Brad Richards led the charge as he totaled 91 points during the regular season. Those 91 points tied his career high which he registered during the first post-lockout year. In other words, once again put Richards on the top of the playmaking center list. As a gifted puck distributor he helped Loui Eriksson and James Neal register career highs in points making the top line next year seem incredibly imposing. In short, their top line is their strength.
Mike Ribeiro led the secondary scoring, playing with former top line talent Brendan Morrow and rookie Jamie Benn for the majority of the season. Ribeiro suffered a freak injury which took 16 games off his season and somewhat explains posting his lowest points totals since joining the Stars. The team will look for all three to step up and become a true 1A line.
Steve Ott re-signed with the team before hitting free agency. Mike Modano will not return after going out in the twilight of his career. Jere Lehtinen would be wise to do the same after posting his second lowest point totals in his career and seeing his production decrease for the fourth straight year. As an UFA he could not be offered a contract altogether.
Stephane Robidas posted career highs across the board and finally showed what he can do with additional responsibility. Throughout his career he tallied points inconsistently but seemed to finally put everything together in Big D. If you think drafting Robidas next season is a safe bet, keep in mind 27 of his 41 points came during his first 40 games. He simply needs this team to run on all cylinders to step up, when the team struggled down the stretch so did he.
Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen represent the lone additional scoring threats on the team, leading to speculation the Stars will shop for a UFA defenseman. Niskanen looked promising after improving on his rookie season with an excellent sophomore season. After losing Sergei Zubov as a mentor, he struggled to produce on the scoresheet but could be a prime candidate to step up next season. Daley received added time because of Niskanen’s struggles and holds a pedigree of his own. He quietly puts up points but likely will be a third defenseman on this squad.
Marty Turco continued to play a mediocre game after being the face of the franchise. Before the deadline, the Stars made the move for former top pick Kari Lehtonen– putting the writing on the wall for the Stars. Lehtonen is a wild card at this point with high-end potential. He could return to form but never came close to justifying his lofty expectations.
On the Bench:
Marc Crawford came in to replace coach of the year candidate Dave Tippett, marking the beginning of the Joe Nieuwendyk era. Known as an offensive oriented bench boss, Crawford takes advantage of his top offensive players but needs an improved blue line to fully implement his system. Looking at his teams historically, he had Adam Foote AND Rob Blake– both of which cannot be compared to Robidas, Daley or Niskanen.
The Bottom Line:
After struggling to make the playoffs, the Stars finally are realizing they must continue to get younger to be better. Expect more of the same next season as the team will continue to grow together now that the Modano, Turco and Lehtinen dynasty era finally comes to an end.