It wasn’t but a few years ago, on July 4th, 2013, that recently acquired General Manager for the Dallas Stars Jim Nill made exceptional changes that would alter the caliber of his team. Nill sent 2011 NHL All-Star Loui Eriksson along with prospects to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverly, and Ryan Button. It was this transaction that propelled a decent Stars team into a good Stars team.
However, what then turned this Stars team from good to very good – now on the verge of great – was the acquisition of veteran forward and two time All-Star, Jason Spezza and the other assets who were gained soon after. Spezza signed a four-year, $30 million extension with the team in 2014.
From then on, Nill proceeded to add the pieces of this very good team to make them a contender for the Stanley Cup. After acquiring Spezza they also added Ales Hemsky as a free agent. He also managed to obtain longtime Buffalo Sabres coach and Jack Adams winner Lindy Ruff in the summer of 2013 to make matters even better.
This past summer was also a busy one for Nill as he acquired three-time and two-time Stanley Cup Champions with the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya and added goaltender Antti Niemi to add depth in the crease who won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks.
Missing the playoffs in 2014-2015 gave additional motivation going into the summer finishing only two spots out of a Wild Card spot. Now with the key supplements and veteran leadership-especially several players who know what it takes to win a Cup- to mesh with the young talent, this team should have no problem securing a playoff spot.
The only factor that could weigh this team down is the fact they have no distinct number 1 defenseman and their goals against last season, despite their offensive numbers, is what kept them out of a playoff spot.
That being said, the way they’ve started the season certainly makes for a primary example for why this team is going to be a competitor. Right now they lead the Western Conference with 14 points in nine games and a record of 7-2-0. Last season’s reigning Art Ross Trophy winner and Stars captain is back at it leading the league in points with 15 and goals with eight. In his last five games he’s had ten points.
Benn’s lineman Tyler Seguin trails the captain in points by two with 13 sitting third in the league and ranks second in assists with nine. The chemistry between the two makes for one of the best tandem’s in the NHL, if not the best.
What made Dallas really stand out, despite their already impressive record, was the will and drive of this team. Talent is a sure factor, but as the saying goes “hustle beats talent if talent never hustles.”
Last night they were resilient, which was a noticeable factor with them last season as well. As the Stars faced the Anaheim Ducks at home in American Airlines center, they were already down 3-0 at the end of the first period. But as per usual, the captain managed to make something happen.
Spezza found Benn below the goal line who fed a pass to Sharp in the slot for a one-timer to not only open the scoring for the Stars, but to give Sharp his first goal as a Star.
Minutes later, Benn led a rush out of his zone while on the penalty kill. While appearing to attempt a pass to his brother Jordie, the puck careened off of a stick and back to jamie and sent a no-look pass to Cody Eakin who was gliding into the zone to rip it past Fredreick Anderson for a short-handed goal.
It only gets better. With three minutes left in the second period, the Stars control the puck deep in the offensive zone. Benn drops a pass off to Seguin who then skates like he’s going to the point, changes directions and finds John Klingberg in front of the net and puts the puck in the net to tie the game.
As both teams battled collectively in the third period, regulation was coming down to the wire to where overtime was anticipated. But the Stars would not give up a point as Vernon Fiddler picked up the puck in the neutral zone and raced towards the net, Antoine Roussel was there to bank home Fiddler’s rebound to win the game.
It’s performances like these that really show what kind of chemistry a team has and how they can battle through adversity. Not to mention, the amount of depth they have with Curtis McKenzie out of the lineup and Jason Demers suspended.
Is Antti Niemi the answer to the Stars’ goaltending troubles? Does this team have everything they need to gel on the ice and this could possibly be their year to get it done for the second time in franchise history?