The Blackout Dallas 2022-2023 Dallas Stars Midseason Report Card

Pete DeBoer was hired as head coach of the Dallas Stars in late June 2022. With that, he brought a new set of expectations and his desires for the team which I described at length previously. We have passed the midpoint of the season which gives an opportune time to evaluate DeBoer’s initial expectations through a report card of the major categories: scoring, defense, goaltending, and coaching.

Blackout Dallas Report Card: Scoring: A-

I don’t think it’s a secret we want to unlock some of the offensive game to this group.” Much of DeBoer’s remarks centered around changing the style of play. It was clear almost immediately that the dump-and-chase era is gone. May it rest in pieces.

Where Dallas used to mainly focus on defending the lead by turtling, they now have bizarrely large comebacks in the third period. One comeback against Chicago was so massive, they made history. Their third periods are now played to win instead of played to not lose and it’s making a big difference.

The Stars currently have the second-highest goal differential in the league with a +43. To help put things into even more perspective, last season they ended the regular season with a -8 and were the only team to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential.

The official checking line has disappeared and it’s evident in the changing ice time of some players. Radek Faksa, a stalwart of the checking line since the FCC days, has had his average time on ice reduced by nearly two and a half minutes from last season to this one. The emphasis is now on moving players around to get more production and optimize strengths.

Last June, DeBoer said that “age is just a number” which pointed to high hopes for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin finding their groove again. And the Bennaisance is in full swing. His ice time has reduced by almost a minute and a half, but he’s already matched his goal output from last season (18) and is 4 points away from matching his points total.

He’s been moved from center to wing and between lines in order to optimize his skills. The flashes of vintage Benn and the resulting numbers are proving important to the success of the team.

On the other end of the age is DeBoer’s excitement for young players. Wyatt Johnston and Ty Dellandrea are showing they belong in this league and are proving it through their creative and passionate play. General Manager Jim Nill’s position is that players have to play in order to develop, and these two are developing in the NHL while helping the team in tangible ways.

The top line seems effortlessly flawless with Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski centered by Roope Hintz. They’re scary, fun, and I’m almost certain they communicate telepathically. With Hintz’s recent injury, Tyler Seguin moved up to center the top line for six games during which he was a point-per-game player, four of which were goals.

Anyone playing with Pavelski and Robertson will receive a boost and similarly, anyone playing on the wing for Hintz will be elevated. At the very least, this gives the forwards flexibility and options and shows that Seguin is still capable of playing in the 1C position.

A lot can be said about Robertson and it still wouldn’t be enough. He just became the fastest Stars player to score 30 goals in a season, accomplishing that within 46 games which beat a previous Mike Modano record. Through his 18-game point streak, he had 34 points, 21 of which were goals. He is inevitable, he drives scoring, and he pushes this team up the standings.

Blackout Dallas Report Card: Defense: B-

The defense scores the lowest but it’s not Miro Heiskanen’s fault. Back in June, DeBoer praised Heiskanen and indicated that he has another level to unlock. Heiskanen plays nearly half the game with a current average time on ice of 25:11 and already has a new career high in points of 39. More points will come with more freedom and confidence to activate offensively and this is just the start of Heiskanen reaching that next level.

With John Klingberg moving on and no clear top 4 defensemen beyond Heiskanen and Esa Lindell, I honestly expected the defense to be a lot worse. It’s worth viewing plus/minus statistics with a grain of salt and in context. It’s also worth noting that Ryan Suter has a -8 which is not only the lowest out of all defensemen but is tied for team low.

His ice time has been reduced by over two and a half minutes which is better for the team. But given that he was originally brought in to play with Klingberg and Heiskanen, it’s very much not ideal that he cannot live up to the role he was advertised to fill.

The additions of Nils Lundkvist and Colin Miller have been generally positive, and the defense will hopefully improve and gel as the season progresses. Looking to the future, Thomas Harley is still developing in the AHL, and when ready, should be someone to get excited about.

Blackout Dallas Report Card: Goaltending: A

This past week, the Stars had three 4-0 shutouts. Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood respectively have .926 and .911 save percentages and are an incredibly solid tandem. Oettinger has proven he is certainly not a flash in the pan and his Calgary series performance is not isolated excellence.

The important part about goaltending moving forward will be to keep both of them uninjured as any few ‘off’ games have typically come when a goalie is battling something physically.

DeBoer talked about keeping foundation and structure, especially around the younger Oettinger so that he can build on his success each year. He stated that he wanted to make decisions that would win the Stars the game that night and overall, he’s stayed true to his words.

Blackout Dallas Report Card: Coaching: A

The players want to play for DeBoer and that speaks volumes. We saw the 4-0 shutout this month in Vegas. Every category examined above showed that DeBoer not only addressed his expectations for the team, but those ideas all improved the team. The players have shown they’re excited to play this fast style of hockey with his changes.

DeBoer will be the Central Division coach at the All-Star Game and it is well-earned.

Bonus Category…

Blackout Dallas Report Card: Vibes: A

The fans are happy, the players seem happy, and the Stars are consistently at the top of their division and league. The team has been able to add younger players without rebuilding. Joe Pavelski signed another discount deal to stay another year. In the wise words of Miro Heiskanen, all things considered, I’d say the vibes are definitely “pretty good.”