5 Keys for the Dallas Stars to Make the Playoffs
Keys for the Dallas Stars to Make the Playoffs
Now that the Olympic games are over and regular play is set to resume in the NHL, the Dallas Stars find themselves in the familiar position of fighting for a playoff spot. It’s been five years since the Stars have made the playoffs. Coming into this season it wasn’t an expectation that this year would be different, but a trip to the playoffs would be a huge boost for the franchise. Not only would it regain some of the casual fans who have lost interest over the years, but it would validate the efforts that this young team has made and give them much needed playoff experience.
Before the Olympic break began, the Stars won their final game against the Phoenix Coyotes to take the second wildcard spot in the extremely competitive Western Conference. This was a huge win for the Stars, who have consistently sat just outside of the playoff picture for most of the season. As the trade deadline approaches, the Stars are now in the position to become buyers instead of sellers if they so choose. The Stars have a few assets they can give up including Vern Fiddler, Shawn Horcoff and Ray Whitney if the right situation were to come along.
However, the Stars need to be careful to preserve the core group that the team is building around. Yes, it would be nice to see the Stars in the playoffs, but not if it threatens the vision that general manager Jim Nill has for the team. Keeping that in mind, a playoff appearance is certainly within the reach of the Dallas Stars. These are the five most important keys for making that a reality.
5. Get and Stay Healthy
Veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas has been out since November after suffering a broken leg, and the Stars have desperately missed him. The good news is Robidas has been practicing with the team and is closer to returning to action. For the rest of the team, staying healthy is going to be extremely important to avoid having to rely on inexperienced prospects down the stretch.
4. Kari Lehtonen and Dan Ellis
Speaking of staying healthy, another key to success for the Stars is going to be how well goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Dan Ellis perform. Lehtonen has been the saving grace for the Stars time and time again, but has been injury prone when overused in the past. Ellis continuing to serve as a solid back up so Lehtonen can get rest is vital.
3. Use the Olympic Experience
Only a small handful of players on the Dallas Stars have ever been to the playoffs. By participating in the Olympics Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin and Kari Lehtonen gained significant experience that they can use to help the Stars going forward. There is no doubt Benn is hungry for more success after helping propel Canada to a gold medal and can use that to his advantage.
2. Trade for Veteran Defense
If there is any big trade move that Nill considers it should be for a veteran defenseman. Rumors have it that Nick Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers is available, and the Stars should pursue him if the price isn’t too high.
It can’t be stressed how important something as simple this is, but the Dallas Stars have struggled with it all season long. Too many games have been lost in the third period after outscoring their opponents in the first two. From here on out, every game the Stars play needs to be a complete 60-minute effort.