Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.
The DALLAS STARS as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)
Last Season VS the PQC: On Goal Analysis called the Dallas Stars 'Tee Time' (OUT of the playoffs) at Game 73 on March 21st, 2009. The Stars' play was erratic last season, to be polite. Since the conclusion 08/09 season, the Stars players and organization have been very open about their disappointment of team play, cohesion and performance. We will discuss a few of the off-season moves made to change this course in the SUMMER SPLASH section (below) but it should be noted, for all the bad taste left in Stars fans' mouth-guards last season, the team actually flirted with 4 of the 5 of OGA's PQC Status Spectrum designations during the course of their tumultuous season.
By Game 20, they were on the tipping point of OGA having to call them out of the playoffs. But a bit of a resurrection in play (adjustments to key injuries) and goalie Marty Turco valiantly trying to find his happy place on the ice had the Stars pull even with the PQC by Game 30 and then 1.5 points above the Curve by Game 50.
But once the descent began again, there was no recovering and OGA was in the position to call the Stars at 'Tee Time' just short of their mathematical elimination as their trending on the Curve proved to bear out the uncharacteristic season and the Stars finished at a mere 4.15 on the PQC.
Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: Last season was the 'average-killer' for the Stars as their average performance as measured against the PQC took a hit when missing the playoffs for the first time since the lockout and only the third time since the team relocated in Texas in 1993. While their average still measures respectable (4.988), they can be expected to perform above their average this year for two main reasons. First, they have something to prove to themselves, their fans and the new management in town. Secondly, the never-ending swath of injuries to key players last season actually gave some of the younger players in the system a chance to come in and fill the gaps.
This Stars team will be deeper and have more in-house competition for ice time. But the Stars will need to come out of the gate much stronger than they have the previous three seasons. In 2005-06, they improved their winning percentage between the 10-game and 20-game marks. Since then, however, every season has seen a major drop in production during this ten-game period. If the Stars' fate is to be different this season, this crucial period will be an indicator. And of course, OGA will be watching.
- The Dallas Stars made big changes to the organization this summer after last season's experiments with the co-GMs and Sean Avery. Tom Hicks, the owner, replaced the GM leadership by bringing in the 1999 Stars Stanley Cup MVP, Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwy then fired Dave Tippett and replaced him with coach Marc Crawford. The effect of this change to team chemistry and play is something all fans and players are anxious to witness.
- Most of the changes to the team this off-season, were in fact, in the team offices and the bench. In addition to Dave Tippett, the Stars have also replaced both assistants on the bench by promoting former player-favorite, Stu Barnes (who assisted from the booth last season) and by hiring former Edmonton assistant, Charlie Huddy who will bring a more offensive-minded style to the Stars defense. This will be the first time the Stars will experiment with such an idea since locating here in 1993 under the tutelage of multi-Selke winning, Bob Gainey.
- Major impact players who are no longer with the organization include Brendan Morrison who only played a handful of games with the Stars but could have been a nice addition to this 're-birth' year if not lost to free agency when he signed with Washington. The hardest loss for Stars' fans to absorb is Sergei Zubov to the Russian KHL league. Stars fans have had it good watching this man QB the Power Play for year after year. But the fans also had a chance to get used to a new-look defense without Zubie as much of his previous two seasons were lost to injury.
- Additions to the team are defensive-oriented. A new backup to challenge and help rest Marty Turco was brought in with the signing of veteran Alex Auld. Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka were signed to add grit to the blue line. Mysteriously, the Stars signed free agent Warren Peters (LW) from Calgary. Mysterious, because the Stars are already so heavily-loaded on the left side...
- Tom Hicks (owner) has been in the news with some financial issues over the summer, making a few Stars fans wonder about the future of their team. But Hicks is committed to winning with the Dallas Stars and has even sold his stake in the Texas Rangers (MLB) in order to address the financial issues and focus on the Product on Ice. This is good for Stars fans as Hicks has been willing to let his management take risks to produce titles - and knows when to step in for a shake-up, too.
- A huge factor that should play into a revitalized organization is the inaugural year of the Texas Stars - the newest AHL team housed north of Austin in Cedar Park, TX. Last season, the Stars prospects were (homeless) spread around multiple minor leagues. Now, the additional cast members are 3 hours (speed-limit) south of the American Airlines Center.
THE FANTASY DOSE
The Sure Thing: Mike Ribeiro (C) and/or Brendan Morrow (LW). A 'two-fer', if you will on The Sure Thing... Ribeiro because he has been stellar since joing the Stars from Montreal three seasons ago. He led the team in points (78) last season and is getting more responsibilities on the team. Morrow because the spark-plug Captain is the heart and soul of this team and is very anxious to get back on his ship. He only played in 18 games last season, but was playing at almost a point-per-game when injury ended his season. But he is healthy and rehabbed and you can bet will be anxious to take advantage of the new offensive minded-systems being established in Dallas.
TrustyRusty: Brad Richards (C). Last season was supposed to be Brad Richards true debut with the Dallas Stars after having only been acquired at the trade deadline in 2007/08. But injuries made it so Richards only played in 56 games last season. And here's where you can tell the Stars were not at their peak last season - in 56 games Richards ended third in scoring for the Stars with 48 points. He is healthy and has been working out since the Stars finished play last regular season. Expect some big numbers from his this year as the 'acclamation' period is truly over.
Up and Coming: Loui Eriksson (LW). By now, even hockey fans who barely pay attention to Dallas know who Loui Eriksson is. If they still don't, they will notice him as they browse player stats while trying to setup their ultimate fantasy teams. Loui, in his sophomore year, not only finished second on the team in scoring but led the team in plus/minus finishing a very respectable plus-14. The plus/minus stat was not favorable to the Stars last season and his closest teammates were at plus-10 (Stephane Robidas-D) and plus-5 (Landon Wilson who only played in 27 games). Eriksson played in all 82 games last season and will look to better his 36 goals scored in last year's campaign. Get to know Loui before your league's competitors do.
Under the Radar: Steve Ott (LW). Ott is under the radar because many refuse to think of Ott as a points producer and prefer to focus on his PIMs. But last seasons point totals may prove to be less of a fluke and more of a player-progression. It may be Ott has discovered his hands are quite capable for many uses and having played much of last season with a broken hand, unable to fight, Ott found some scoring when the gloves stayed on. Ott finished fifth on the team with 46 points and while bookending the broken hand, led the team in PIMs at 135. His confidence and health are at a prime and don't you be surprised to see Steve Ott surprise even more analysts this season.
The Watchful Eye: James Neal (LW). Neal enters his sophomore season after having a phenomenal debut in his first season with 37 points (24 goals) and placing sixth on the roster in scoring - so we'll have to see if Neal is prone to a sophomore slump or more greatness (like Eriksson last season) if paired on the right line. Although, the Watchful Eye is normally gazing towards the minors, the Stars' best chance of a call-up or a surprise at camp is defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy. The second rated prospect is Jamie Benn who tore up the WHL last season (42 goals, 23 assists in 53 games) but the Stars hope to have him play a full season in the AHL this season and continue to improve his skating and defensive play. So, watch Benn - but keep a closer eye on Neal if he's available as a free agent during the season.
The Crease: Marty Turco. Last year was an anomaly for the steady net minder. Turco has taken his licks in the press for last season's performance but with Alexander Auld having been brought in for backup/competition purposes, Turco will be anxious to prove last year was a fluke and he is still the face in net of the Dallas Stars - an elite goalie with an unconventional style. Should you take him for your fantasy game? I predict those who take the gamble and draft/sign Turco will be rewarded this season. Just don't expect him to play every night (unless ridiculously hot) as new management has tagged his many starts as an issue - meaning, Turco gets no time to sit on the bench and mull what could have been (or rest or practice certain aspects of his game) and this has contributed to his softening in net. In fact, Turco almost made the Frozen Pill's 'Mad Scientist' player choice for the 'gamble' factor. But that honor is reserved for one of America's greatest...
Mad Scientist: Mike Modano (C). Depending upon the value/salary your fantasy game applies to Modano, this may just be a great 'sneaker' pick for you. Most are going to assume his fantasy value is down significantly since his game the previous few seasons has been more focused on his defensive smarts and back-checking abilities. He has indeed played often on the third and even the fourth line. But in his twilight and still very dangerous, he enters the 09/10 NHL season as his last. And he wants one more Cup. At the beginning of the previous season, it looked as though he may carry the team on his back to the playoffs. But the frequent injuries to his teammates made it too heavy a burden to lift and he succumbed to the frustrations of the long campaign while still managing to finish fourth on the team in scoring. But don't you think he'll be motivated in this, his last season? You bet. And I hope to surprise a few by having Modano on my team for depth and scoring more points than most would expect.
THE DAILY TIP IN REPORT (DTIR)
Will the Dallas STARS be in contention for the playoffs again this season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.
Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.
And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.
Tomorrow is Hump Day and Big Tex brings you the SPR for the Detroit Red Wings. How fitting.
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