We’re just a couple of weeks into the summer for the Dallas Stars, but there has been plenty of change. They have a new general manager, will soon have a new head coach, and the beginning of June will also see a uniform change for the franchise.
This is going to be an improved team next year. They have plenty of skill players already on the rosters, some up-and-comers currently in the minors, and have a GM in Jim Nill who looks prepared to make all the right moves for the club this summer.
But that doesn’t take away from what the key will still be for the Dallas Stars next season. If they’re going to be taken seriously as contenders in their conference, right off the bat, it’s going to require some health and steadiness from Kari Lehtonen.
The Stars have one of the most underrated goalies in the game in Lehtonen. A lot of him being underrated has to do with the fact that he plays in the market that he does. Some of it has to do with the fact that he’s had a difficult time staying healthy over the course of his career.
When he’s between the pipes, he’s one of the better goaltenders in the game. He kept the Stars alive in the playoff race when their offense didn’t come through this season. He finished the shortened 2013 regular season with a .916 save percentage and a 2.66 goals-against average.
He was only able to make 35 starts due to a groin injury, however. The previous season was a campaign which saw a similar issue. Lehtonen posted some very nice numbers, including a 2.33 GAA and four shutouts, but was limited to 59 starts, book-ending his season with leg injuries.
That can’t be the case next season. If the Stars are going to be taken seriously, they’ll need their goaltender healthy and ready to play nearly every night. They lack an option with experience beyond Lehtonen that could carry them to that postseason berth, despite the potential of a kid like Jack Campbell.
Jim Nill is going to do his part in getting this roster ready for a playoff appearance. Once he does his job, it’s a matter of staying healthy, and that starts with no. 32.