Heading into the start of the 2011-12 season the Dallas Stars can’t be looking for any one individual to replace the loss of Brad Richards down the middle. Instead the Stars will look for everyone on the roster to contribute a little bit more in order to collectively fill the void.
It’s not an easy proposition for a team to lose their star player after missing the post season and expect things to improve. However the situation in Dallas is a little more confusing than it looks on the surface. The uncertain ownership situation didn’t help in the Stars’ ability to retain Richards, and the fact they missed the playoffs is a bit skewed when you consider they finished the season with 95 points.
The Stars had a chance on the last day of the season to clinch a playoff berth but their hopes were dashed by a Minnesota club with nothing to lose. Now just a few months later they head into the season with a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro being relied upon even heavier.
Dallas added Michael Ryder through free agency this July and his addition should provide some needed secondary scoring to the lineup. They also added defensman Sheldon Souray on a one-year contract and hope the veteran can play competent defense while improving the power play with his shot from the point. Souray is a huge wild card for the Stars heading into the season and could be a player that is a difference maker either way in the Dallas lineup this season.
Stars also brought in veteran forwards Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler this offseason. Both are expected to be role players and not contribute much offensively.
It’s going to be a real challenge for Dallas to make the playoffs for the first time in four years. Faced with the challenge of being in one of the best divisions in hockey, they also have to deal with the depth of the Western Conference and the loss of their top point getter. For the Stars to make the post season they’ll need a monster year from youngster Jamie Benn, a bruising power forward with 30 goal potential. Eriksson has been a stud for the Stars for several years now and they’ll need his production to stay on par with what it was been in recent seasons.
It would behoove the Stars to win every game they play against the bottom feeders of the Western Conference and against Eastern Conference foes. Dallas will compete within the division but with the additions made by the teams around them it could be another empty second season at the American Airlines Center.