The talk surrounding the Dallas Stars for years has been about improving their mediocre offensive output. This summer, they addressed that, bringing in a more offensively-focused coach and adding Mason Marchment upfront and Nils Lundkvist on the blue line, along with some healthy bodies and young superstar prospects. But what about the other side of the ice? Will all of this attention on the offense hurt the Dallas defense?
Keep in mind that the Stars found most of their success (especially into the playoffs) when they were a top-five defensive team with great goaltending. They should have the goaltending with the motivated duo of Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood, but they lost John Klingberg, did little to replace him immediately, and their team defense fell to mid-pack a season ago.
New Head Coach Pete DeBoer loves to push the pace of the game. His teams pump a lot of rubber on the net and he urges defensemen to jump up into the rush and add to the offense. That is great. That should be key to helping Miro Heiskanen re-discover his offensive game, along with getting more production from Ryan Suter, Esa Lindell, Thomas Harley, Colin Miller, Lundkvist, and Jani Hakanpaa.
However, don’t forget that Suter struggled with turnovers last season, Lindell was not his usual shutdown self, Harley and Lundkvist have minimal experience, and Miller had a very poor season on a bad Buffalo team. So while the need for offense is there, both the new bench boss and the players need to maintain focus on both ends of the ice, not just on improving their scoring.
Look what happened to the high-flying 2015-16 Stars once they hit the playoffs with bad defending and worse goaltending… This team wants to win and make the playoffs but they also pride themselves on being built for playoff success and that recipe is not the one to do it.
So far, DeBoer is saying all of the right things. He is not only preaching more offense, he is looking to develop a two-way game that turns solid defending into transition and scoring on the other end.
“We want to unlock some of that offensive potential of the group,” he said. “Offense doesn’t start in the offensive zone. It starts with being able to get out of your own zone clean, getting through the neutral zone with speed, and then playing in the offensive zone and getting your defensemen involved. One of the things I’ve taken a lot of pride in over my time in the NHL, especially in San Jose and Vegas, was the importance of getting your defensemen involved in the offensive game.”
Dallas needs to be careful not to get too lost in their search for above-average offense this season. If they can find that balance that successful teams like Tampa Bay and Colorado developed, they have the pieces to put up good numbers on both ends of the ice.