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Why the Dallas Stars will win the Stanley Cup

by Brian Compton

The Dallas Stars entered the 2013-14 season with hopes of ending a five-year hiatus from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They were led by a new general manager in Jim Nill, who arrived in Dallas after spending the previous 15 seasons as the assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings. It was there where Nill was able to learn from one of the best minds in the business in general manager Ken Holland.

Nill's first order of business was to find a successful coach, one with a track record and the ability to get the most from his players. Lindy Ruff, who guided the Buffalo Sabres for 15 years and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, became the Stars' new coach.

"He's been able to push us the right way and we've added a few players and they showed, too, that they are great players," goaltender Kari Lehtonen told the Canadian Press. "Nothing but good things to say about Lindy."

Nill made his first blockbuster trade, one that brought Tyler Seguin to Dallas from the Boston Bruins. Seguin has been nothing short of spectacular and his offensive heroics have played a huge role in ending the playoff drought.

Getting back to the postseason may not have been easy. Dallas didn't clinch a playoff berth in the Western Conference until the final Friday of the regular season.

None of that matters, though, now that the Stars are in. They're capable of making a lot of noise, capable of stringing together 16 wins and hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1999.

While some pundits might not give the Stars a legitimate shot at making a serious postseason run, they have two things that are required of a Cup-winning squad: A formidable top line and a quality goaltender.

Dallas managed to win 40 games in a division which also features Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche, each of whom topped 100 points this season.

Seguin and Jamie Benn are two of the more dangerous forwards in the NHL, and they make up two-thirds of the Stars' first line. Each is enjoying a career year; Seguin eclipsed the 80-point plateau for the first time, while Benn, the team captain, roared past the 30-goal mark.

Lehtonen has stayed healthy and appeared in more than 60 games for the third time in his career. While he's appeared in only two Stanley Cup Playoff games, Lehtonen's solid season should give the players in front of him confidence entering this postseason.

Combine those positives with the development of forwards Valeri Nichushkin and Cody Eakin, as well as the play on the blue line of Alex Goligoski, Brenden Dillon and Jordie Benn, and the Stars have the makings of what could be a very special season.

Yes, there is enough here to win a championship.

"Now it is just starting," Lehtonen said after Dallas clinched a playoff spot. "We feel good about this and we know we can celebrate and have a good time. But then it's back to business and it's exciting."


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