Now that we’ve taken brief glimpses at the other three divisions on the NHL, it’s time to hone in on the Central Division, which features the teams that stand tallest between the Blackhawks and a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll start with the two teams that were in Chicago’s division last season and the Dallas Stars are up first.
Last season: 23-19-14 (60 points), fifth place in Central Division
Key losses: F Andrew Cogliano, F Jake Dowling, F Jason Dickinson
Key additions: D Ryan Suter, F Michael Raffl, F Luke Glendening, G Braden Holtby
After making a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, the Dallas Stars shot back down to earth in 2021, finishing in fifth place in the pandemic-altered, makeshift Central Division. The Stars opened 2021 with a slew of COVID issues and then had their schedule further affected by a winter storm that affected the entire Dallas area. While the Stars were positioned to finish in fourth place and earn a playoff spot, Dallas lost six of its last eight games of the season which allowed the Nashville Predators to pull ahead in the standings, resulting in a disappointed conclusion to the 2021 season for Dallas.
While they don’t flaunt a ton of star power (no pun intended) in terms of household names, Dallas has no shortage of top-end talent and has added more than they lost in the offseason. Veterans like defenseman Ryan Suter and Stanley Cup champion netminder Braden Holtby are among the highlights of their offseason additions. While head coach Rick Bowness doesn't deploy the most exciting brand of hockey, the Stars play a generally balanced game and can catch teams off guard if they're not prepared.
A healthy Tyler Seguin alongside Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa mixed with the emergence of Roope Hintz provides Dallas with major scoring threats. Miro Heiskanen is an explosive blue-liner who can dominate in all three zones. And to make up for the injured Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and the newly acquired Holtby provide more than solid goaltending.
Dallas has one of the league’s best goal songs and worst alternate jerseys. The challenge they face heading into the ‘21-22 season is to make sure their place in the standings doesn't end up in the middle of the road. Missing the playoffs after a run to the Stanley Cup Final was a major disappointment. With a full 82-game season and healthier, retooled lineup, the Stars will have the chance to prove themselves as more than a one-hit wonder.