After a one year absence, the Texas Stars look to return to the playoffs in 2017-18. The defense will need to tighten up if the Stars are to achieve their goal.

Head Coach: Derek Laxdal is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Texas Stars, he is 114-84-30 overall.

Captain: Travis Morin will be returning for his third season wearing the “C” for Texas. It is his ninth year overall with the Stars.

Last Season: The Stars finished 34-37-5 for 73 points last year. They missed the playoffs, finishing fifth in the Pacific Division.

Overview: Last season was a season filled with ups and downs that would end in disappointment for Stars fans. Texas began 2016-17 well, starting 2-0-0 and staying above .500 until February. Things would go downhill after that though, as the Stars would go just 14-21-2 over their final 37 games. The Stars finished fifth in the division with 73 points, and missed the playoffs for just the second time in team history (2011-12).

Goals against would prove to be the Stars’ Achilles heel. Texas was just 29th out of 30 teams in the AHL with 265 goals against, an average of 3.23 goals against per game.

Offensively, the Stars were led by captain Morin, who had 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists). Morin will return to lead the Stars as captain this year.

Trending Topics:

#ProtectTheFort: It’s hard to win giving up 3.23 goals a game. The Stars must protect the net much better in 2017-18. This effort starts in net, but extends out to everyone on the ice.

#BringingInTheBest: To help plug the hole in net, the Stars have brought in veteran netminder Mike McKenna. McKenna’s 206 career AHL wins are the most by an American in AHL history.

#ChangeUpTop: The Dallas Stars, Texas’ parent club, have a new head coach in Ken Hitchcock. His defense-first philosophy and terminology will filter down to the AHL level.

#GurianovGrowingStar: Twenty-year-old winger Denis Gurianov returns for a second season. He promises to be a leader offensively, and should improve upon his 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 57 games last year.

Insights:

Stringing wins together: Last season, the Stars only had three streaks of three consecutive wins or more, and none came after a four-game streak was snapped on February 17th. Putting longer stretches of winning hockey together will be key for a return to playoff action.

Improve plus/minus: Last season, the Stars had just four players with a plus/minus of plus-3 or better. This is another feature of defensive hockey that will need to improve in 2017-18. The Stars will need everyone on their squad to be more consistent defensively.

Following:

Denis Gurianov: Gurianov returns at winger, and will be looked to as an offensive leader. It will be fun to watch him play, as his speed and skills handling the puck should lead to some exciting plays.

Gavin Bayreuther: Bayreuther played in only 15 games for Texas last year, but will be a staple of the Stars’ lineup this season.  Expect him to be a player the Stars lean on to help improve their overall team defense.

Jason Dickinson: Dickinson had 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 58 games for Texas last year, and is coming off an impressive training camp with Dallas.  He will be asked to provide offensive firepower while in Texas, but could see time in Dallas as well.

Mike McKenna: McKenna comes to Texas after a postseason in which he led Syracuse to the Calder Cup Finals.  He will be asked to help the development of prospects Landon Bow, and Philippe Desrosiers, as well as play key minutes in net.

Blocked and Reported:

RW Matej Stransky, 47 points (27 goals, 20 assists) in 2016-17, has joined Cherepovets Severstal of the KHL.

LW Brandon DeFazio, 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 2016-17, has left to join Kunlun Red Star of the KHL.

D Nick Ebert, 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 2016-17, has also left for the KHL. He has joined Bratislava Slovan.

@SinBinSwami: Should the Stars improve on defense, and better protect the net; it would indeed make sense, the playoffs would be a good bet.

Follow the Stars all season by following @SinBinStars on Twitter.

 

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