Tyler Seguin

Dallas Stars questions: goaltending, aging, and new faces

3 Comments

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

Let’s run through three questions for the Dallas Stars heading into 2019-20 …

1. How will the new guys fit in?

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we saw how formidable the Stars could be when Mats Zuccarello helped their second line chip in a bit more offensively, supplementing Jamie BennTyler Seguin, and allowing Ben Bishop to do the rest.

They waved goodbye to Zuccarello during the offseason, but hope to boast an improved offense after making a hefty investment in Joe Pavelski.

Along with Pavelski, the Stars also took some interesting reclamation projects in Corey Perry and Andrej Sekera. If those two deliver above their (newly modest) levels of play, then things could really pick up for a Stars team that looks to be competitive in the Central Division.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | X-Factor | Under Pressure]

2. Will the Stars get elite goaltending again?

Last season, you might have expected slightly above average work from the tandem of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Instead, the Stars enjoyed the second-best even-strength save percentage last season, and Bishop managed the difficult task of carrying that outstanding work into the playoffs.

As stingy as Stars head coach Jim Montgomery’s defensive system was in 2018-19, it’s tough to imagine Bishop and Khudobin pulling that off again.

Bishop only played 46 regular season games last season, and was limited to 53 in 2017-18, so we’ve already seen how much the big goalie can be hindered by health. Bishop – Khudobin is a veteran goalie combo, opening the door to a decline related to aging, not just injuries.

Beyond all of that, goalies are just flat-out difficult to predict from year to year. It’s the most important position in the sport, yet also a very tough one to forecast, so relying too much on your netminders is very risky.

3. Can the Stars avoid being hit too hard by the aging curve?

Young talent supplies some of the Stars’ excitement, as John Klingberg (26), Miro Heiskanen (20), and Roope Hintz (22) are all key contributors. At 27, Tyler Seguin is in the meat of his prime, too.

The Stars are still slated to tussle with Father Time in a big way in 2019-20, however.

Jamie Benn is slowing at 30. It’s surprising that Joe Pavelski is 35, and Alexander Radulov is 33, yet maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly look their ages. Bishop is 32, and Khudobin is 33. Corey Perry seems like a very old 34, and a reminder of how steep an age-related decline can be.

If enough Stars veterans hit the aging curve in a bad way this season, things could go sideways. Some teams like the Bruins get a little bit lucky when it comes to avoiding these drop-offs, in part because they’re able to shift some of the burden to younger players, and the Stars could pull that off too. Other teams aren’t so lucky, and the Stars haven’t even enjoyed the same peak years as the Kings, Ducks, or Blackhawks.

There are a lot of variables going on with the Stars (and other NHL teams), but the potential results of aging could be huge.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Benn, Seguin are still Dallas Stars under the most pressure

Getty Images

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

$26.5 million. That’s the combined salary for Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in 2019-20.

Such big money would mean big pressure for any duo in hockey, but it could be especially tense for Seguin and Benn. After all, Seguin and Benn can’t feel too confident that the Dallas Stars have their backs if they suffer through cold streaks. Quite the opposite seems to be true, actually; Stars CEO Jim Lites memorably threw them under the bus with a profane diatribe last season, and the Seguin – Benn duo is even more expensive with Seguin’s Super Mario extension kicking in.

If one or both of them suffer from bad puck luck, guess what? Such excuses are just a [stream of expletives] to the Stars’ execs, apparently.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | X-Factor | Three questions]

You can spread the tension out to other top players, but it’s unclear if that will make things a whole lot better.

Joe Pavelski‘s first year comes at a cost of $8M, while Esa Lindell‘s asking price is especially steep for 2019-20 with a $7M salary. While Ben Bishop figures to be a bargain at $5.5M if he plays near his 2018-19 level, the overall picture is that the Stars are still a very top-heavy team.

With bigger paychecks come bigger responsibilities, leaving these top stars – particularly Benn and Seguin – under pressure.

On the bright side, the makeup of this Stars team might just relieve some of that burden.

Pavelski’s had plenty of experience at center, and can also move over to the wing, giving him the potential to line up with one or more of Seguin, Benn, and Radulov. Benn, in particular, could benefit from taking on lesser matchups against middle pairing defensemen, as Benn has slowed a bit with age, as plenty of other power forwards do once they hit age 30.

If Roope Hintz blossoms as some expect, and Corey Perry rebounds as the Stars hope, then even better.

In a sense, Lites’ comments shine a light on another element of the Stars that’s under pressure: management.

GM Jim Nill has “won” or made the Stars one of the winners of plenty of summers, with shrewd trades and bold free agent gambits, yet Dallas has stumbled as much as its made strides. Along the way, they’ve spent plenty of money, and are estimated to scrape close to the salary cap ceiling next season. It’s easy to look at young players like Hintz and Miro Heiskanen and think of a bright future, but there’s a lot of “now” pressure with a team that’s expensive, and that much heavier on pricey veteran talent after adding Pavelski.

Last season, the Stars managed a delicate balancing act thanks to brilliant goaltending, and getting enough scoring from Benn, Seguin, and Radulov. The hope is that an offseason of promising tweaks will make it easier to manage this juggling act.

Even so, it seems like this team will still lean heavily on Benn and Seguin, which could mean even more drama if they buckle under the pressure.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Will the Stars open things up next season?

Getty Images
4 Comments

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

The Stars had plenty of reasons to play a … “low-event” style of hockey last season.

While Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn absorbed ridiculous (and profane) criticism from management, the bottom line was that they were generating most of the team’s offense, most of the time. Relying on Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin to keep the Stars in games made a lot of sense, especially when John Klingberg was injured, and Miro Heiskanen was thrown right into the deep end with big minutes and responsibilities.

You could picture Stars coach Jim Montgomery with a devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other: do we keep going with what “worked” in 2018-19, or should the Stars try to score more goals in this next go-around?

Ultimately, the Stars’ style of play is an intriguing x-factor for 2019-20.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Under Pressure | Three questions]

After all, the team made big investments in improving their scoring depth for 2019-20, as the Stars made a big splash with Joe Pavelski, and an interesting low-risk gamble with Corey Perry. With Roope Hintz showing potential for a breakout, it’s plausible that the Stars could go from a team that scored the third-fewest goals in the NHL (209) to a team that’s far more dynamic.

There are pros and cons to opening things up a bit more.

For one thing, it’s tough to imagine Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin replicating their fantastic work from last season.

Their team save percentage was a resounding .923 in 2018-19, versus a league average of .905, and the Stars enjoyed similar advantages at even-strength. Bishop was particularly brilliant with a .934 save percentage in the regular season and .933 in the playoffs, both marks that few goalies can pull off regularly, and 32-year-old Bishop often faces challenges even staying on the ice after years of wear and tear.

It’s not outrageous for head coach Jim Montgomery to take a “if it ain’t broke” mentality, though.

While the Stars weren’t the most exciting team to watch, they were often pretty effective once you consider certain analytics. Yes, they actually allowed more shots on goal per game (31.6) than they generated (30.7), yet the Stars look better when you drill down to other stats, as they were able to get a better share of high-danger chances than they allowed.

A boost from Pavelski and/or Perry doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the Stars should get into old-west shootouts with teams that have high-end arsenals. You could argue that Dallas may still be closer to mid-range when it comes to firepower, especially if Perry’s as done as he seemed during his darkest Ducks days.

But it’s tough to ignore that the Stars walked a difficult tightrope overall last season, only scoring nine more goals (209) than they allowed (200).

Maybe more than anything else, it’s crucial for Montgomery to avoid going on autopilot.

Injuries, and streaks both hot and cold, can change how you approach given nights during an 82-game season. There might be times when it makes sense for the Stars to be bolder, and also dog days of 2019-20 when they’re better off nursing leads and reducing the burden on veteran players. Montgomery also may want to experiment here and there, particularly if he believes that the top line could transform into two strong scoring lines now that Dallas has Pavelski in the mix.

With Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen providing the Stars with some modern weapons on defense, this team could conceivably succeed if they decide to pursue a frantic pace.

It should be intriguing to see how Montgomery approaches the way this team plays — and hopefully, it will also be fun to watch.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

It’s Dallas Stars Day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

2018-19
43-32-7, 93 points (4th in the Central Division, 6th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in Round 2

IN
Joe Pavelski
Corey Perry
Andrej Sekera

OUT
Mats Zuccarello
Jason Spezza
Valeri Nichushkin
Tyler Pitlick
Ben Lovejoy
Brett Ritchie

RE-SIGNED 
Esa Lindell
Jason Dickinson
Mattias Janmark
Roman Polak

2018-19 Season Review

By almost any measure, Jim Montgomery’s debut season as Stars head coach was a big success.

In other words, it wasn’t blanking horse-blank.

After missing the playoffs for two straight years despite GM Jim Nill’s frequent tendency to “win” offseasons, and going through a failed experiment with bringing back Ken Hitchcock, it was Montgomery who finally righted the ship.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that his goalies performed at an elite level — although you could call that a symbiotic relationship, as Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin made the saves, while Montgomery’s system made life easier for both veteran goalies.

Either way, Bishop’s work was especially remarkable in 2018-19. Bishop generated a tremendous .934 save percentage during the regular season, then nearly matched it with a .933 mark in the postseason. While the Stars fell short against the Blues in a tight Game 7 that went beyond regulation, Bishop was stellar, making 52 saves to keep Dallas in the running.

Despite CEO Jim Lites’ comments, the Stars’ dynamic duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were mostly dominant this season and into the playoffs, often with Alex Radulov. Yet, it was an injection of depth that took Dallas to another level during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mats Zuccarello was a dangerous playmaker once he was finally healthy, and Roope Hintz‘s bulldozer style portended good things for the future.

[MORE: X-Factor | Under Pressure | Three questions]

As much of a bummer as it must be to let Zuccarello go, the Stars seem poised to make up that difference (and more) by snagging Joe Pavelski from the Sharks. If Corey Perry and Andrej Sekera work out as reclamation projects, then even better.

It will be a lot to ask Bishop and Khudobin to match last season’s brilliance, but perhaps a rising defense will prop them up if they stumble? John Klingberg continues to be a dark horse Norris candidate, who will hopefully play more than 64 games in the 2019-20 regular season, while Miro Heiskanen aims to build off of a brilliant rookie season.

Expectations are only going to rise in Dallas, and Lites can only get away with admonishing his top players so many times, so there’s always the risk that things fall. Bishop and/or Khudobin could struggle mightily, and injuries are a frequent headache for Bishop especially. New players might not jell with the Stars, as both Pavelski and Perry are playing on new teams for the first time in their lengthy careers.

Overall, though, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, especially since we’re really not that far removed from Lites ruthlessly (and foolishly) roasting his best players.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Q&A: Stars’ Tyler Seguin on Stanley Cup window, offseason motivation

Getty Images

Tyler Seguin met Joe Pavelski for the first time this week as the two are in Lake Tahoe for the annual American Century Championship golf tournament. In a group together with T.J. Oshie of the Washington Capitals, the Dallas Stars forward will have plenty of time to get to know his newest teammate a little better nearly two weeks after Pavelski signed a three-year deal to leave the San Jose Sharks.

As Pavelski went through the free agency interview period at the end of June, Seguin, along with Jamie Benn, reached out via text on behalf of the Stars to answer any questions about the organization and the Dallas area.

“You try to not make it too much recruiting,” Seguin told NBC Sports on Thursday. “It’s not always been my style, but I just touched base with him about this tournament and obviously said I heard you’re in Dallas, if you have any questions [let me know]. We talked a little bit. We’re ecstatic that he joined our team, he’s a huge addition for us. Looking forward to the season and getting things started.”

Pavelski was one of three big additions by Stars general manager this offseason. Corey Perry and Andrej Sekera were also been brought in to add to depth up front and on the blue line.

Seguin said he is happy to have career shift-disturber Perry, who was bought out by the Anaheim Ducks in June, on his side. He’s also eager to have these additions help the Stars build off a strong year that saw them an overtime goal away from reaching the Western Conference Final.

“I think our team’s a competitor,” Seguin said. “I want people saying we’re a competitor. I want our expectations to be very high. I think we’ve always had excuses when it’s come to new coaches or a new staff. But there should be no more excuses. We had a good team last year and I think the Twitterverse said that we needed a couple more guys that could score goals, so we answered the Twitter bell as far as our acquisitions this year. You know, let’s go. We’re all-in, I’m all-in and looking forward to a great year.”

We caught up with Seguin this week to talk about his golf game, this past season in Dallas, the secret being out on Miro Heiskanen and more.

Enjoy.

PHT: How is your golf game these days?

SEGUIN: “Very average. I can play but I usually play around a 13, 14 handicap. I’m just out here for a good time, get to see people. It’s been exciting.”

PHT: How often do you get to go out during the season?

SEGUIN: “Actually more than you’d think. Living in Dallas, we’re members at a course out there, Dallas National. We see Tony Romo out there a bunch, played with him a couple of times. When we’re on the road we’ll probably play five, six times. But we’re only playing for fun, not too seriously.”

PHT: Your new teammate Joe Pavelski finished third in this tournament last year and 10th a few years ago. Is there someone on the Stars roster who could challenge him on the course?

SEGUIN: “Maybe Taylor Fedun could challenge him. Stephen Johns can hit a deep ball. Myself and Jamie Benn, we’ll go on a golf round and we might shoot an 80 or we might shoot a 92.”

PHT: Building off of this past season, what does it mean to you that Jim Nill goes out and adds someone like Joe Pavelski coming off a 38-goal year?

SEGUIN: “The thing is, especially with GMs, with teams you’re either going all-in and going for it or you’re kind of re-stocking. When you see a GM make moves like going to get a guy like Joe Pavelski he’s telling the whole team ‘Our window’s open, we’re going to win the Stanley Cup.’ That’s our objective. That’s our goal. That’s the expectation. As a player on the team you get even more excited when you see these moves happening in the summer. You’re always working hard in the gym, but you’re even more dialed in now because you know they’re all-in so you want to be all-in and make sure you don’t let your teammates down.”

PHT: With the way last season went, the stuff with Jim Lites, the second half push, the heartbreaking end in Game 7, are you a player who turns the page and looks forward or do you keep pieces with you to serve as motivation going?

SEGUIN: “I think it changes based on the player. For me personally, it’s changed every year. A couple years ago it was not making the playoffs and I was thinking about games in November when we lost to a team like Carolina at the time that we should have won that game. There’s things throughout the year that stay in your mind. Obviously this year there was being in Game 7 double overtime and losing to St. Louis and being one shot away. You know, me being the guy that’s usually supposed to get that shot in and then seeing St. Louis go all the way and win it, those are motivation tactics in my head that I use all summer. 

“As far as the noise outside, whether it’s the stuff that happened to me earlier in the year, I kind of let that stuff go, kind of sticks and stones sort of thing. I play for my teammates.”

PHT: Jim Montgomery had a strong first year behind the bench. What about Jim and his style is different from other coaches you’ve had?

SEGUIN: “The way he’s approachable, his personality, the way he knows when to be buddy-buddy and knows when to be a bit more of a drill sergeant. He had some growing times during this year with all of us like we did, but I’m comfortable with not having any more coaches in Dallas, I’ve had three already. I’m hoping Jim’s going to stick around for at least the rest of my deal, which is eight more years. I’m looking forward to making some noise.”

PHT: Finally, Miro Heiskanen had a tremendous rookie season. How impressed were you with the way he was able to play at such a young age?

SEGUIN: “Honestly, he got to a point this year that’s never really happened with me and that was I stopped being surprised. I was continuously being surprised by him and at the end of the season you’d see something happen and you’d just say that’s Miro. Me personally, I would have liked to have hid him in Dallas a couple more years and not have everyone know how good of a player he is, but he’s so good that everyone knew. He’s going to be a heck of a player for many years with the Dallas Stars.”

You can watch Seguin, Pavelski, Oshie, and NBC’s Jeremy Roenick and Kathryn Tappen, along other celebrities from the sports and entertainment world participate in the American Century Championship golf tournament this weekend from Lake Tahoe. Coverage begins Friday at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and continues Saturday and Sunday on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. You can watch a live stream here.

MORE: Joe Pavelski on free agency process, January return to San Jose

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.