We have made it two games into the preseason schedule which means it is the perfect time to dissect the roster and see if this Dallas Stars group might have what it takes. Let’s narrow in on the defense and what needs to change from the 2022-2023 season to the 2023-2024 season.
Starting broad, there’s the question of who should be on the roster. Training camp is there to finalize this process, but with the defense, it’s quite clear who will make the cut already. While there are compelling prospects, most notably Lian Bischel, the roster will be what the roster has been.
Dallas Stars Defense: Who will be the defensemen on the Stars’ roster?
The standard players are there: Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, Ryan Suter, and Jani Hakanpaä. Thomas Harley made his case to stay during the playoffs. Joel Hanley will probably get his dependable seventh spot. And Nils Lundkvist should be part of the defense core as well.
Lindell hasn’t had a steady partner since John Klingberg left. Lundkvist’s success would be a huge boost. As a rare right-handed shot, he could slot in nicely next to Lindell and bring offensive potential.
Lundkvist is 23 years old. He put on fifteen pounds of muscle and had the best conditioning test results of any Stars player during training camp. He only has room to get stronger and more confident if he’s given proper opportunities during the regular season.
Miro Heiskanen led all skaters in average time on ice last regular season with 25:29 minutes. The next closest was Suter with 20:23 minutes ATOI. That’s a staggering five-minute lead.
Just because Heiskanen can do it all doesn’t necessarily mean that he should all the time. He has to be set up for success and pairing him with a 38-year-old man does not make sense. Suter does not match him in speed, anticipation, or his literal job of defending. Pairing Heiskanen with him means that he has to compensate for Suter’s defensive blunders as well.
Perhaps putting Heiskanen on the ice with Harley sometimes could be a breath of fresh air. The speedy combination of the two defensemen would be welcome on Pete DeBoer’s more offensively-minded Dallas Stars.
This points to the idea of balance versus optimization in a defensive pairing. Lindell and Klingberg worked so well together because one’s strength was solid defending while the other’s strength was creative offense. A hope is that Lindell and Lundkvist could create a similarly balanced dynamic.
Heiskanen is arguably the most valuable player on the team so you could get away with pairing him with anyone. Beyond Lindell, the traditional balance options in a heavy defender are limited — i.e. nonexistent. But optimizing his offense with Harley is an option. At the very least, it’s worth a proper trial run during the regular season.
Dallas Stars Defense: Conclusion
The defense has to be clicking in order for the team to have more sustained success. Scoring may come and go in spurts, but a solid blue line can go a long way. They could have really helped out the Stars against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Finals last season. Hopefully, the defense learned from their mistakes from last season and we will see a completely new and improved defense this season.