The Stars missed the playoffs for the third straight season despite leading the Pacific Division as late as December. The limp to the finish ultimately cost head coach Marc Crawford his job, with Dallas turning to Glen Gulutzan to lead the NHL squad after two successful years as the head coach with Dallas' AHL affiliate. An ownership mess wasn't resolved in the offseason, resulting in a further tightening of the purse strings and leading to the departure of Brad Richards via free agency.
Loui Eriksson - Eriksson continues to make the most of normally limited power play time, racking up 25 points (10 G, 15 A) with the man advantage and established a new career high in points, aided by 46 assists. The big question with Eriksson for 2011-12 is how he'll perform now that Richards is gone, as the two of them were rarely separated for the duration of Richards' time in Dallas. Dallas will likely seek to keep Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow on the same line, and might elect to go with Michael Ryder on that unit, which would likely result in Eriksson skating alongside Jamie Benn if Benn shifts to center.
Mike Ribeiro - Ribeiro's been a consistent 20 goal/50 assist type since joining the Stars, though one wonders how well he'll handle the added responsibility of being the #1 center following the departure of Richards. He remains an elite setup center, and figures to have Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson or Michael Ryder joining him on a line that already features Brenden Morrow, so look for the scoring to continue.
Alex Goligoski - Goligoski saw his ice time balloon to 26 minutes a game after being shipped to Dallas, and his 14-32-46 season put him among the NHL's best from the blue line. He more than earned his time on the ice, picking up 15 (5 G, 10 A) points in just 23 games with Dallas, and is a lock to skate on the top pair and get heavy minutes on Dallas' top power play unit.
Kari Lehtonen - Lehtonen was able to remain healthy, a feat in and of itself given his recent injury woes, and posted his best season since 2006-07 as a result. His 34 wins were a career high, and his 2.55 GAA was a half goal better than his figure in his last full season. Dallas' new bench boss is expected to stress team defense, which can only help. There will still be some injury concerns, but a healthy Lehotnen will be a regular presence in the Dallas nets.
ON THE RISE
Jamie Benn - Benn stepped up his game in his second season, particularly after James Neal was dealt, racking up 56 points in 69 games despite just 18 minutes of ice time a night (and barely over two minutes on the power play). Whether he slots in as a winger or the #2 center behind Ribeiro hasn't been decided, but the future is very bright for the just-turned 22 year old entering his third season in the NHL.
ONE TO AVOID
Brenden Morrow - Morrow's halcyon days of an elite NHL power forward are behind him as he's managed just 145 PIMS combined in his past two seasons after racking up 183 PIMs back in 2005-06 and 105 (to go along with 32 goals) in 2007-08. Simply put, he's not dropping the gloves anymore. He's managed just 56 and 46 points in his past two seasons despite missing just six games and doesn't figure to approach his 2007-08, 74-point season again.