DALLAS STARS MID-SEASON REPORT
TEAM: Dallas Stars
Place in Conference: 3rdInjured Players: Philippe Boucher- broke his finger December 3rd while playing against Carolina. Came back 2 weeks later and played a few games, but the injury still bothered him and hadn’t played since December 23rd, before returning to the lineup on January 6th. Stu Barnes suffered a hip flexor on December 27th against Detroit but returned January 4th.
Team Point Leader: Mike Modano- 43 points… 16 goals, 27 assists
Current Situation: Started the season playing very poorly, mainly because of shotty goaltending. But it looks like it would take a little bit before Marty Turco adjusted to the new rules and pad regulations. Turco has been on top of his game, posting a GAA of around 2.50 and Save Percentage of around .900. Johan Hedberg has proved a worthy back-up, posting an 8-1 record, and currently has a 6 game winning streak.
Turco recently signed a 4-year extension, taking him off this summer’s free agent market. He pretty much set the bar for elite goaltenders at $5.7 million.
But the main story of the Stars has been the return of the old Mike Modano. After a sub-par 2003/2004 season, Mike has gotten back on track and is averaging a point per game. He has 14 goals and 26 assists to go along with a plus/minus of +19. Jere Lehtinen currently leads he team in goals with 21. This is nothing new, as in the 02-03 season, Jere finished with 31 goals. He is turning into a proven goal scorer along with his top of the class defensive work. Stu Barnes and rookie Jussi Jokinen have each added 10 goals, while Brendan Morrow chipped in 13 and Jason Arnott has 12. Steve Ott has had a solid season as a 4th liner, and even spent some time with Lehtinen and Modano on the first line. He can drive opponents mad with his pesky play and consistent forecheck.
Sergei Zubov has backed up his new contract with a solid season of 5 goals and 23 assists. Philippe Boucher has continued his rising career with an outstanding performance, both on offense and defense. He has 9 goals and 13 assists. Stephane Robidas has turned some heads with his outstanding play. He is solid in his own end and is a plus 13.
The biggest disappointment has been the play of Billy Guerin, who has only 8 goals and has been taking very untimely, stupid penalties all season long. He looks out of place sometimes and isn’t the old Guerin people have come to know.
The Stars are first in the Pacific, which is surprising because of inconsistent goal scorers. The goals have been there, but by players you wouldn’t expect to lead the team. Guerin and Arnott have been largely invisible at times, not good from big skaters who should be leading the team. Lehtinen and Modano have picked up the slack, but they can’t do it by themselves. Barnes and Jokinen should continue to produce, but Barnes isn’t a proven goal scorer that can lead the team and Jokinen is a rookie.
Strengths: The mains strength of the team lies in its goaltending. Even when Turco is off his game, they have a reliable back-up in Hedberg to pick up the slack.
The re-emergence of Modano has put this team into first place along with the great play of Lehtinen. Those two guys, along with Turco, are the MVP’s of this season.
The power play for the Stars in the first months of the season was downright exceptional. They went a on a 17-game streak of scoring at least one power play goal. Their power play percentage for the season is at 16 percent, good for 19th in the league. But their penalty killing units rank 8th in the league, at 84 percent.
Weaknesses: Lack of a proven goal scorer after Modano and Lehtinen. They have 2 though, in Arnott and Guerin, but they just aren’t getting the job done.
Needs: SCORING! Okay, maybe not that bad, but unless Guerin and Arnott come back a sensational second half, this team needs a proven goal scorer. Defense and goaltending are set. Someone like Slava Kozlov, or even Mogilny from the Devils.
Also, a lack of depth could come back and bite the Stars come playoff time. They have Hagman, Tjarnqvist, Perrott, and Svoboda, but they aren’t exactly top-notch veteran players who can handle full-time 4th line duties. The stars need a player from the old days from the 1999 cup run, like Hogue or Muller or Mclean. Obviously I don’t want those exact guys right now, but someone that takes after them could put this team into elite status along with a goal scorer.
Expectations in Second Half: This team should continue to compete with L.A. for first place in the Pacific Division. This a very good team, and anything lower than second place is simply unacceptable, and if so, heads will roll. Even with inconsistent goal scorers, the Stars are a tough team to play against, and first place in this division, and even the conference for that matter, is not out of the question.
I don’t expect Guerin to save his season with an outstanding performance. He seems just about done. Arnott on the other hand, could turn around his season and play a sensational second half, and could even lead the team in goals if he would use his size to his advatange. Expect Lehtinen and Modano and Turco to continue their hard work.