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Depth Should Be Strength for Stars This Season

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

If last year’s Dallas Stars had one major weakness, it might have been a glaring lack of depth. At no time was that deficiency more vivid than in the second half of the season when defenseman Nicklas Grossman and All-Star center Brad Richards were among key injuries that loomed large down the stretch.

So when club general manager Joe Nieuwendyk addressed the team’s needs at the beginning of the off-season, one thing at the top of his list was making the Stars a much deeper team across the board.

Nieuwendyk addressed those depth issues by bringing in seven new players this off-season, including winger Michael Ryder, a member of Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team, veteran Radek Dvorak and 6-foot-4 defenseman Sheldon Souray among others.

Having so much depth on his roster is definitely something to the liking of new Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan. “We have to utilize it. We can talk about it but then we have to utilize it and have to make sure the players who are used to playing maybe 21 minutes a night have to get used to playing 19 or 18 and a half,” he said. “If you have more depth that means there’s more ice time for everybody. I think we have to take that team mentality approach.”

His players look around the room as it’s currently constructed and realize this team is much deeper than what it’s been in years past. They can also see how being so deep could pay huge dividends this season as the Stars look to end a three-year playoff draught.

“We’re obviously a deep team. There’s a lot of lineup competition right now and I think that will continue throughout the year. It’s good to have those guys fighting for spots, especially at the back end of the roster, where it’s going to be a challenge to break into the lineup,” Stars center Toby Petersen said.

Petersen sees having a competitive roster as something that can make every player, whether they’re at the top or the lower end of the roster, much better, which will be to the betterment of the club as a whole.

I think it’s going to make everyone in the situation better. It’s going to make the guys in the second line play hard, the guys in the first line play hard because everyone is going to be fighting for their spots,” he said. “It [competition] has always been a healthy thing to have on a team.”

Dallas blue liner Alex Goligoski, who came over just before this year’s trade deadline from Pittsburgh took Petersen’s comments one step further.

“I think it [depth] is definitely probably our main strength,” Goligoski said. “We’ve definitely got a good mix of top-six skill guys for sure with [Mike] Ribeiro, [Benn] and all those guys. Our depth on D and the rest of our forwards after those top guys is very good if you look at it compared to other teams.”

The ex-Penguin defenseman was only with the Stars for the final few months of last season but despite being a short-timer, he can definitely see how depth could have benefited his new club last season as well as this year.

“Depth is something that can carry teams on stretches. You encounter injuries throughout the year and if you don’t have depth, things can happen like they did last year here when guys started going down,” Goligoski said. “It’s huge, having depth. That’s how good teams win.”

Some teams have depth in one particular area of their roster, say at the blue line. While other clubs could be deeper up front, but it looks like this Stars team is deep in goal, on defense as well as at forward, something which could be a huge asset going forward.

“I think we’re very deep across the board. I don’t know how the numbers match up and obviously the roster is still moving around a bit,” Petersen said. “We’ve got great goaltending, great defense and great forwards. We’ve got a good mix in the locker room and we’re set to do some good things out there.”

And since the background of their new head coach is of being a successful coach in the minor leagues, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Stars’ depth even extends to the club’s top minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.

“That’s the one thing that’s been impressive, is what we have there [in Cedar Park] depth wise, especially in the D position. Jordie Benn’s made a favorable impression here at camp and Max Fortunus is always a solid competitor. Brenden Dillon is a young up-and-comer along with Philip Larsen. Now that depth is going to create some competition and hopefully we all get better,” Gulutzan said.

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