The Dallas Stars are a team on the upswing. They spent the summer gathering some pretty notable talent, in addition to a farm system that could be considered to be among the best in hockey. The new regime in the front office is hoping that results in at least a playoff appearance in the upcoming 2013-14 season.
What is true is the fact that the playoff hopes of the Stars still rest on a familiar face. While we’d like to look at new acquisitions like Tyler Seguin or Sergei Gonchar and say that the playoff fortunes in Dallas will come down to them, the real determinant as to whether or not the Stars reach the postseason will be Kari Lehtonen.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a very large Kari Lehtonen fan. He’s been one of the more underrated goaltenders throughout the league when he’s on the ice. The only issue there is that whole “when he’s on the ice” thing, because he spends a great deal of time on the bench.
The reason for that is the constant uncertainty surrounding his health. He’s had multiple issues related to his groin in the last couple of years, and he was once again somewhat limited in the shortened 2013 season, as he made 35 starts on the year, less than your typical starter.
In the last full campaign from Lehtonen, he proved that he’s certainly a goaltender capable of making some noise. He posted a 2.33 goals against average that year, along with a .922 save percentage. Both of the figures represent a career mark for him. He took a step back last year, though.
The blue line heading into the season is improved, with a new face like Gonchar and a nice influx of youth in the defensive corps. The forwards in front of him are much better. This is a very solid team all around, though not likely a Stanley Cup contender. Nonetheless, with the improvements that the front office has made to the roster, it’s going to fall on Lehtonen to get the Stars where they want to go this season.