September 30, 2023

The Stars can reverse it, but that doesn’t guarantee success

Going into the 2023 postseason, the Dallas Stars appeared to have all the ingredients needed for a successful run.

Dallas had an elite goaltender in Jake Oettinger, a franchise defender in Miro Heiskanen, a group of forwards with an attractive mix of youth and experience – including a bona fide superstar up front in Jason Robertson – plus a few handy mercenaries to add some depth.

The question now is whether the 2023-24 Stars are likely to repeat that success.

What Dallas is going for is the fact that few of the top contributors plan to leave for free service. Max Domi and Evgeni Dadonov spiced up the front corps and may be on their way out. Depth men like Luke Glendening, Joel Kiviranta and Fredrik Olofsson are also entering the free agent market.

However, that group of five forwards accumulated a combined 41 points during the regular season. These are not the players that made Dallas successful. The team has also signed its top seven defenders through 2023-24, as well as its goalkeeper tandem of Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood.

The 2022-2023 season might have been the season of the Dallas Stars.  best chance for a while.  (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2022-2023 season may have been the best opportunity for the Dallas Stars for a while. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

With an estimated $7.39 million in cap space, the Stars even have a little room to shop for some upgrades at the edges of their roster. If they really want to bring Domi or Dadonov back, that’s far from off the table either.

Clearly, the Stars are in an enviable position on balance. The question facing the team is whether they can expect the same results from the same group. Part of what made the Stars so intriguing as a team this year was the way they paired newcomers like Robertson and Roope Hintz with their old guard duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn – plus all-time playoff performer Joe Pavelski .

Robertson and Hintz can be expected to replicate their strong campaigns, but it’s not clear the same can be said for the other three.

Benn is coming off a recovery season after four consecutive years posting between 35 and 53 points and scoring more than 20 goals only once. He turns 34 during the off-season and his equally strong possession stats have been under water for two years. If he can’t match the 17.4% shooting rate he achieved in 2022-23, it seems reasonable to expect a drop-off for him.

Unlike Benn, Seguin didn’t have a particularly strong year in 2022-23. He’s scored 49 or 50 points in three of the past four seasons, and even though he’s only 31, his usefulness as a top-six player is faltering. The 16:37 he skated during the regular season was his lowest average since he was a 19-year-old rookie.

Pavelski is an interesting case, because nothing in his numbers clearly indicates that a decline is imminent. His goal tally has improved every year, he has been a star and he has had two seasons in which he played 164 games and collected 158 points. In the playoffs, he was second on the team in goals and third in points.

The only problem with Pavelski is his age. He will be 39 before 2023/24 and only four 39-year-olds in NHL history have reached the 77 points Pavelski achieved last season. He may keep going, but it seems reasonable to project some age-related regression.

If Benn, Seguin and Pavelski find it hard to replicate their production, the enviable scoring depth the Stars possessed this season could easily erode. Rising Wyatt Johnson could help make up for some of the losses, but he’s only one player.

Dallas remains in a better position than the vast majority of teams in the NHL going into 2023-24, but if Father Time takes a bite out of his secondary score, this year may seem like a missed opportunity.

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