Apr 27, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) checks Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Stars Mailbag: Excitement Builds

Good afternoon Stars fans! It has been a couple of weeks since we have had a mailbag and there has been no shortage of noteworthy news surrounding the Dallas Stars.

July 1st turned out to be a massive step forward for the franchise when GM Jim Nill acquired superstar Jason Spezza, crafty winger Ales Hemsky, and goaltender Anders Lindback. Nill continued on his signing spree when he inked veteran centre, Vernon Fiddler, to a two-year contract.

The Stars find themselves in fairly unfamiliar territory. They have not been a team that has been talked about much in the offseason for a couple of years. All of a sudden, the national media is taking notice of what is going on down in Big D. The Stars are once again, being dubbed “contenders”. Oh, how sweet it is!

Whether you are a newly formed Stars fan or a fan for the past decade, here are some answers to fan questions that will help you better understand what lies ahead for the team.

What can we expect from the Stars defence this season?

Thanks for the question Sheri. The Stars defence will be a huge question mark heading into the 2014-2015 season. On paper, many people expect the Stars to be set at the forward and goaltending positions, but not at defence. Last season the Stars defence showed flashes of brilliance that made you think they could handle the big and tough forwards of the Western Conference, while on other nights they made you want to put a bag over your head. I strongly believe if the Stars defence is something we are simply not talking about, it is a good thing. The entire defensive corps will be returning, minus Aaron Rome, so the cohesion and familiarity of playing with one another should be there. The top pairing of Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley were excellent the last half of the season and into the playoffs. They should be expected to put together another steady campaign this season. I have also been told by many fans and analysts of Eastern Conference teams that it usually takes Sergei Gonchar at least one season to adjust to a new team. If this holds true, expect a much better season from the veteran defender. Brenden Dillon will most likely be Brenden Dillon. A rugged, hard to play against defender, who is as consistent as they come. After those four defenceman then comes the battle for the last pairing. The last couple spots on defence are likely to be fought for amongst Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Jyrri Jokkipakka, John Klingberg and Kevin Connauton. I give my inside edge to Nemeth and Connauton, while the other defenders will continue to develop down in Texas. With increased ice time I really think we could see Connauton have a breakout season. He is a great skater, with an elephant gun of a shot from the point. With increased playing time, I think he could be a sexy sleeper pick to breakout this season. Nemeth is like the aforementioned Dillon. The young kid from Sweden is a simple, consistent defender. He impressed mightily last season and is sure to get a crack on opening night in 2014-2015.

What facet of the Stars game is going to have to improve most for them to take the “next step”?

Thanks for writing in Bill! I believe the biggest improvement the Dallas Stars need to make in order to take the “next step” is their powerplay and goaltending. Nill went out and directly addressed their need for a better powerplay when he signed Spezza and Hemsky. The Stars will run out one of the most dangerous units in the league on the man advantage this season. With the skill of Benn, Seguin, and Spezza on the ice together at times, the Stars powerplay must be powerful for them to continue progressing from the success of a season ago.

Although many Stars fans do not see goaltending as an issue, the bottomline is that it will need to be better. For the past couple of seasons, backup goaltending has been absolutely atrocious for the Stars. You might even say they have not had a consistent backstop behind their No.1 since Mike Smith backed up Marty Turco. As of recently, goaltenders Dan Ellis, Tim Thomas, and Andrew Raycorft have not played well enough to afford starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen time off. With the addition of Anders Lindback, the Stars hope they have found the answer to their backup goaltending woes. If Lindback is able to come in and play well enough that Lehtonen is held to under 58 starts, I think we will see a much better Lehtonen come playoff time.

During Steve Ott’s time in Dallas he was a fan favourite for a number of reasons. Anyway Nill brings him back?

Thanks for the question Doug. Unfortunately for you, I see no way that GM Jim Nill brings fan favourite Steve Ott back. If there was ever a chance that Ott may return, it vanished as soon as Vern Fiddler signed last week. With Fiddler now signed, the Stars have a log jam of forwards in their bottom six. Adding Ott would only increase the complexity of that log jam.

That is all the time for now Stars fans! Thanks for another great round of questions. I look forward to answering some more next week! Remember to leave comments or questions below in the comment section or tweet us @BlackoutDallas

Tags: Dallas Stars Jason Spezza Kari Lehtonen

  • Lennon

    Just to let you know I real your stuff everyday and each time I read it I get more and more excited for the season! Thank you !

    • Josh Clark

      Thanks for reading our stuff. We really appreciate it

  • Clay Werner

    Not raining here Marcus lol but dillon regressed this last season in fact he was in the trade rumors frequently. He was tentative with the puck and the bruising hits were infrequent. Now reason for upside is he’ll be in the second pairing where he belongs. Nemeth most likely will be his partner for a shutdown pair. Everything I heard is that Kevin is in the doghouse. No way he’s thought of higher than big rig, nemeth or klingberg. He has speed and a shot but when the numbers aren’t reflecting the reward then his defensive risk becomes more of a hindrance, he needs to go. The only reason I don’t see gonch making strides is bc his poise and awareness are shot. Points are points but the new team theory seems null in void when he’s making rookie mistakes at each blue line. Corsi and fenwick are great measuring tools but the eyeball test never fails lol anyway this team is gonna have a big year but unless klinger turns into zubie there still a Dman away

    • Marcus Gatto

      You make a lot of good points Clay. Dillon may have regressed due to the consistent change on the back end he was forced to endure. We all know he loved playing with Robi, and when Robi went down the coaching staff struggled to find him a new partner. He rotated through Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, and Jamie Oleksiak all atleast once last season. If Nemeth is a consistent partner next season we should all give Dillon a break on his regression of last season.

      Connauton being in the doghouse may not be completely true. He is a young defenceman with great offensive potential. I know for a fact that Ruff liked him on the back end of the powerplay with his elephant gun of a shot. Having said that, he did sit in the press box more often than not last season. I don’t entirely agree that was due to him being “in the doghouse”, and more of players with his type of skill set were playing well. (Daley, Goligoski)
      Also make note that even at the end of the season when Ruff decided to call-up Nemeth instead of inserting Connauton, it was due to a glaring need of the team. It would be unfair to say that Connauton would be able to fill the need of the size that Nemeth was so valuable for down the stretch and into the playoffs.

      As for Gonchar, he is a complete toss up this season. Cheers to hoping he has a bounce back season.

      Thanks for the readership Clay, you bring some very interesting ideas to the forefront. Who knows, you may even be right?