Dallas Stars, 2009-10
Goals For: 237 9th
Goals Against: 254 23rd
GVT: -17 21st
Points: 88 20th
Dallas Stars, VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11
Goals For: 234 11th
Goals Against: 234 19th
GVT: 0 13th
Points: 91 13th
With the departures of Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Marty Turco this offseason, the Dallas Stars have said goodbye to the last of the elder statesmen that linked their franchise to the glory days of yesteryear—but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now led by 30-ish veterans—Brenden Morrow (6.1 projected GVT), Brad Richards (13.0 GVT), Mike Ribeiro (9.3 GVT)—and reinforced by potent young talent—Loui Eriksson (12.7 GVT), James Neal (9.7 GVT), Jamie Benn (8.7 GVT)—Dallas has the makings of one of the best offenses in the NHL, and that’s without sporting a true offensive superstar. On the defensive side of the ledger, a seemingly healthy and undoubtedly talented Kari Lehtonen—last season’s trade deadline acquisition—stands to bring significant improvement over the fading Turco in net. A full season by the 27 year old Finnish netminder, hopefully supplemented by in-season improvements on the blueline by GM Joe Nieuwendyk, has the potential of turning the Stars into an above average goal prevention unit, and therefore, a true Western Conference contender.
Offseason departures bid farewell the Stars’ second best faceoff man (50.4%) in former captain Mike Modano, and declining but still wily defensive forward Jere Lehtinen (2.7 takeaways/giveaway, +0.9 net penalties/60).
Stars top forwards, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Brad Richards 10.2, Jamie Benn 9.1, James Neal 8.5
Hits/60: Krystofer Barch 16.3, Brian Sutherby 13.4, Steve Ott 12.5
Blocked shots/60: Tom Wandell 3.5, Toby Petersen 3.0, Brenden Morrow 2.0
Net penalties/60: Tom Wandell +1.4, Toby Petersen +1.1, Loui Eriksson +0.6
Takeaways/giveaway: James Neal 2.2, Jamie Benn 1.9, Tom Wandell 1.6
Faceoffs: Brad Richards 51.5%, Mike Ribeiro 44.8%
Minimum 40 games played.
Stars top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Stephane Robidas 6.0, Matt Niskanen 4.9, Trevor Daley 3.8
Hits/60: Mark Fistric 10.3, Stephane Robidas 8.0, Nicklas Grossman 6.6
Blocked shots/60: Karlis Skrastins 6.1, Stephane Robidas 5.3, Mark Fistric 4.7
Net penalties/60: Mark Fistric -0.1, Matt Niskanen -0.2, Karlis Skrastins -0.3
Takeaways/giveaway: Karlis Skrastins 0.8, Stephane Robidas 0.6, Trevor Daley 0.6
Minimum 40 games played.
Stars goaltenders, 2009-10 stats
Kari Lehtonen’s 2009-10 campaign was limited to 12 games with Dallas (after none with Atlanta). His health is certainly an issue, having dealt with back, groin and ankle problems over the past several seasons. The Helsinki native has been worth 56.0 GVT over 205 career games, indicating excellent potential. And while Lehtonen should clearly be paced through the current season, consider that Andrew Raycroft’s 2009-10 (in 21 games with Vancouver) was his first decent season in ages.
Save percentage: .911
Even strength save percentage: .921
Power play save percentage: .877
Shorthanded save percentage: .875
Save percentage: .911
Even strength save percentage: .913
Power play save percentage: .896
Shorthanded save percentage: .938
You’d better beat Dallas in the first 65 minutes of a game because Kari Lehtonen gives the Stars a huge advantage in the shootout—his .763 career save percentage is the best among goaltenders who have faced at least 90 shots. While Brad Richards should participate in every Stars shootout, Dallas might be wise to allow players like captain Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn to prove their mettle as they might prove superior to the likes of Ribeiro and Neal. And though the raw numbers aren’t great, don’t give up on James Neal quite yet. Neal had an uncanny penchant for hitting goalposts last season—his percentage should rebound over time, assuming it hasn’t all gotten to his head.
Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts
Brad Richards, 40.8% (20 for 49)
Mike Ribeiro, 35.9% (14 for 39)
James Neal, 27.8% (5 for 18)
Best options, shooters with a limited track record
Brenden Morrow, 50.0% (2 for 4)
Steve Ott, 50.0% (1 for 2)
Matt Niskanen, 33.3% (1 for 3)
Kari Lehtonen: .763 career (74 for 97), 1.000 in 2009-10 (4 for 4)
Andrew Raycroft: .617 career (37 for 60), .500 in 2009-10
Kari Lehtonen (on his success): “I don’t know what the secret is. It helps that I’m a little bit of a bigger guy. We practice them a lot, with our own guys. I feel comfortable there, when the guys are coming. But I don’t know if there is some sort of secret or not. But it’s been going good so far.”
THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE DALLAS STARS
BIG QUESTION #1: What can you expect from a Dallas Stars team that no longer has Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Sergei Zubov or Marty Turco?
Head coach Marc Crawford (on moving forward without their elder statesmen): “The biggest thing is the players’ attitude has been really good. And I attribute that to the fact that they’re digging in now. When a culture is one where you have big names and those big names are gone, there’s always a void left behind and it’s the players that have to fill that void. They have to fill the void in leadership and they’ve got to fill the void in accountability. They’re all doing it right now and they’re all stepping up and it’s nice to see. It’s happening before our eyes and it’s a good feeling right now. Now we can continue to keep learning the lessons and keep improving
VUKOTA says: Modano, Lehtinen and Turco are expected to have a combined 9.1 GVT in 2010-11.
Timo says: Veterans like Modano and Turco are exactly where they need to be—playing roles on win-now teams like Detroit and Chicago. The Stars aren’t too many pieces away from being a legitimate contender, but you don’t do that by holding onto fading veterans.
Answer: Progress, which is already evident in goal. A key move or two to retool the defense could have the Stars advancing past the first round of the playoffs, as early as this season.
BIG QUESTION #2: Can Kari Lehtonen finally stay healthy, and if so, provide elite goaltending?
Head coach Marc Crawford (on Lehtonen’s health): “He’s played back-to-back before and we considered what we were going to do in a back-to-back situation. But he had a pretty manageable game last night and so we didn’t think that fatigue was a factor. He didn’t play for a week before this and he’s not going to play again until next Thursday, so we’ve got a number of opportunities to give him a day off. And right now, for Kari, he’s really paying attention to his regimen. He’s got a routine now that he’s following, he’s really eating better, he’s resting at the right times, he’s doing the stretching and the conditioning stuff that he has to do, so that’s a sign of maturity from a goaltender—knowing his body. He knows what he needs a little bit more. Again, as they get older, they get smarter and he’s definitely in that fold right now.
Kari Lehtonen: “So far, it’s only two games. It’s early. It was good to start both games and kind of see where we are. I felt fine, so that was good.”
Marc Crawford: “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our goalie this year. He’s really played well. It’s really just a reflection on how well he’s played. So that’s big.”
VUKOTA says: 26.9 GP, .911 save percentage, 4.2 GGVT, -0.5 DGVT, 0.3 SGVT, 4.0 GVT.
Timo says: With age and experience, Lehtonen’s taking steps to take better care of himself, which is evident in both his comments and his coach’s comments. Much like with Rick DiPietro, signs seem positive right now for his putting in a full campaign. Lehtonen consistently posted .910 to .916 save percentages over the past four seasons with Atlanta, and the Stars are expecting big things from him in 2010-11. It’s clear that they’re convinced that they have made a big improvement over Marty Turco and I tend to agree. With a young, deep and dynamic offense and an above average goaltender, all of a sudden the Stars are a good defense away from being a true contender in the Western Conference.
Answer: Signs are promising for a relatively healthy season. Expect above average goaltending from Lehtonen if he can stay on the ice, as well as a handful of extra points from shootout wins.
BIG QUESTION #3: Can the Stars win with this defensive corps?
Stephane Robidas (on a Dallas Stars defense without stars): “We’re trying to work as a team. The identity of this team—we want to be a team—we’re not relying on one guy or one person. We want to do it as a team and that’s one of our strengths. Everybody can play and every time they step on the ice we feel confidence with the guys we have. And like you said, we don’t have big names or anything like that, but we’re just trying to keep it simple and play hard and try to outwork the other team and that’s what we need to do if we want to be successful.”
VUKOTA says: Aside from Stephane Robidas (Projection: 9 G, 28 A, 37 P, 4.5 OGVT, 3.8 DGVT, 8.2 GVT), Dallas sports five serviceable blueliners expected to put up between 2.3 to 6.1 GVT.
Timo says: The good news is that it shouldn’t take a big outlay to substantially upgrade one or two defensive positions.
Answer: The Stars look set in goal, and are loaded on offense through two-plus lines. The defense, while adequate, could use an upgrade to take the team to the next level.
Timo Seppa runs the statistical hockey site Ice Hockey Metrics and is co-editor of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11. Follow Timo on Twitter at @timoseppa.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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