Going Forward: How Dallas makes up for injuries & defensive woes

As Jake Oettinger slowly limped off the ice and the Stars were staring down the barrel of an 0-2 deficit, the collective heart of the Dallas contingent sunk. Despite a recent statistical slump, Jake Oettinger is the type of goalie that you want starting 9 times out of 10. Sticking Wedgewood behind a defense group that has shown glaring flaws as of late seemed to indicate that Ottawa would escape with 2 points. To the Stars' credit, what unraveled next is what will serve as the blueprint for success in the immediate future. 
Duchene Streaks, Stars Dazzle
Duchene Streaks, Stars Dazzle / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

Flashing forward from that freeze frame, the Stars came out victorious after scoring five goals in the remaining 50 minutes of Friday’s matchup. Say what you will about Ottawa’s recent struggles, wins are hard to come by in this league. The even distribution of scoring was immaculate, as 12 different players registered a point. The only multi-point skater of the night is an emblem of the team’s strategy that was signaled to us this offseason. 

Matt Duchene has been the highest impact free agent signing of the 2023 offseason and has made the Seguin line elite. The Stars had two dependable forward groups with the top line and Benn line last season. Going in, Jim Nill sought to address what was missing from Marchment & Seguin’s line by putting a firestarter right between them. While $3 million for one year is a much lower price point than a player of Duchene’s class warrants, it came with some subtle sacrifices on the defensive end. 

Ryan Suter, Ivan Barbashev
Suter Slumps, Stars Suffer / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

Jim Nill stood pat on the Suter contract during the buyout window, despite a large outcry from the public to dump his contract. Seeing the free agent landscape for defensemen, Nill stuck with the devil he knows and chanced the upgrade of Seguin’s line that had evaded him for years now.

As he predicted Damon Severson was traded and the right-handed defender market dried up immediately after, but the allure of a contender and Nashville’s fire sale created a convenient partnership. Perhaps Nill feels as though he owes it to Seguin for everything that he’s dedicated to this organization, but the fact remains that the blue line needed to be realigned. 

Here we are months later and the other end of the chance that Nill took is not paying off. In full public display, the Stars have given up on Nils Lundkvist and the backend is suffering because of it. Joel Hanley has fit the role of 7th d-man well, being called upon to replace Nils while the front office is likely looking for a trade partner. The closer we get to the trade deadline, though, the more likely teams are willing to admit that they aren’t contenders. 

Mason Marchment, Tyler Seguin
Press Fast Forward / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

While we wait for the Stars to upgrade their defense and Oettinger to get healthy, the plan is simple: do what you built this roster to do. The Stars have three lines that can roll out and score at any given moment, even if Benn’s line has struggled so far this season. Dadonov benefitted from last week’s healthy scratches (I thought the Stars didn’t scratch veterans?) and has scored three goals since his return, adding to the consistent firepower of the Hintz and Duchene lines. The days of winning 2-1 and 3-2 are far away in the rearview mirror or playing up in Winnipeg depending on how you look at it. 

A 5-4 result was the ideal outcome for Friday’s game, just as much as scoring three in St. Louis just wasn’t enough, and the tightrope was tiptoed against Seattle last night. In the past three games since the Otter injury, however, the Stars have captured 5 of a possible 6 points to insert proof into the proverbial pudding. The more the Stars can enter with speed, outshoot their opponents, and keep winning faceoffs, the better they can cover up the ugly underbelly of the team’s roster construction. Buckle up for some high-scoring affairs through the holiday season.