Paul McCann: Deconstructing the Central – Dallas

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I’ll be taking the next few blogs to concentrate on the Central Division and attempt to evaluate the moves made by each team. Did they address their needs effectively? Are they better or worse after the moves made? Writing this in July/August makes this a dicey proposition but what else am I gonna do… watch indoor lacrosse? Winnipeg was first, then Minnesota… next up? The Dallas Stars.

The Dallas Stars come into this season as the declared “winner” of the UFA sweepstakes. That, and $3 bucks will get you a Venti at Starbucks. Key additions in the Lone Star State include Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. This add gives the Stars a second line with almost as much punch as their top line that features Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Spezza has posted 150 points over the past two full seasons and still appears to have quite a bit left in the tank. Hemsky has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. The combination could be lethal in the hyper-competitive Central.

Let’s start in goal, where the Stars have the always solid Kari Lehtonen as their starter. The 30 year old Finn posted good numbers last year, a .919 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA in 65 games, posting 33 wins. Lehtonen is key to this team improving on last year’s performance as Dallas really hasn’t done much to improve a decidedly average blueline. The team added an experienced backup that Predator fans are very familiar with, Anders Lindback. Lindback struggled in Tampa for the past two seasons, never really looking like the goaltender who so ably filled in for Pekka Rinne at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. This appears to be a good situation for the 26 year old Swede to get his career back on track.

Offensively, this team should improve on last season’s 231 goals and won’t have to rely on Benn and Seguin to carry the load… which may help this duo score even more. Losing Alex Chiasson and Ray Whitney shouldn’t hurt that much as their replacements have much more scoring capability. This team also has solid role players that play with grit like Vernon Fiddler, who the Stars re-signed this summer to a very reasonable contract. Offensively, head coach Lindy Ruff has all he needs to compete.

If there is a crying need on this team… it’s the blueline. Defensively, the Stars have had to count on excellent goaltending from Lehtonen, who didn’t get a whole bunch of help. Youngster Brenden Dillon had an excellent 2013-14 and the RFA is still unsigned as of this writing. This is a critical need for GM Jim Nill to get back in the fold. The rest of the defensive corps is serviceable, but that is damning this group with faint praise. The PK was ranked tied with Buffalo at 20 last season and this blueline broke down at key times. If anything holds this team back, it will be here.

There is a lot of excitement and more importantly, expectations around this team coming into training camp. The acquisitions they made will make a difference… but my burning question is… will the acquisitions they didn’t make be the difference for this team merely competing, or competing for a cup.

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Random Notes

– The long rumored changes to the Nashville Predators broadcast team were officially announced yesterday. Stu Grimson will be full time in the TV color analyst role, Willy Daunic is now officially the radio voice of the Predators and Brent Peterson has been added as radio color man. Terry Crisp will still be part of the team, co-hosting pre and post game coverage along with between period features for Fox Sports Tennessee’s coverage of 75 games this season. The Voice of the Predators, Pete Weber is entering his 16th year behind the mic as the only TV play-by-play man this team has had.

– 75 games covered by Fox Sports Tennessee is a record for the team and is up five games from last year’s 70.

– Former Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto signed with Philadelphia to help replace another former Pred, Kimmo Timonen, who has been diagnosed with blood clots in his right leg and both lungs. Keeping Kimmo and his family in our thoughts and prayers.

– NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made almost $9 million in salary and benefits during the 2012-13 season… cue the howling in 3 – 2 – 1 …

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You are invited to follow me on Twitter. Search for @PredPAPaul… Not only will I be updating when I get news or updates, but we are having a bit of fun by getting your input on Gnash introductions, weigh in on Twitter and who knows, we may use your introduction for the best mascot in the NHL at the next Preds game! You can also keep up with all the goings on with SlapShot Radio by following the show on Twitter @SlapShotRadio1

Also… make sure to “like” SlapShot Radio on Facebook… here’s the link.

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The SlapShot Radio Road Trip is back!!! Go to our Facebook page for more information and join us as we hit the road to Big D!

We need to nail down tickets quick gang… so head on over!

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This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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