The Dallas Stars’ season came to an untimely end on April 22 as last season’s Western Conference regular season champions missed the 2017 postseason entirely. However, there are countless upsides to the long summer ahead for Stars fans both old and new.
A major component of the Stars’ lackluster 2016-2017 season was a wide-open net, as tandem goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi struggled to keep the puck from skipping past them. Lehtonen’s goals-against average was 2.65 per game, while Niemi’s was 3.30, ranking them 40th and 48th among 48 goalies in the league. In seasons past, the Stars offense was strong enough to balance out their mediocre goaltending efforts, but as injuries plagued forwards and defenders alike this year, the Stars only scored 2.7 goals per game.
Luckily, the Stars upgraded their goalie this offseason. General Manager Jim Nill inked All-Star goalie Ben Bishop to a six-year, $29.5 million deal. Bishop’s short stint with the Los Angeles Kings this season was nothing impressive, but the 6 feet 7 inch goalie lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. This long-term deal means the Stars are serious about taking their core of skaters to a championship. With a goalie of this quality, they can certainly do it sooner rather than later.
More new additions will fill the team in late June at the NHL Draft in Chicago. The Stars traded right wing Patrick Eaves to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline This trade followed Eaves’ stellar 20-goal season that had him tied for fourth in the league at the time of his trade. In return, Dallas received a second-round draft pick, which turned into an invaluable first-round pick as the Ducks made it to the Western Conference Final. Though it was painful for many Stars fans to root for their rivals in Anaheim, the Ducks’ success during their playoff run has paid off, as the Stars received their first-round pick.
That pick will be their second of the first 30; due to their losing season, the Stars were entered into the draft lottery for the top picks. Dallas will select third overall from a talented crop of young players, several of whom have expressed interest in playing for the Stars. Projected number-one pick Nolan Patrick’s uncle helped coach the Stars for four years. That family connection along with Patrick’s injury-laden season could help the standout center fall to the third pick.
This year was definitely a tough one for Stars fans, but the future is bright in Dallas. When October rolls around, it will definitely be worth it to dust off that victory green and head down to the American Airlines Center to see what adventures await on the ice next year, lead by faces old and new — hopefully all the way to the Stanley Cup.
Maria Katsulos – Business Manager