The Dallas Stars have potentially rounded out their first line combo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin with the addition of Alexander Radulov. Could he fit the need and be the last necessary piece to an effective and reliable first line?
So it’s official that the Dallas Stars are having a not-so-secret love affair with the idea of Russian players. With Valeri Nichushkin and the prospects they’ve chased down that reminded them of his potential, the Stars haven’t seen a maximum return on investment yet. Nichushkin’s return is still uncertain and Denis Guryanov has been sticking mostly to the minors.
But even with Nichushkin still playing in Russia, the Dallas Stars have added enough offensive assets to seem beyond needing him for the time being. Their latest addition, Alexander Radulov, seems set to be the final puzzle piece that Dallas has been looking for to create a thoroughly effective first line.
And the Stars have gone through many incarnations looking for their perfect first line. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin had always been a constant until recently, when Lindy Ruff tried separating them (a la Toews and Kane) to spread out offensive power when the Stars had been struggling to produce.
In better times, though, Benn and Seguin were the dynamic duo that made the first line what a good first line should be. That extra piece, though- the right wing- was a constantly moving variable changed in and out as the Stars desperately sought the perfect fit.
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They’ve had a Benn- Spezza- Seguin line, pushing Seguin outside of his natural center. They’ve used a Benn-Seguin-Eaves approach, which was quite effective thanks to the absent party, but with Eaves no longer around, this isn’t an option for the Stars anymore.
The Benn-Eakin-Seguin line also pushed Seguin out to the wing, but after a rough season for Cody Eakin, he too is out and will be up against the Stars with his new Vegas team on opening night.
The line that perhaps created the most hype and expectation was the “GQ” line, and we all immediately started speculating what it could mean for the Dallas Stars’ offense when Patrick Sharp joined the Stars and presumably the first line in 2015.
At first and in pockets throughout that season, the Benn-Seguin-Sharp line was everything we’d wanted and hoped it would be. However, in the course of line-juggling to combat low points in the season, it seemed the chemistry of this line faded down the stretch.
Of course now, that line is no longer an option either with the return of Sharp to Chicago. However, the Dallas Stars believe they have found their answer in Radulov.
In Radulov, we find a big player who balances Dallas’ classically unbalanced scales of size and skill. A special teams guy, Radulov is known for passionate play and bending the outcome of a game to his own will. And for the Stars, he perfectly rounds out their shopping list in a big way, filling the right-wing void Dallas was concerned about.
Just like in 2015 with Sharp’s arrival, it’s quite easy to assume that Radulov will take his place on the top line alongside Benn and Seguin, finally bringing to life that dynamo first line the Stars have been chasing. But the combination makes sense rationally and ideologically, too.
Way back in the day, the Dallas Stars had high hopes for Nichushkin as a fit for Benn and Seguin on the first line, too, and although the results were spotty, the potential was nonetheless constant and obvious. With Nichushkin’s departure to the KHL, though, Radulov is the Stars’ perfect solution and adds some symmetry with a KHL returner’s success story.
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It’s clear that everything the Stars had (and still) hoped for Valeri Nichushkin are incarnate in Radulov. A mature player with a good attitude and team spirit, he’s simply ready to win in the NHL and is willing to add hard work to passion in order to get there.
But Radulov fits in a practical as well as philosophical way. Although his return to the NHL was not ideal, his season in Montreal was nonetheless a productive return, with 54 points (18 G and 36 A) in 76 games.
His skill in fighting for the puck and controlling it in plays will be the perfect completion of Benn’s position smarts and Seguin’s playmaking. And best of all, Benn-Seguin-Radulov would allow Seguin to return to his natural center and fit into Hitchocock’s intentions for Seguin as the team’s token center.
When you consider, along with all of this, that the Stars have also added a depth center in Martin Hanzal, Dallas has rounded the corner and isn’t a few cards short anymore, but will be sporting a full house in terms of offense.
And as the most recently added piece to that puzzle, Alexander Radulov is going to play an absolutely crucial role in presenting the Dallas Stars as a full, offensive threat. Add these awesome off-season moves to the list of Nill- induced miracles, and get your hopes up for a dependable and menacing first line for the Stars this season.