Mar 31, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Dallas Stars right wing Reilly Smith (18) warms up before the game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Dallas 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Stars Will Need Their Youth To Step Up

I think it’s about time for those Dallas Stars fans who are holding out hope to face the music.

Zach Parise isn’t coming to Dallas.

Am I being pessimistic? Am I jumping the gun? How could I possibly know? The truth is I don’t know, but why Zach Parise would walk away from a Stanley Cup-caliber New Jersey Devils team to join a rebuilding Dallas Stars team is a notion that lacks any sort of logic. Sure, there’s a chance, but there’s always a chance. It’s time for Stars fans to set their sights elsewhere. There’s just one little problem with facing the facts about Parise, there’s really no other dynamic, game changing top six forwards available in free agency. There’s guys like Brad Boyes (almost certain to be playing on a new team next season) and Jiri Hudler, who could fit in well in a second line role, but they both have a large question mark over their head. Boyes’ is coming off a horrid season in Buffalo and Hudler’s success might just be a result of being linemates with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula in Detroit’s system. Whatever may happen on July 1st onwards, one thing is abundantly clear:

The Stars will need their youth to make an impact next season.

When I say youth, I’m talking about players like Reilly Smith, who made the jump to the NHL straight out of college, unfortunately with little success. There’s the AHL guys in Scott Glennie, Alex Chiasson, and Matt Fraser and then there’s Tomas Vincour and Ryan Garbutt, who’ve already earned significant playing time in the NHL. These are just a few of the names and someone in the group will need to make an impact in a big way. The defensive side is a lot simpler. Players like Brenden Dillon look poised to make the jump to the NHL, Philip Larsen‘s game has grown leaps and bounds and he’s secured a roster spot, and Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are expected to make the jump to the AHL, not to mention the free agent options are much better. It’s the offense that’s the real problem, we all know the trouble the Stars had scoring.  The most oft-used top line this season was Loui Eriksson-Mike Ribeiro-Michael Ryder. Those are three solidified top six guys, but after that it gets cloudy. Jamie Benn? Of course, obviously, no brainer. Brenden Morrow? He’s a different story. Will he be healthy next year? Will he be able to return to the success of his 2010-2011 season (33-23-56)? It remains to be seen, but a healthy Brenden Morrow is a top six player. The other player who was present in the top six was Steve Ott and no matter how much you love him, Ott belongs in a third line role. That’s where he has thrived and always will thrive. Suddenly, things actually look a bit crowded in the top six.

So who’s going to step up and earn a spot?

The Stars really don’t have a choice. Surely they can’t keep the same forward unit and expect to improve significantly, right? If the Stars go out and sign another forward (like Boyes, for instance), they could improve, but they also do not leave a spot for a young guy to move up and make an impact unless there are injuries. Tomas Vincour is the type of player who absolutely needs to take a big step. He improved last season, going from 2 points in 24 games in 2010-2011 to 10 points in 47 games in 2011-2012, but it’s not enough. I’ve heard almost nothing but acclaim for Vincour and always the sentiment of “he’s not that far away”, but his offensive upside has all but gone missing in the NHL thus far. He gets stuck in a revolving door of players down on the fourth line and it’s not helping anyone. Reilly Smith will have to prove himself in training camp to get back on the NHL roster, and the other AHL players will also need big showings in training camp.

The Stars are in a very unusual situation. They have the money and the cap space to make big moves, but there aren’t many big moves to be made. Zach Parise isn’t a realistic option at this point and there’s no other acclaimed free agent who could undoubtedly make a significant impact right away and throughout the season on Parise’s level. It’s part of the reason why I’ve looked at the possibility of trading up at the draft for a player who could be NHL ready right away and if not, NHL ready within a year and the type of player who could improve for years to come and be a centerpiece alongside Jamie Benn for the future. If the Stars’ youth can’t find a way to make an impact this season, do we have another year without playoffs to look forward to? Can defense, which will be much easier to improve, make up for the offensive shortcomings? This offseason is the most important offseason for the Stars in years. They have the assets, the people, and the motivation, but do they have the ability to make the right moves? The Stars have a solid farm system with dozens of bright prospects, but how much longer do the fans and the organization have to wait before they make an impact? There are more questions about the Dallas Stars than can be answered right now, but rest assured, the answers will come.


You can follow me here: @AndrewMonrreal

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Tags: Alex Chiasson Brad Boyes Brenden Morrow Dallas Stars Henrik Zetterberg Jiri Hudler Loui Eriksson Matt Fraser Michael Ryder Mike Ribeiro Reilly Smith Ryan Garbutt Scott Glenni Tomas Vincour Zach Parise

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