After the Dallas Stars failed to make the 2011 NHL StanleyCup Playoffs following a disappointing loss at Minnesota to end the season,giving them a three-year gap since their last postseason berth, Stars fans knewchanges were in order.
However, what no one knew was how quickly the wheels would get set in motion.It actually only took a few days for the first shoe to drop as head coach MarcCrawford was dismissed.
Dallas didnt fill that vacancy officially until June when Glen Gulutzan, thecoach of the American Hockey Leagues Texas Stars for the last two years, wasnamed as the 21st head coach in franchise history.
The start of NHL free agency was soon after that announcement and Stars generalmanager Joe Nieuwendyk stated from the start that he would be active inupgrading the clubs roster. The GM brought in seven new players to accomplishjust that.
One of those new faces was veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray, who had mostrecently played in Edmonton but spent the bulk of last season skating with theAHLs Hershey Bears. At 6-foot-4, Souray was brought in to bring somemuch-needed size and nastiness to the Dallas blue line. The veteran defensemanalso had a blistering slap shot, regarded as one of the hardest in the NHL.
And judging from his first 14 games, Souray has proven his worth and then some.
Not only has he provided the aforementioned qualities to the Stars rearguard,but he has also delivered something a bit more than unexpected, some strongoffensive production.The man nicknamed Hammer by former Devils teammate LyleOdelein is currently third on the team with 13 points (four goals and nineassists). Gulutzan has called Sourays offensive numbers pleasantly surprising anda nice byproduct of everything he does on both ends of the pond.
Souray had an assist in Tuesdays 5-2 win at Washington and had two helpers ina 5-2 win at Carolina on Sunday afternoon to help the Stars kick off afour-game road swing. Overall, he has a four-game point streak.
The Stars are also getting solid contributions from their other newcomersincluding veteran forward Radek Dvorak, who has settled in nicely alongsidefaceoff specialist Vernon Fiddler on the checking line, forward Michael Ryder,who has recently caught fire offensively, defenseman Adam Pardy and grinderJake Dowell.
One name that wasnt among the seven that Nieuwendyk brought in this summer wasleft winger Eric Nystrom, who was acquired in a trade with Minnesota justbefore the start of the season. Had it not been for the New York Rangerssending Sean Avery to the minors, then Nystrom wouldnt be in Big D. Why? Because the Stars were on the hook for most of Averyssalary after placing him on waivers before the Rangers picked him up. When New York sent Avery to the minors, it freedup some salary cap space for Dallas.
Nystrom is a 28-year-old winger who was the 10th overall pick in the 2002 NHLEntry Draft by Calgary. He had signed a two-year deal with the Wild prior tolast season and had 12 points (four goals and eight assists) while skating inall 82 contests for them last year. But as last year wore on and as this seasonbegan, it became clear to the second-generation NHL player that he wasnt inany of Minnesotas future plans.
When the chance for a trade to Dallas came up, he took the leap. It did takehim a bit of time to acclimate to his new teammates and to Gulutzans system,but Nystrom has recently settled in on the Stars checking line alongside Dvorakand Fiddler. In fact, he has a three-goal scoring streak, including a trulysick tally in Tuesdays huge win at Washington. Nystrom already has four goalsthis season, matching his past season total with the Wild.
Plus, scoring against the Capitals was extra special because his father, Bob, aformer NHL player who was a member of the Islanders Cup dynasty teams of the1980s, and his mother made the drive down from Long Island. Not only did theStars give the Nystroms a nice show in the nations capital, but their son alsodelivered a solid goal for good measure.
Sure its still early and there are only 14 games in the books thus far, butthe early performance of the Dallas Stars has surprised many. One key to their successhas been how quick the newcomers have integrated themselves into the room aswell as into Gulutzans system.Nystrom and Souray are two examples of that, guys who forwhatever reason it didnt go so well for them with their last employers.
But thats all in the past as both are Dallas Stars and key contributors to theclub at that. Redemption has been a truly sweet song so far for the entireStars club, but especially for Nystrom and Souray.Heres hoping its a tune that continues for the remaining68 games of the regular season.