With all the talk surrounding the Dallas Stars best start in seven seasons, I wanted to dive into just how good that 2015-16 team actually was. And more importantly, how do they match up with the 2022-23 Stars?
Let’s start, with the start. Hey, that’s fun.
2015-16: Dallas went 9-3-0 through their first 12 games, just an overtime victory in Toronto away from an identical record to this season. They outscored their opponents 41- 34 (+7), as they played a far less structured game defensively.
2022-23: The Stars are 8-3-1. They have a +19 goal differential. And they have won all eight games by multiple goals (seven of eight wins have come by three or more). They have been dominant.
But who led the pack offensively?
2015-16: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were two of the most elite players in the league. Benn was coming off his Art Ross Trophy for the most points, and recorded 10 goals and 18 points in the first 12 games. Seguin tallied five goals and 17 points.
John Klingberg (11 points) and Jason Spezza (10 points) rounded out the group.
By the end of the season, those names remained atop the list. Benn finished first with 41 goals and 89 points. Seguin second with 33 goals, 73 points. Spezza reached 33 goals and 63 points. And Klingberg led the team with 48 assists (58 points).
Patrick Sharp also added 20 goals while Mattias Janmark finished his rookie season with 15.
2022-23: Everybody has chipped in so far this season. Only Radek Faksa, Ryan Suter, Nils Lundkvist, and Joel Hanley have yet to score a goal while every skater outside of Hanley has recorded a point.
As they have for seasons, the top line has led the way.
Jason Robertson tops the list with eight goals and 18 points (10GP), Roope Hintz is hot on his heels with five goals and 16 points, and veteran Joe Pavelski rounds it out with six goals and 12 points. Meanwhile, after struggling to produce offensively for a few years, Benn and Seguin sit fourth and fifth with 11 and 10 points, respectively,
What about the special teams?
2015-16: The Stars were a dynamic team on both sides of special teams. Their power play ranked fourth-best at 22.14%, while their penalty kill finished in the top 10. Sound familiar?
2022-23: So far, the Stars are the only team to rank in the top 10 on both sides of special teams. In fact, they rank in the top five. Their power play sits fourth at 29.27% and their PK is fifth with an 84.62% success rate. Anything you can do, I can do better.
The biggest differences between the two clubs come on the defensive end and in goal.
2015-16: Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi were among the highest-paid goaltenders in the league. While they did not need to be perfect due to their team’s scoring ability, they put up fairly solid numbers in the regular season.
The duo split games down the middle and finished with nearly identical .905 and .906 save percentages. Both goalies allowed under 2.76 goals per game.
In the playoffs, things fell apart. In 13 playoff games, they allowed 29 goals (3.00 per game). Lehtonen carried the load, finishing with a .899 save percentage in 11 games while Niemi was worse (.865 in five games).
Defensively, Dallas was quite poor as they played a 'high-flying, don't look back' style of hockey.
Despite the excellent start through 12 games, the Stars were allowing 2.83 goals per game. By the end of the season, that number was relatively similar, good enough for 20th in the NHL.
2022-23: Jake Oettinger was the best goalie in the league before his injury. In fact, he still is.
In seven games, the 23-year-old has recorded five wins (T-third), a 1.40 goals-against average (first), and a .952 save percentage (first).
Since his injury, Scott Wedgewood has filled the void. In three games, Wedgewood is 3-0-0 with a .935 save percentage. He has allowed only two goals in all three games.
Dallas unsurprisingly ranks in the top five in overall team save percentage.
The 2015-16 Stars won 28 games before dropping their 10th loss and finished with a 50-23-9 record. The club finished second in both wins (50) and losses (23) and finished behind only the Washington Capitals in the league standings. They also finished first in goals-for (265) and goals per game (3.23).
109 points was good enough for the first seed in the Western Conference and a Central Division title. In the end, goaltending cost them as they fell in Game 7 of the second round to the St. Louis Blues.
Will this season continue on its path? Will it have a better ending? I guess we will need to wait to find out.