The Dallas Stars hold the third spot within the Central Division after 40 games. Their success can be attributed to a handful of factors, but this article analyzes three specific areas of dominance.
Most teams would falter when losing their clear no. 1 in net. The Stars have refused to be like most teams. Scott Wedgewood has stepped up in the crease following Jake Oettinger’s lower-body injury, going 12-4-3 through 19 games played. Recent call-up Matt Murray calmed the Stars faithful watching from afar when he recorded his first NHL shutout in 4-0 fashion against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 4. Murray stopped all 23 shots faced in the important road victory.
CBS Sports reported Oettinger is closing in on a possible return to action soon. The Otter sustained the injury five weeks ago. In 21 appearances this year, the 25-year-old has gone 11-7-2 with a 2.93 GAAA and .901 save percentage.
Goal scoring has increased every year since the conclusion of the 2021-22 . The anemic scoring during the Stanley Cup run two years earlier was hidden by the fact that Dallas was a brick wall when it came to defense. Goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin posted a combined .925 save percentage. The blue line featured a great mix of young players and more experienced players headlined by sophomore superstar Miro Heiskanen and anchored by Roman Polack and Andrej Sekera.
New faces began to fill in new roles as Dallas struggled to find their defensive composure following the 2019-20 campaign. Slipping to 21st the following year and 20th the next season, Oettinger and the emergence of Heiskanen coupled with the renaissance of Ryan Suter stabilized the Stars’ back end in 2022-23. For the first time under Nill, the Stars ranked third in both goals-for and goals-against. Nill also won the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award after the Stars registered 108 points in the regular season with a 47-21-14 record.
Dallas continues to rank third in offense this season – with 149 goals scored thus far – while the defense slipped. The drop in defensive standing could be, amoung other things, attributed to the loss of Oettinger and, most recently, Heiskanen.
Plethora of Goals
This year might feature the deepest forward group of the Jim Nill era. Nill was named the 11th general manager in franchise history on April. 29, 2013. Unafraid to make a big splash, Nill acquired high-profile names like Tyler Seguin, Sergei Gonchar, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Sharp to establish Dallas as a perennial contender amid the 2010s. Seguin, acquired from Boston in a seven-player transaction in July of 2013, has chosen to remain a Star while others have come and gone. This season, his 11th with the club, is turning out to be one of his best. He and linemates Matt Duchene and Mason Marchment rank in the top five in team scoring. Seguin has 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists), Duchene has 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists), and Marchment also has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).
The Stars have seven players with 10 goals or more less than halfway through the season. Miro Heiskanen was having a stellar year before going down with an injury on Jan 4th. The Finnish defenseman has 27 points across 37 games played (4 goals, 23 assists).
Young skaters like Wyatt Johnston and Ty Dellandrea are chipping in offensively. The latter has appeared in less games, often a healthy scratch by Head Coach Pete DeBoer, which illustrates how deep the forward department is. On the back end, Thomas Harley is picking up heavier minutes following the loss of Heiskanen. Harley is projected to be at least a top-4 blueliner in the NHL and he is one shot away from reaching 10 goals.
The top line, guys whom most expect to produce, are getting the job done. Jason Robertson leads the way with 41 points in 40 appearances. Rope Hintz and Joe Pavelski are tied for second alongside Duchene with 36 points.