The Dallas Stars are in go-for-it mode.
Of that, there can be no debate, after GM Jim Nill hired Ken Hitchock as head coach, traded for and signed goalie Ben Bishop, traded for defenseman Marc Methot, then added forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal in free agency.
Combine those new additions with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg, and expectations will be rightfully high next season.
Certainly, with all that talent, scoring goals shouldn’t be an issue in Big D.
Defensively, though, the Stars will not only need to be better, they’ll need to be much better. In 2016-17, they had the NHL’s second-highest goals-against average (3.17). Only the dreadful Avalanche got scored on more (3.37).
Hence, the Hitchcock hiring and the Bishop signing. The former knows how to structure a team to defend. The latter has a .919 career save percentage.
But in terms of importance, don’t sleep on the Methot acquisition. Next season, Nill expects the 32-year-old to pair with Klingberg, in the same way that Methot paired with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa.
“Marc has proven to be a capable and steady defenseman that can play well with an offensive-minded partner, and he will add a tremendous amount of leadership and experience to our blue line,” Nill said, per the Dallas Morning News.
Of course, even if Klingberg and Methot strike a good balance, there are two other pairings to worry about. Perhaps Dan Hamhuis could skate with Julius Honka: one steady veteran with a more offensive-minded youngster. Then put Esa Lindell with Stephen Johns.
In theory, it could work.
Dallas learned last year that a plan doesn’t always come together. The Stars entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations, only for almost everything to go wrong. When it was over, they’d gone from the best record in the Western Conference to missing the playoffs by 15 points.
Though the goaltending took much of the blame for all the losing, the defense was a real issue. Last summer, the Stars bid good-bye to Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers, a couple of top-four guys. In response, Hamhuis was brought in as a free agent; however, he struggled right off the bat.
It is not easy to fix a defense in today’s NHL. Just ask all the teams still trying to do it. To have success, much of the improvement has to come internally. So, yes, Methot will have to be a complement for Klingberg. But also, Lindell will have to avoid a sophomore slump, and Honka will have to prove he’s ready for the big time.
“We like what we have on paper, but in the end the goal for us is to be a contender every year, to get in the playoffs every year,” Nill said, per the Associated Press. “This game can humble you pretty quick, and it’s a tough league.”