The 2022-23 Dallas Stars season has arrived. It has been some frustrating times for Stars fans after nearly a decade of mediocrity outside of one Cinderella story. So why should you watch this season? I’ll tell you.
Superstars in the Making
Dallas has not been a hotbed for NHL superstars. I am not talking about guys that have good seasons, I mean legitimate league-wide stars. You can look at the prime years of Mike Modano, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn, but what about since then? Well now, the time has come.
Not only do the Stars have a superstar within their dressing room, they may just have four.
Miro Heiskanen is the obvious first name to come to mind. The 23-year-old Finnish defenseman burst onto the scene as a teenager and displayed his elite defending, skating, and offensive abilities on the national stage. Since then, his offensive numbers have dipped but he has only improved the other areas of his game.
Now with the departure of John Klingberg and the arrival of Head Coach Pete DeBoer, Heiskanen has the chance to truly dominate and push his name into the Norris Trophy voting for good.
Roope Hintz is what you picture when you think of a superstar. He is big, one of the fastest skaters in the league, and plays a complete two-way game that keeps him on the ice in all situations. Hintz took the next step in his career last season when he finished with 37 goals and 72 points, third on the team. This came one season after he finished with over a point per game despite playing through a lower-body injury that required major surgery.
The kid is tough and has all of the tools to be the best forward on the team and a force around the league.
Jason Robertson was the big surprise for Dallas during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. After being scratched and struggling over the first week, the winger filled in the final piece of the high-flying top line and finished his first NHL season with 17 goals and 45 points in 51 games. If it wasn’t for an incredible season from a much older Kirill Karpisov, Robertson would have taken home the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie.
When things were supposed to get tougher for him in his second season, he became just the fourth Dallas player to record 40 goals, leading the Stars and finishing second in overall points (79) in just 74 games. Coming off a new four-year contract, the 23-year-old should be even better this season.
Jake Oettinger had to battle to get to where he is. First, he was thrown into the bubble to serve as backup to Anton Khudobin, where he ended up making his NHL debut in the Western Conference Final. Then, he was pushed into the same situation during the tough 2020-21 season, as Dallas waited for the hopeful return of Ben Bishop. Instead of remaining in the shadows, the youngster outplayed Khudobin, stole the starting job, and finished the season with a very respectable 11-8-7 record and a .911 save percentage.
The next season, he was tested again, starting the season in the AHL until he eventually got his shot at the highest level once again. This time, he never let it go as he asserted himself as the starting goaltender for this franchise.
The Minnesota native played through tough stretches, overcame the overtime struggles from the prior season, started an excessive number of games in a row due to injuries around him, and finished the year with a 30-15-1 record and a .914 save percentage.
His final act came in the form of a 64-save performance in the Stars Game 7 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. Signing a new deal like his buddy Robertson should boost his confidence even more.
A New, More Fun System
Stars fans, I understand your frustration with the defensively-obsessed hockey you have seen from the team in recent years. But with a new coach, comes a new system.
Pete DeBoer brings with him a faster, more effective, and more entertaining brand of hockey. Getting his defensemen involved is just the start as Dallas should be able to maintain control of the puck more, score more goals, and not rely on their goaltender to steal games for them.
The new system should also bring out the best in Heiskanen, Nils Lundkvist, Tyler Seguin, and of course the top line of Joe Pavelski with Hintz and Robertson. Be prepared to enjoy watching this team play a whole lot more this season.
The Passing of the Torch
Dallas is in a transition period. But unlike many clubs, they are getting the best of both worlds. As the older group of Seguin, Benn, Pavelski, Lindell, etc… get older, the new corps has begun taking its place. While many teams need a few seasons of rebuilding to accomplish this, Dallas has done it flawlessly while remaining competitive.
This season, you will see a hopeful resurgence from some of the veterans that need it but more importantly, you will see the future of this team (Oettinger, Heiskanen, Hintz, Robertson, Lundkvist, Ty Dellandrea) take their place. This successful transition is how teams win championships.
Dallas has arguably the best blend of veterans, young corps, and up-and-comers (cough, cough Wyatt Johnston) in the entire league. Add to that the fact that they brought in two legitimate difference makers in Mason Marchment and Lundkvist, something that seems to always be missing, and there is a lot to watch for this season.
So sit back and enjoy the transition, I know I will.