After a cup win in 1999 and a finals appearance the following year, the Dallas Stars have faded and have since fallen from being one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Key players departing and some poor transactions have led to their downfall.
With a budget tied to too few players and the need to get 3 of their top players in Mike Modano, Jason Arnott and Sergei Zubov under contract, it appears the Stars are in big trouble.
However the last few years under the leadership of Doug Armstrong, the Stars have begun to rebuild their farm system and have started to stock their organization with decent prospects, especially from Europe. With time, the Stars may eventually get back to the top of the standing with a much more different looking squad than those veteran laden teams that were successful in the late 90s.
The Stars biggest strength is in goal. Marty Turco has developed in to one of the leagues top goalies. Though he has not had the same success in the playoffs, he has the ability to succeed. Since Turco is still in his prime, he should be around for a few more years. However, the Stars do have some decent youngsters to at least challenge for backup duty. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have both spent a few seasons down in the AHL learning their craft. Those two give the stars sufficient depth down the road as both appear ready for part time work in the NHL. The Stars also have Tobias Stephan in Europe. He will need some more time to develop but the Stars will hit paydirt if Stephan turns out similar to fellow Swiss goalies David Aebischer and Martin Gerber.
The Stars defence has taken a big hit the last few years. At one time boasting the league’s best top 4 with Zubov, Hatcher, Matvichuk and Sydor, now may not have neither one of them by the time next season begins. Letting Hatcher walk was a huge mistake. Though Phillip Boucher has been very solid, the other players they have brought in such as Numminen, Klemm, Therien, Sweeney have all showed their age and will likely not return. Right now it does not appear the Stars will be able to field a solid defence for next season. But the Stars can be encouraged by what they have in their system. Trevor Daley has potential to be a top end offensive defenceman. He does need to work on his play in his own end and his small stature hurts him in that area, but his tremendous speed and good offensive instincts give him potential to be a star offensively. Shawn Belle has all the tools; size, speed, hard shot, skill; he just needs to put it all together. he needs to be stronger in his own end and use his size to his advantage, but he has th skills to succeed at the next level. Mark Fistric is a big tough mean defenceman which this team needs. He has the potential to be a punishing blueliner in the NHL however his complete lack of any offensive ability may hurt his chances. Niklas Grossman is a big rugged stay at home blueliner kind of in the mold of a Kjell Samuelsson. He is not much of an offensive player but more upside in that area than Fistric. He plays a low chance safe game that could help him reach the NHL. Fellow Swede Johan Fransson is the opposite. He has tremendous offensive upside and uses his terrific speed and skill to take chances on offence. As you can see, the Stars boast a solid number of quality blueline prospects that bode well for the future as the present seems quite bleak.
Up front, it will be imparative for the Stars to keep Modano. He is their franchise player and despite being on the wrong side of 30, he still has a few good years left. Bringing back Jason Arnott will be important too. It will allow the Stars to field a competent first two lines with guys like Modano, Arnott, Geurin, Morrow, Lehtinen, Barnes and Turgeon around. Geurin is still a top scorer even if he is a greedy and selfish player, and Lehtinen is still one of the best two way players around. However all but Morrow are over 30. Fresh blood is needed as many of these players are starting to show their age and be bitten by the injury bug. The Stars though can be encouraged by what they see coming from Europe. Niko Kapanen has already made the Stars club as a 3rd line forward capable of playing centre or the wing. This was probably due to not only his playmaking skills but in general his solid two-way play. Antti Miettinen is another solid two-way player on his way up. he played part of the 2003-04 season with the Stars but was lacking a bit of finish to his game. Though not great at any one thing, he doesnt have any great weakness either. Jussi Jokinen is another Finnish prospect in the system. though not as well rounded as Kapanen or Miettinen, he may turn into a better scorer as he has a good shot and a sniper mentality. His offensive game will be an important addition to the Stars who have many of their top offensive players on the downside of their career. Loui Eriksson is probably the best forward prospect in the Stars system. He has good size, speed and skill but could like most youngsters get bigger, stronger and better defensively. but he is a complete package who could be a solid 2nd line player for years.
With any team that has relied on spending at will and moving prospects for veterans in order to make a cup run, a down time is expected as the team tries to recover from pillaging their own farm system. The Stars appear to be on the right track and have a strong group of prospect that should challenge for work in the NHL for the next few years. Though the team has some quality talent left over to still compete, it may be best for the Stars to see if those within can get the job done.