The Stars are coming off last night’s 6-3 win over the Senators in Ottawa, but have managed to go just 4-4 over their last eight games and currently sit at 22-19-7 overall. Will they rally and make the playoffs this year? What’s gone right and what’s gone wrong so far this season? As always for answers we went to FOX Sports SW analyst, former Stars defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup winner Craig Ludwig:
ScoreBoardTX: So we’re through the All-Star break and headed down the backstretch of the 2014-15 NHL season and the Stars are currently sitting in the 10th spot in the West with 49 points. Disappointing season so far or about what you expected?
Craig Ludwig: I felt that with the additions that were made to the team in the off-season they wouldn’t be scratching and clawing to get into a playoff spot this year, but the good news is they still have a chance to get back to the post season.
SBTX: Even though most casual fans may associate the All-Star break as the mid-way point of the season, we actually only have 34 games left in an 82 game season. Technically they’re only 4 points out of the final playoff position, but to get there they’ll have to jump a couple teams (including the defending champs LA Kings). Its definitely not out of the question but do you see it happening? What needs to change or fall right for them to make the playoffs this year?
CL: Odds are not in their favor but it is doable….1st the power play has to score – they’ve created chances but need to finish. 2nd if the team is to make the playoffs the goaltending needs to improve and the team will need to continue to clean up the play in their defensive zone.
SBTX: So Craig Ludwig gets to hand out little gold stars to as many Stars players as he wants to for the season so far – who gets them and why?
CL: Tyler Seguin has done everything asked of him so he gets the first one (Seguin is tied for 2nd in the NHL for both points and goals scored). John Klingberg has been a nice surprise and will be a special player for this club in the future. Eric Cole for me has been the most consistent player this year and we’ll need him to be healthy to make a playoff push.
SBTX: Let’s go to the flip side and give out detentions for poor performances – who gets them and why?
CL: Goaltending has been the biggest disappointment for me – it has to improve and steal some games going forward. It took Ales Hemsky too long to get on track, but he’s been noticeable over the last month or so. And the power-play as a group has not been nearly as effective as it needs to be – there’s enough skill there for it to be a difference maker in the outcome of games.
SBTX: Obviously the goal is to first make the playoffs, and than anything can happen. Realistically if they get in do you see them advancing? Or would it be one and done like last year?
CL: Playoffs are like starting a new season but you need momentum heading into them. The challenge will be if they get in it will probably be in the last wild card spot which means they get the #1 seed, which could be the Ducks again who have been consistently one of the best teams all season. But you never know in the playoffs because there will be upsets and the Stars have been good vs. the Pacific Division.
SBTX: We all know this is a very young team and nobody needs to panic about how this season has gone so far, but fans would like to see an improvement from year to year. They should be well positioned salary cap wise heading into 2015-16 but what do they need to add/subtract/change going into next year to make that next step?
CL: They will still be searching for that #1 defenseman that about 15 others teams are looking for too. They need that right winger that can play with Benn and Seguin every night (which could turn out be Val Nichushkin). Then they need to make decisions on Cole and Shawn Horcoff and decide if they feel that someone like Brett Ritchie is ready to be an everyday player.
SBTX: It’s been a long time since the Stars have made any type of a postseason run and last year’s first round series (albeit a loss) to Anaheim was very exciting and the AAC was packed and jumping for each game. Also overall attendance and ratings are both up this year – can you feel an increase in anticipation and excitement in the building each night?
CL: It’s definitely better then it has been, but coming off of last year the expectations are high this year to get back there. The style we play is exciting but at the end of the day there needs to be some balance that will give the team the chance to win with regularity and be ready for playoff hockey.
SBTX: So what is Luds’ prediction for the Stanley Cup Finals this year?
CL: Sticking with the same prediction I made at the beginning of the season… Anaheim vs Tampa Bay.