CSN Chicago will unveil a preview each day for every Central Division team leading up to the NHL's season-opener. Next up: Dallas Stars.
The Stars saw a 15-point improvement from 2014-15 to 2015-16 thanks to a scorching hot 28-8-3 start in the first three months last season, which helped them capture the Central Division crown for the first time since 1997-98.
Credit that to a high-powered offense that scored a league-high 265 goals, which was 17 goals better than the second-place team. It will be hard for the Stars to match that total, but that doesn't mean they'll rank among the tops in goals scored again.
Their weaknesses began to show down the stretch, however, with a leaky defense and a goaltending tandem that allowed the most goals of any playoff team in the regular season with 230.
That needs to change if the Stars have any shot at seriously contending for a Stanley Cup. The problem is, there is $10.5 million committed to Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million) and Antti Niemi ($4.5 million) through 2017-18, and it's difficult to see any team taking one of those contracts off their hands unless at least one of them has a strong first half.
It's especially tough to swallow knowing goaltenders like Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury could be on the market at the trade deadline with the threat of Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh losing them for nothing during next year's expansion draft.
Losing Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski and Kris Russell hurts a Stars blue line that is figuring out how to patch up playing in their own zone, but the addition of Dan Hamhuis should help take some of the pressure off of young defensemen Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell, both of whom are being counted on to step up in larger roles and are capable of it.
Other previews: Colorado Avalanche