went 5-3 with his lone shutout coming when he was the interm starter. When he was regularly playing he looked far more impressive and it was obvious he had to adjust to becoming a back-up once Lehtonen returned as his starts became few and rare between. In the end, the Stars found out what he could do and likely found their back-up for the next season or two while Jack Campbell starts his pro career in the AHL. Final Grade: B+. A strong to start to his NHL career.
Andrew Raycroft: I don’t think we really need to go over him. He went 2-8 in Dallas after a somewhat decent season last year backing-up Lehtonen, and we again found out why he has been bounced around the league for years. Final Grade: F, and thankfully gone this offseason.