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Season 5 Preview - Dallas Stars Written by habsfan93 - November 30th, -0001

The Dallas Stars surprised a lot of people last season by making the playoffs with a roster that many GM's didn't think had the potential to go very far. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they hit the majestic 100 point mark for the 3rd time in 4 seasons. Dallas has never missed the playoffs in CMHL history, one of only a handful of teams that can lay claim to that feat. Sporting a roster that is somewhat, but not altogether different from last season's, GM Adam Roy (aka StarsGM) will look to continue the streak and maintain hold of the dubious title. He'll need a second straight standout season from young goalie Alex Auld if that is to come true.

Offence

Some signficant changes were made on the front end of the Stars, as last season's top 2 scorers - David Legwand and Sergei Samsonov - are no longer with the team. Taking over for Legwand at center is franchise forward Olli Jokinen, undoubtedly the Stars biggest acquisition of the summer. Jokinen is coming off a very respectable year for the Sabres in which he set a career-high mark in assists, but he has yet to break through and establish himself as one of the CMHL's premier forwards, only once eclipsing the 82 point mark in his 4 year career. Dallas' success could be resting on his shoulders, and we'll see what impact this has on his year-end numbers. The second major acquisition of the summer for the Stars was bringing in premier power forward Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi has been bouncing around a lot, this is his 5th stop in 5 years, but last season was undoubtedly the worst season of his career. Like Jokinen, his success this season could be the difference between a playoff trip or a heartbreaking April for the Stars. Another guy whose gonna get a chance to shine in Dallas is new acquisition Maxim Afinogenov. The Stars gave up an big time up-and-comer in Latendresse to land the speedy Russian, who set a career high in points last year playing with none other than Ovechkin and Crosby. Quel surprise! The question is if he can reproduce the point-per-game pace without the two best linemates in hockey.

There is a unifying theme to the supporting cast in Dallas - defence. Alex Auld didn't win last year's Jennings Trophy for least goals against in a season on his own, he had help in that department. Beyond the top line, Dallas has assembled what may be the best defensive forward ensemble in the league. Mike Johnson, Eric Belanger, Matt Cullen, Ryan Johnson, Matthias Tjarnqvist, Daniel Paille, Adam Hall, Brad Larsen and Christoph Schubert. None of those names scream much of anything, but put together, you are not going to get a lot of opportunities with those guys on the ice. Considering that this team doesn't score oodles of goals like other teams, their defensive abilities is what will get them to the playoffs, and they look to be in good shape to repeat last year's surprising performance.

Defence

The back end in Dallas has seen some changes this summer, with only Brian Pothier and Matt Greene returning from last season's squad. With 4 of the 6 defenders in contract years, all of these guys are gonna be looking to put up good seasons in the spotlight. The most exciting player has to be Kurtis Foster. During two years in the slums of Toronto, Foster put up extremely respectable offensive numbers. Now that he's moved to a better team, it will be really interesting to see if he can elevate his offensive game to a new level. Kyle McLaren represents a very big addition to this team - he'll chip in 35 points and be a very imposing presence on the penalty kill. And let's not forget about newcomer Barret Jackman who is going to pose serious problems to the opposing team if he lines up with McLaren. If there's one thing I can say, its that the Dallas defence is hugely improved and kudos should go to GM Adam Roy for the work he's done on this top 6.

Goaltending

Alex Auld didn't just bust through the door last year...he took an axe and tore it to shreds. No one expected him to win anything but he went out and proved that he was a #1 goalie in the CMHL, winning the Jennings Trophy and a big vote of confidence from fans in Dallas. But the question remains whether or not he  can repeat that success, because Dallas will need him to if they intend to make the playoffs again. Kevin Weekes is coming off an absolutely dismal year in Toronto where he sported a record of 3-15-3, with a 4.04 GAA and .867 save %. Those numbers make one cringe and the fact that he is the backup in Dallas goes to show just how much confidence the Stars are placing in Auld, because if I'm a fan, I don't want Kevin Weekes going anywhere near the crease.

Prospects

This is where things get scary. Aside from Al Montoya, there are absolutely no blue-chip prospects, and very few above average prospects, in the Dallas system. The Stars have contented themselves recently with making a lot of picks in the 4th round and beyond and this has led to a glut of guys who may be diamonds but are really just pretty rough. On top of this, the Stars next 1st round pick isn't until 2012! Yikes! This has to be a major concern for Stars fans, because good teams are built on good farm systems. If there isn't a renewed focus on prospects in Dallas, this team could crash and burn in the next 5 years.

Playoffs

Dallas is counting on a second stellar year from Auld, a breakout year from Jokinen and Latendresse, and a return to form from Bertuzzi. If most of those elements fall into place, the Stars can be pretty confident that they'll be playing hockey well into the spring. But I would start putting all my money on them just yet...

Quick Hits

Best Bargain: Maxim Afinogenov - Afinogenov defines bargain basement price at $750,000. He is a rising star who should fire the agent that secured him that crappy contract.
Most Overpaid: Al Montoya - Montoya was given a plum contract of almost 2 million dollars by Boston on the hopes that they could speed his development and make him their #1 goalie. It didn't work and now he's just an overpaid prospect in the minors. At least he still holds the potential to be a #1.
Breakout Player: Kurtis Foster - Foster did well on a crappy Toronto squad, the sky's the limit for him here on a much better roster.
Overrated: Josef Vasicek - Vasicek doesn't really have much to offer as a player. He's not an effective penalty killer, and he's a career 30 point guy. He's not good enough for the 2nd line, but he's not really a checker. Where does he fit on tAhis team...not really sure.

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