We apologize to the Dallas Stars. DallasDedicated definitely do not show them enough love. The Stars' season just happens to sit right in the midst of the second half of the Cowboys and runs right with the Mavs. While that may make them the 3rd most popular team in the DFW, hopes are highest for Texas' only hockey team. While diehards of the Cowboys are starting to see the growing problems with America's Team, the Stars have nothing but confidence. It is the 10 year anniversary of the Stars' 1998-99 Stanley Cup season. There is a feeling that hasn't been felt since that season, and every hockey enthusiast around the area is starting to feel it. Last year's Western Conference Finals appearance was no fluke, yet it was a pleasant surprise for many in the organization. This upcoming season involves a high amount of optimism, with a lineup that involves a few new faces and the attitude that this year is going to be a special one.
Last season showed the naysayers what this team is capable of. Marty Turco, who has been criticized his entire career for choking in the postseason, came up big in the first 2 rounds over and over. Turco had 62 saves in the multiple-OT thriller against San Jose, and finally ended his curse of never being able to get a win in Detroit.
While the final review of the Mavs' trade for Jason Kidd has yet to be determined, the Stars big trade during the deadline last season for Brad Richards has provided nothing but positives. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner became an instant locker room and fan favorite, and Richards has still not fully found his groove in Dallas. Brad Richards assumed the role of secondary scorer, and this season he should find his feel more with the offense.
Brenden Morrow had a wonderful year, especially in the postseason. He displayed to the world what the Stars personnel saw in him last offseason, which is why he was promoted to captain. We here at DallasDedicated will never forget the image of Morrow's wide-eyed expression after scoring the series-clinching goal against San Jose.
Stephanie Robidas, the surprise of the season, filled the void left by the injury to Zubov. Robidas was left battered and bloody after a puck broke his nose, yet he quickly returned and provided the spark to get Dallas into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. Let us also not forget about the infamous Mike Modano, who is going to stay one final year to get that second taste of the Cup.
Hagman and Miettinan were lost to free agency, and Stu Barnes finally decided to retire. However, one of the biggest offseason signings in the NHL happened right here in Dallas. Sean Avery agreed to come to the Stars and bolster the offense even more. Avery has a reputation of getting under the skin of the opposition, which helps makes this Stars team more physical, something that had been lacking since Darrien Hatcher and Joe Nieuwyndyk's departure years ago. There is also the signing of Swedish sensation Fabian Brunnstrom, who was offered deals by many NHL teams. Brunnstrom led all scorers earlier this month in the Traverse City Tournament, a tournament held for young prospects around the league.
This year, the Stars figure to improve on that disciplined puck-pressure formula that worked well for them in the playoffs. There will be the question at the blue-line with Zubov still not yet recovered from surgery, but the Stars dealt with this issue last postseason and have young players to fill the void. The young core at defense is what makes this Stars team a threat in the West for years to come. The Western Conference is ever-improving, and the Pacific division is stronger than ever, but the Stars are ready for whatever skates their way this season.
The Stars begin play tonight at 7:30 in their home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. By the way, what the heck is a blue jacket? I've been stung by a yellow jacket but have never been lucky enough to come across a blue jacket. Is this a real bug or just a stupid made up mascot?
Coming later: The Mavs have 2 preseason wins under their belt, and a lot of things are becoming clear. More to come on that later!