Predicting the 2021-22 Line Pairings for the Dallas Stars

TAMPA, FL - MAY 07 Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski (16) during the NHL Hockey match between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars on May 7, 2021 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars have big shoes to fill as we close in on the beginning of the 2021-22 season. The Stars’ run to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 2019-20 season was followed by missing the playoffs in 2020-21. This upcoming campaign will be instrumental to the team’s future, as many younger players are hungry to hit the ice, and some of the aging core will need contract extensions by the year’s end. With the entire 82-game season set to start on Oct. 23, here is my prediction for how the Stars’ line pairings will look.

Line 1:

Jason Robertson- Roope Hintz- Joe Pavelski

Stars coach Rick Bowness confirmed the top line during a Q&A with NHL writer Mike Heika, saying it’s “the only line I really have fixed in my head.” Robertson and Pavelski belong here as they were the best players on the team last year. Robertson had 45 points through 51 games, and Pavelski had 51 points through 56 games.

The less obvious pick was Hintz at center, who was a point-per-game player last year. To Hintz’s credit, he battled through a groin injury and regularly missed games, so his 43 points in 41 games are impressive. Hintz and Pavelski are both reliable when taking faceoffs and add versatility by playing on the wing. This line is solid throughout, and based on last season’s stats, deserve the most ice time.

Line 2:

Dennis Gurianov- Tyler Seguin- Alexander Radulov

On paper, the second line looks really good. Seguin and Radulov are coming off injury-plagued seasons, but both have seemed to recover. Seguin played three games at the end of last year, including an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers that he scored the game-tying goal in regulation. Seguin was the top scorer for the Stars during the 2019-20 season, and he led the team in game-winning goals. Considering the Stars had league-leading 14 overtime losses last year, Seguin’s ability to score in pressure moments could have changed the outcome of some of those games.

Radulov is a question mark considering he is also returning from injury. He had 12 points in 11 games last season, but he is also 35 and coming off of core muscle surgery. Gurianov did not live up to the hype last year, going on numerous hot and cold streaks. Still, he was on pace to have around 45 goals and is only 24 years old. I think Gurionov outplayed Joel Kiviranta, and that’s why he is with Seguin and Radulov.

Line 3:

Joel Kiviranta- Jamie Benn- Ty Dellandrea

In my opinion, all three players on this line did not perform well last season. Benn’s regression has been tough to swallow. His point totals have progressively diminished, and his shot percentage has fallen off a cliff. Benn has accepted his new role as a third-line center, but it took a while to get used to it. Bowness believes that he can trust Benn more often at the faceoff dot this year.

Kiviranta and Dellandrea failed to take significant steps forward in terms of development. With Seguin and Radulov injured, both players had a chance to solidify a spot on the team. They did not play well enough to get consistent ice time, which will be even more challenging this year. The pair need to come out strong around Benn if they want to stay in the NHL.

Line 4:

Blake Comeau- Radek Faksa- Luke Glendenning

The new and improved Stars’ grind-line became even better with the addition of Glendening. He is everything Andrew Cogliano wasn’t. Glendenning can hit, he can kill penalties, he can take faceoffs, and he has better scoring ability. Comeau is a shutdown defender that can both block shots and give out hits. Faksa had the best faceoff percentage on the team last season. Fans tend to rip on him for his lengthy contract, but Faksa is a prominent player on the penalty kill. Every successful team that makes a deep playoff run has a great 4th line, and these guys don’t disappoint.

Defense

D1: John Klingberg,Ryan Suter

D2: Esa Lindell,Miro Heiskanen

D3:  Jani Hakanpaa, Andrej Sekera

The addition of Ryan Suter adds a bit of mystery to next season’s defensive pairings. Lindell will likely fall beside Heiskanen, as he scored less last season but hit more. He replaces Jamie Olesiak, who the Seattle Kraken took in the expansion draft. The defensive third pairing is still up for grabs. Hakanpaa, an offseason acquisition, specializes in hits, while Sekera is a decent all-around defender. This defensive squad should have an uptick in shots from the point, different from a very hit-heavy style of last season.

Goalies

Anton Khudobin/Braden Holtby

Khudobin had a decent season posting a 2.54 Goals-Against Average over 31 games. Last year, he split time with rookie Jake Oettinger, who proved to be a valuable backup and possible future starter. Khudboin will likely keep his job as Ben Bishop is still injured, and Ottinger is set to start the year in the American Hockey League. The Stars re-enforced their goaltender depth by adding Holtby.

Holtby’s signing was honestly shocking. He is coming off a mediocre season in Vancouver, where his decline started to show. He had a 3.67 Goals-Against Average, only playing in 21 games. Oettinger posted a 2.36 GAA through 29 games. Bowness felt Oettinger did well and was a hard worker but worries about his young backstop in the long term. For now, Holtby will likely be the backup to Khudobin.

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