Pete DeBoer and the Task At Hand in Dallas

News that the Dallas Stars are set to hire veteran head coach Peter BeBoer to replace Rick Bowness behind their bench should not be surprising. 

This is a team that has been built by GM Jim Nill to win now, and although DeBoer has had his share of ups and downs as an NHL coach, he’s going to need to hit the ground running with the Stars and avoid the Jeykll-and-Hyde results that plagued Dallas last season.

The Stars stumbled out of the gate in 2021-22, winning just three of their first nine games (3-4-2). A seven-game win streak shortly thereafter was a great relief for Dallas fans, but what followed that streak was a five-game losing skid. Consistency remained an issue for the Stars throughout the season, but their defense, particularly, goalie Jake Oettinger, helped them earn a playoff spot. However, playing a Calgary squad that would be exposed defensively by Edmonton in the second round, the Stars simply did not produce enough offense – scoring five goals in total in their four losses to the Flames – and lost in seven games.

That gave the Stars just three games of home-ice playoff revenue – not nearly enough for team owner Tom Gaglardi. In a highly-competitive Central Division that generated five playoff teams last year, Dallas cannot afford a backward step, or even a lateral move for that matter. Three of the four teams behind them in the Central standings (the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks) all could be better in 2022-23, and in the Pacific Division, balance may be restored by four teams making the post-season, as opposed to the three teams that made it last year.

With all this competition, DeBoer and the Stars are going to need to squeeze every last bit of value out of longtime franchise cornerstone forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The 30-year-old Seguin posted just 25 assists and 49 points in 81 games, his worst offensive numbers since the 2012-13 campaign when he had 16 assists and 32 points in 48 games. The days of Seguin being a point-per-game contributor may be gone, but he’s signed at a $9.85-million salary cap hit for a whopping five more seasons.

Meanwhile, Benn’s production drop-off has been even starker; the 32-year-old scored only 18 goals and 46 points in 82 games in 2021-22, which was better than he was in 2020-21 (11 goals and 35 points in 52 games), but otherwise, the worst full-season totals of his 13-year NHL career. Benn is signed through the next three seasons at a $9.5-million cap hit, and there won’t be any teams lining up to take that cost on.

Together, then, Benn and Seguin are taking up $19.35-million in cap space. It’s no wonder Nill hasn’t been able to re-sign defenseman John Klingberg to a contract extension. Nill has $19.5 million in cap space this summer, but he has just 17 players under contract, and some rival GM will be more than willing to give Klingberg a substantial raise on his 2021-22 salary of $4.25 million, so the Stars will either have to match it or lose a key cog in their defense corps. In addition, Nill needs to re-sign restricted free agent Jason Robertson, and find a capable backup for Oettinger.

This is what DeBoer has to work with this year. An aging core of forwards, an above-average group of blueliners (with or without Klingberg), and a dynamic young netminder. In DeBoer’s three seasons with his previous team, the Vegas Golden Knights, he won much more than he didn’t (with a combined 98-50-12 record), and the Stars are expecting he’ll be at least that good for them, right off the hop.

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