Now that the Dallas Stars have finished just short of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, we've assembled a crack team from all over the interwebs to get their views on the season as a whole and where the franchise goes from here:
1) Was this season a success or a failure?
Austin Waldron, BlackoutDallas - A success. While they didn't make the postseason, they succeed many expectations and competed a lot more than many thought they would. The season and new ownership brought Stars fans back to the AAC, and it definitely built a little buzz around the team. They missed one goal, but still had a season that I think was a step forward.
Andrew Monrreal, BlackoutDallas - I'd have to call this season a smashing success. Since the team went on that crazy 10-0-1 run, we all got our hopes up for a division title, or at least a playoff spot. When the Stars missed once again, it kind of magnified the disappointment and made some feel like the season was a failure. But when you take a look at the big picture, the Stars entered this year disregarded by the media and predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Conference.
No surprise given they were being led by a rookie coach and they'd lost two young offensive stars in Brad Richards and James Neal. But the Stars didn't worry about the critics and succeeded far more than anyone expected. They've set themselves up for an exciting future and this season showed Jamie Benn is the future, Kari Lehtonen is the real deal, and Glen Gulutzan is going to be the coach for a long time to come.
Tony Jaremko, ClearingThePuck - I think anytime you have a lead in your division with five games left to go and you end up missing the playoffs, it's considered a failure. However, I don't consider it a disappointment. The Stars were picked to finish dead last with every major hockey medium and there we were fighting for a divisional championship in the final week. Most importantly, we saw an enormous amount of young talent prove they belong with the big club, and next year will be a breakout year for a handful of players.
Luther Xue, StarsOfBigD, SB Nation Dallas - Despite the poor finish, this year has to be considered a success. There was no one (and I mean no one) picking this team to be anywhere near the playoff picture, yet they were somehow right in the thick of things near the end of the season. They dealt with some significant injuries through the season and was able to hang in there for most of the year. From now on, it's just improving the chemistry and getting some more talent and this thing will be back in the playoffs in no time.
The young guys got good playing time and showed that they have a future here and most importantly of all there's now a real owner for this team. This is an owner that is more than willing to spend and the team is finally getting some publicity out there in the metroplex once again. That can only mean good things.
2) The power play was obviously one of the biggest downers of the year. What can be done to fix it, or can it even be fixed with the current roster?
Austin - I don't think it can be fixed with the current roster. Obviously guys like Benn, Ryder, Eriksson, and Ribeiro should be good PP guys, but the current system and format is not working. Benn needs to see more ice time than he has, but past that I think the answers come from outside. Morrow and Ott shouldn't be out there often and Robidas needs to be taken off as well.
Andrew - The power play can surely be fixed with the existing roster, but the coaching staff seemed hesitant to mix it up all year, which is bewildering. Don't get me wrong, another top six guy or a solid defenseman will help, but the Stars are going to have to look within to fix that power play problem. It's going to be up to the coaching staff to rebuild the system from the ground up. There needs to be less standing around the half boards passing back and forth between the point, and more traffic in the slot and in front of the net. The current players on the roster are definitely capable of succeeding, but the current system is just not the answer.
Tony - This is a difficult question. I think the number one problem with the power play was no one would shoot the puck. At times, puck movement was brilliant, but when you don't put pucks on net, or at the very least have a large, abled body in front of the net, you might as well stay in the neutral zone. I think, also, there was a mismanagement of personnel on the man advantage.
Up until the last three games, your best player (Benn) was hardly on the ice when a man up. In addition, your hardest shot in Souray was never out there, and you need someone bombing the net so the bodies in the crease can be there to punch in rebounds.
Luther - This power play is shot to hell. The main problem on this thing is that Dallas just doesn't have the right players on the current roster to get two good (even passable) power play units. This is only compounded by the fact the Glen Gulutzan refused to switch it up 80 games into the season.
Mike Ribeiro is a lost soul out there. He refuses to shoot the puck, even when wide open and really bogs down everyone else. Jamie Benn languished on the second unit with the likes of Adam Burish, Steve Ott and Brenden Morrow and Stephane Robidas has no business anchoring a power play. This team is just short on talent and structure on the power play and it needs to huge turnaround in the offseason.
3) Most questions this offseason will center around Morrow, Ribeiro and Robidas. Should their time be up in Dallas?
Austin - Unless he is willing to slid down to slid down to the 3rd line and he really comes back strong, Morrow's days of usefulness in Dallas are almost out. It isn't just the injuries, he just doesn't look the same anymore. And it's obvious he isn't going to be the captain to take this team back on a deep playoff run.
Ribeiro needs to go. I know he is a crowd favorite at times, but in the ice a lot of things bother me. He is not a top-line center, and even as a 2nd he isn't a strong one. He has been a big part of the Stars' constant faceoff issues in recent years, and defensively he is often hurtful. He regularly decides to take shifts off in his own end and is standing around when other teams score. He also plays into the Stars' power play issues, as they are trying to run it around him. He is best served as a major trade piece this summer.
Robidas has enough heart for half the roster and I love his willingness to do anything and everything asked of him. But the age and miles on his body are starting to show. He is useful as a defender still, but his speed and agility are not the same and he wasn't ever great in those areas to begin with. He is still useful as a 3rd line anchor or even a 2nd liner with a good partner, but the Stars have to stop relying on him as a top blueliner. If they can bring in good defenders or even if they have faith in guys like Dillion and Benn, then Robidas is expendable and the Stars should see what they can get.
Andrew - Morrow's situation is an incredibly easy one to me. You let me him take care of the neck/back issue in the offseason (with surgery or whatever is necessary) and give him your full confidence for that first half of the season, see if he can get back to where he was two years ago. If he's still ineffective and not the same Morrow, maybe the team needs to consider trading him since he'll be a UFA in 2013. Maybe they have to ride it out and let him walk next July 1st. That first half of the season for the Stars next year will decide Morrow's future.
Ribeiro is also simple, if he's going to be moved, they'd better be getting someone that can replace all those points he consistently puts up for the team. He might make stupid mistakes sometimes, but Ribeiro is a top playmaker on this team. Don't move him unless you can replace him. There aren't enough top six forwards to go around on this team.
As for Robidas, his situation is a bit more complicated. His point production has steadily dropped three years running and his age is catching up with, but he's still a part of that #1 defensive pair for the Stars. He has two years left on his contract, so I'd have to guess and say he's going to remain on this team through those years. I suppose the hope is that the Stars improve on defense so he can become a midpair guy who's still effective, milk those last two years for everything they're worth.
Tony - You're not going to get anything in return for any of them, I don't believe (a team that was close like Calgary or Buffalo may make noise for Ribeiro). Morrow is a shell of the player he used to be due to injuries. It happens. It's a rough sport and he played it going 100 MPH all the time. I still think Morrow could be salvageable on the 4th line, but his ice needs to be limited.
Ribs isn't as much of a liability (Calgary game excluded) more than he is a waste of a roster spot. He's a great puck handler, but he won't, for whatever reason, shoot the puck, and he's proven to be very good at it when he does.
Robidas is done in my estimation. One of the toughest SOBs you'll ever see play the game, but far to often, his mental collapses and missed assignments put undue stress on Kari.
Luther - As much as I would like to see him go, Brenden Morrow gets a little bit of a chance from me. He needs to get all his surgeries out of the way and rest the entire offseason. Start him out on the later lines at the beginning of next season and see if he has anything left in the tank. If he has anything, keep him around and work up value and see if anyone will give something for him. Take the captaincy away from him though, we need someone that actually plays, i.e ... Jamie Benn or Steve Ott.
Ribeiro has to go. He's got a big contract ($5 million) that will get in the way of the Stars offseason plans if they hope to sign Parise or Suter and give a big contract to Benn. That doesn't even take into account that Dallas needs to sign Mark Fistric, Philip Larsen, Richard Bachman and other solid rotation guys as well. Ribs takes himself out of games too often and doesn't have the right mentality for this team. He should still have some value out on the market so Dallas needs to shop around.
Robidas' time is also up. He's been one of the toughest players in the Stars history but he just no longer has it in him to be the top defender that the Stars hope he still is. Age and the physical game that he plays has caught up to him and he's been a liability lately. His contract is also pretty large and Dallas needs to shed it to throw money at the big free agents. Brenden Dillon and Jordie Benn can work themselves into the rotation next season.
4) In a perfect world, how would you envision the Stars offseason going?
Austin - They draft Brendan Gaunce or Cody Ceci, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise both sign in Dallas, and the Stars move Ribeiro and Robidas with a 2nd rounder for a good center or big forward. Perfect offseason.
Andrew - A perfect world would involve the Stars grabbing Parise and Suter, but that's not going to happen.
Tony - Getting Suter, Nash and Parise
Luther - Dallas gets Ryan Suter and Zach Parise while shedding the contracts of Ribeiro and Robidas. Ribeiro is traded for Derek Roy and the Stars sign Benn to a large but manageable contract. They also find someone in the market that can consistently win face-offs.
5) And back to reality. What do you expect the Stars to do?
Austin - Draft smart in the first few rounds, try really hard to get one of Suter and Parise, sign a few good players in the tier behind the two studs, and they look to make a big trade to shake things up.
Andrew - For the "realistic" perfect world, the Stars need to have another year of solid free agent signings, possibly stealing another top six forward on Ryder's level (such as Brad Boyes or Jiri Hudler). For defense, there aren't many options and I can see the Stars relying on their youth to fill in some holes. If they somehow convince Suter to join, that'd be nice, but I can't see it happening. Defense is going to be a big question mark: they need Goligoski's performance to improve, and the youth needs to come in and be successful.
Tony - Get Suter. I think one can make the case we have a lot of talent up front, but we do not have a legitimate number one defenseman. He can score, he can put the opponent's top line on their butts. He's a game changer. Whatever the case, I see the Stars spending up to about $8-10 mil in free agency.
What I haven't heard a whole lot of that I believe will happen, is the remaining portion of the cap room (at least most of it) will be used to lock Jamie Benn up for the next decade. I believe an extension for Benn gets done this summer.
Luther - I think Dallas goes hard after Ryan Suter in the offseason and looks for other alternatives to Parise. Suter is the clear diamond at defense in free agency while there are some pretty good forwards out on the market. Jiri Hudler, Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn are all pretty good scoring forwards on the market and wouldn't be too bad of a consolation prize. Whatever the case, I expect the Stars to spend a good amount this offseason.
6) How much of this team should be thrust into the hands of the youngsters next season? Should guys like Brenden Dillon, Reilly Smith, Colton Sceviour, Scott Glennie, etc... get regular playing time with the team?
Austin - Dillion and Reilly Smith should be in Dallas, especially if they don't make any huge signings. Dillion is already better than Pardy and I think he is ready to at least be in the top seven. Austin Smith and Glennie could see some call-ups and games depending on depth, but I think both might need a little time with the Texas Stars. With a good camp from Glennie, I could change my mind. I think he is finally starting to adjust to the pro hockey level.
Andrew - Brenden Dillon definitely deserves to be on the team, he should be competing directly for a spot in the lineup and if Souray doesn't return there's another opportunity right there for him to move up. I think Jordie Benn is turning into the penultimate bottom pair defenseman and I'm exciting to see how training camp goes for him. Reilly Smith and Scott Glennie are a bit tougher to judge, they weren't given any significant NHL time this year and they might need to spend some time in the AHL.
Nieuwendyk feels Smith is ready for the big league, but he'll have to prove it in training camp. In general, the youth is going to be key to the Stars next year. They need to have one of those guys turn into a stud, the free agency market is just not deep enough to solve all of their problems. Answers are going to have to come from within the organization.
Tony - I think Dillon proved in the St. Louis game he belongs. Reilly will definitely be here. Joe wasted a year of Reilly's 3-year contract on one game that had impact and a meaningless game against the Blues. I also think Austin Smith cracks the line-up for good as well.
Luther - Dillon, Smith and Jordie Benn need to be with the club at the start of next season. They represent the best chances from within the team to replace guys that should go. Dillon especially needs to be on the team. He showed more play and ability in his one game than Adam Pardy did all season. This team is just starting to tap into the talented youth on the team and they need to give it a chance to flourish next year.
The fringe guys like Glennie and Sceviour will have a tough time getting in front of Tomas Vincour and Ryan Garbutt in the lineup, but they deserve call-ups, especially if they show great progress in training camp.