NHL season preview series: Dallas Stars

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How they Finished: 40-31-11 91 points. (5th in Central Division) Made playoffs as Wild-Card Team

Key Additions:

C, Jason Spezza (Trade w/ Ott)

G, Anders Lindback (FA)

F, Vernon Fidler (FA)

F, Ales Hemsky (FA)

F, Patrick Eaves (FA)

Key Losses:

F, Alex Chiasson (Trade w/ Ott)

F, Rich Peverley (injury)

D, Aaron Rome (FA)

F, Ray Whitney (FA)

F, Dustin Jeffrey (FA)

F, Chris Mueller (FA)

In 2013-14, the Dallas Stars returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Despite losing a thrilling six-game series to the Anaheim Ducks, the Stars can view the 2013-14 campaign as a success. They pumped new life into the American Airlines Center and more importantly, look primed to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference in this season.

Dallas made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they traded for Jason Spezza. Spezza instantly gives the Stars yet another high-octane offensive threat. Coupled with the signing of Ales Hemsky from Ottawa, suddenly, the Stars have two legitimate scoring lines.

If everything breaks right: The Stars will build on last season and continue to improve. With a strong veteran captain in Jamie Benn, coupled with some rising stars in Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nishiuskin, the only logical place for them to go, is up. The defense is good, but can improve. There are plenty of strong young defensemen from the AHL level that can come up if needed. The Texas Stars won the Calder Cup this past season, which only helped to give the young players more experience. Spezza will come in and immediately produce. He's got the familiarity aspect with Hemsky and without the long-standing contract dispute, he'll go right back towards being a top-10 center in the league. There's enough firepower here for this team to top 100 points and be a contender out west.

If it all goes downhill: It may very well be the defense and goaltending that's to blame. The Stars should score goals, but it'll be on Kari Lehtonen to prove that he can be a stalwart between the pipes. His 2.41 goals against average and .919 save percentage last season were both solid numbers, but for the Stars to improve, he'll have to be just a good, if not better. If Dallas expects to finish higher than 5th in a loaded division, they'll have to be just as strong defensively as they are offensively. Can Trevor Daley take another step forward after a strong season and become a 30-point player while holding down the back end? Can they really count on anything from an even older Sergei Gonchar?

Not to be lost in the mix is how this team jells. Will Jason Spezza be able to come in and produce right away?

Realistic Expectation: This is a good-looking hockey team that seems as if they're at the precipice of something greater. The playoffs should be expected, but in the Central Division, it won't be easy. The Stars finished with 91 points last season. With their additions and the continued maturation of Seguin and Nischuskin, they could crack the 100-point plateau, which should put them firmly in the mix.

While it might be lofty to pencil them in as a top-two team in the Central, there are real expectations in Dallas coming into this season. The result should be a team that will win some games, score their share of goals and be exciting to watch.

For more NHL coverage, visit DevilsInsiders.com and follow them on Twitter: @DevilsInsiders

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