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The wait is over: Stars' trek to bounce-back year starts at training camp

Following an offseason makeover - and lengthy recess - it's time to find out exactly what goes where in Dallas' new house

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On The Radar

Seguin on Stars plans on offense

Seguin on the change in Stars offensive strategy

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin talks about the change in offensive philosophy with the addition of Ken Hitchcock as head coach

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There are certain times in life when you know you are about to have something, but still must wait to actually get your hands on it. Maybe you found your dream house and your offer was accepted, but you can't close for a couple of months. Or you finally booked the vacation you've been saving and planning for, but it's not until next summer. The excitement of what is coming can be exhilarating. You searched, you studied, you planned -- and now it's yours. You can't wait.

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On the Radar - SUMMER SPLASH

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

When the Dallas Stars season ended, a challenge was laid at the feet of the organization. They knew it. So did everyone else. This would be the most important Stars offseason in recent memory, and unquestionably the biggest since Jim Nill took over as the team's General Manager. How would the team approach it? Three months after the offseason began we now know.

The Stars answered perhaps the biggest offseason in team history with arguably the best offseason in team history.

What the Stars have done in less than 100 days since last leaving the ice is the stuff of video game GMs. Need a new coach? Get the future Hall-of-Fame defensive specialist. A goaltender? Go grab a guy who was a Vezina Trophy finalist a year before. Want to shore up the blue line? Get a big, physical, defensive-defenseman who makes his living lining up next to offensive guys like the ones on your roster. Feel like bolstering the offense? Get an elite right winger to play with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Also add one of the top two-way centers in the league. While you're at it, mix in an intriguing low-risk, high-reward young forward to lead a group of depth additions.

If you saw a lineup that read Ken Hitchcock, Ben Bishop, Marc Methot, Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, you might wonder what awards banquet you were at. Instead that is the list of additions to an already star-studded lineup.

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Focus on depth

GM Jim Nill bolsters depth at forward in first day of free agency

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Depth was the buzzword as Stars GM Jim Nill plunged into day one of NHL free agency Saturday. Nill bolstered his center depth with the addition of Martin Hanzal, added more forward depth with Tyler Pitlick and Brian Flynn and then added some depth in the goaltending ranks with Mike McKenna.

Hanzal was the big prize of the day for the Stars, who signed the 6-6, 226-pound center to a three-year, $14.25 million contract. The Stars were already deep at center with Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Radek Faksa, but got deeper with Hanzal, who plays both sides of special teams, is one of the league's best faceoff guys, can play a shutdown role and score some goals. He tallied 20 last season in 71 games while playing for both Arizona and Minnesota.

"Anytime you can be strong down the middle, it is important for your team," Nill said. "We've been fortunate that area has gotten stronger for us as we've moved along. We've got different types of players, too. We've got some speed, some scoring, some big heavy bodies, some good checkers. We've got a good mix, and I think we can match up against anybody in the league down the middle now. And we've got a lot of depth in that position."

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Draft Profile: Gabe Vilardi

Big, skilled center ranks third on many lists heading into the 2017 NHL Draft

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The latest in our series of draft profiles looks at center Gabe Vilardi. There's no consensus No. 3 pick after Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier in this year's draft, but Vilardi does show up in the third spot on many lists. Described by Red Line Report as a "big, strong, rugged center with skill," Vilardi had a strong regular season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League despite missing time with injuries and then helped the Spitfires capture the 2017 Memorial Cup. If the Stars hold onto that third overall pick in the draft, Vilardi is a guy who is expected to be available for selection.

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On the Radar - Prepping for the Present

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

Only six weeks in and it has already been quite an offseason for the Dallas Stars. Four months still remain, and the busiest portion of the summer is yet to come. It's possible the excitement has just begun in Dallas. So far, however, the captivating news has centered around three things - a coach, a goaltender, and a draft. All three headlines made a splash. And all three have something in common. 

First came the return of Ken Hitchcock. The most successful coach in Stars history is back in Dallas ready to return the team to prominence. Four weeks after that, the Stars made a huge roster move acquiring the rights to goaltender Ben Bishop and signing him to a long term deal a few days later. In between the coaching and goaltending additions, the Stars won the third overall pick in the draft lottery.

Diving into each item a little deeper reveals the parallel.

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On the Radar - Clean Out Day

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

It was May 13, 2016. Clean Out Day.

The Dallas Stars gathered for one final time as a team before heading their separate ways for the summer. Two days earlier the Stars had dropped Game 7 of the Central Division Final. Dallas was three periods away from the Conference Finals. And then...Bam! The offseason had arrived.

The best Stars season in a decade was over. 109 points, two banners to add to the American Airlines Center rafters, the first playoff series victory in eight years. It was a season for the ages. One to be celebrated. But there was no celebrating on that day. The Stars had designs on playing another month. They had set records - both individually and collectively. They had been on an eight month joyride and no one was ready to get off. Then, suddenly, abruptly, it was over.

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JEKYLL vs. HYDE

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

On Saturday night the Stars finished a grueling stretch of hockey. They played their ninth game in a two-week span. Their opponent that night was statistically the best team in the NHL. They were also the hottest. The Washington Capitals strolled into Dallas on a 12-game point streak. Over those dozen games, the Caps had obliterated the competition. They outscored opponents 55-23. They had scored five or more goals in five straight games. They had allowed one or zero goals in seven games during the streak. They weren't just winning. They were dominating.

Despite playing nine games in seven cities over 15 nights, the Stars were ready to go. Dallas shrugged off an early goal against and controlled the tempo pretty much from the outset. They carried the game. They were fast. They were physical. They controlled the possession numbers. They were outshooting the ridiculously hot Capitals by a two-to-one ratio. They had a 3-1 lead at second intermission. Once again it was a lopsided Caps game, only this time the opponent had the upper hand.    

Lindy Ruff would later call the game - from an engagement and battling standpoint - among the best the Stars have played all season. Dallas was in control by every metric available, including the eyeball test.

Then came the third period.

Two penalties 94 seconds apart. Two goals two minutes and eight seconds apart. In the blink of an eye, 40 minutes of domination against the league's best had been erased. Another blink and 19 seconds of overtime later, the Stars were left trying to pick up the pieces of a game that somehow fell apart. The loss was the latest in what's become a long line of stinging defeats for this year's Stars.

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Stars fall to Ducks, 2-0

Oleksiak, Eaves leave game with injuries as Stars lose final game of road trip

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

After matching their season-high in goals with six Monday night in Los Angeles, the Stars couldn't find the back of the net Tuesday in Anaheim and fell 2-0 to the Ducks at Honda Center.

"The guys worked hard. It was a tough back-to-back," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "[Monday] night was a tough game and [tonight] we were right there to at least tie the game."

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On the Radar - Time to Roll

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

The Dallas Stars are one-quarter of the way through their season and very little has gone as planned. It's not even December yet, and the Stars have already faced more than a season's worth of adversity. With everything that has happened to date, you'd be forgiven for feeling like the season is six months old instead of not even two. Yet here we are, already with a myriad of storylines to point towards. But perhaps the biggest story of all is where the Stars currently find themselves in the standings. And it might not be for the reasons you think.

Let's recap a bit.

Beginning all the way back before training camp, a mountain of injuries forced Dallas into lineup and personnel changes they never saw coming. The club that seemed like it practically lapped the rest of the league in goal scoring last year has an offense ranked right in the middle of the pack. (It seems that can happen when you pull last year's combined total of 113 goals from Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Cody Eakin, Jiri Hudler, Mattias Janmark, and Ales Hemsky all out of the lineup at the same time.) 

By the time the Stars hit the 20-game mark, 26 different players had already suited up for Dallas. However, only eight of them played in every game. Among them are Lauri Korpikoski, Adam Cracknell, and Devin Shore - all considered depth forwards heading into the season. Back on the blue line the Stars have already iced nine different defensemen this season. Though not a single one has played in every game.

Because of this, players have seen their roles change drastically. Antoine Roussel has spent time on the first-unit power play. Jordie Benn is manning the point on the second-unit. Patrick Eaves leads the team in goal scoring. Five different defensemen have led a game in ice time. That list includes Jamie Oleksiak, who before last week had only played over 20 minutes four times in his NHL career, and had not done it since January 2015. According to Mark Stepneski of the Stars website, Dallas has already started games with 32 different line combinations this season

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On the Radar - Return of the Stars

by Josh Bogorad @JoshBogorad / On the Radar

The long, hot Dallas summer has finally broken, and a brand new hockey season is upon us. As the Stars hit the American Airlines Center ice on Thursday to begin the new year, they will do so underneath two new banners recognizing their accomplishments from last season. The Stars are the reigning Central Division Champions. They are the reigning regular season Western Conference Champions. They are a team predicted by many to once again contend for a Stanley Cup. While nothing from last year guarantees success this year, the Stars are undoubtedly on everyone's list of teams to watch.

The beginning of a new season allows you to also reflect on your past.

So how did the Stars get here? Just five years from bankruptcy to the new banners, hopes, and expectations. It all starts at the top with Tom Gaglardi. The Stars owner should - and does - get the credit for orchestrating the turnaround. Simply put, nothing that follows happens without Gaglardi. However, what did follow was Jim Nill. Then Lindy Ruff. Then Tyler Seguin. Then Jason Spezza. Then Ales Hemsky. Later Antti Niemi. Followed by Patrick Sharp. And Johnny Oduya.

Others came and went along the way as the domino effect continued. When you overhaul a roster, it truly involves hauling in parts from all over. That's exactly what the Stars did, and they began to morph into something new. There are only four current members of the Stars who were with the team on opening night in 2013 - the last opener before Nill's arrival. They are Jamie Benn, Jordie Benn, Cody Eakin and Kari Lehtonen. When Nill was hired three months after that, his vision began.

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