Things have finally settled enough between Dallas signings, Texas signings and signings elsewhere that I feel confident projecting an early look at the Texas Stars lineup for the 2012-13 season.
Let's start with the easiest position, goaltending. With Richard Bachman getting a one-way deal and Christopher Nihlstorp having never played a game in the NHL to this point, I think that you'll see Jack Campbell and Nihlstorp in Austin this season. Nihlstorp would have to have an out-of-his-mind camp and Bachman, the worst in his career, for that to change.
This leaves Tyler Beskorowany on the outs. It is very unlikely that Dallas sends Campbell to Idaho. Nihlstorp would have to give his consent to be sent to Idaho, since he is not on an ELC. I don't see that happening, since he was surely brought over from Sweden to compete for the backup role in Dallas and be first call from the American League. Beskorowany will probably be sent to resurrect his career in Idaho along with rookie Josh Robinson.
It gets a little harder as you shift up to the blue line. The depth chart obviously starts in Dallas, where there is some uncertainty still. Brenden Dillon could very possibly make the NHL club out of training camp this fall. Let's assume that does happen. If so, the lineup could look something like this.
(as of yet unsigned AHL/ECHL D man)
In my opinion, Dallas won't keep Jace Coyle in Texas just to have him sit in the press box every night. That's not why you have kids in development leagues. They would be most likely in this case to sign another defenseman to act as the seventh blue liner and fill in due to injury.
If Dillon does indeed get assigned to Texas, it would be a toss-up to me whether Dallas would assign Labrie or the AHL-ECHL player to Idaho. Labrie would make sense to ensure he gets his ice time, so I'm leaning that way.
This is where things get dicey. When you're looking at a depth chart of thirteen in Dallas before you even start talking about the thirteen or fourteen here in Austin, predictions get difficult. Here's a stab at it, keeping in mind that lines are not wholly indicative, just guesses.
Perhaps it makes sense to keep Fraser and Morin together, perhaps it doesn't based on their defensive deficiencies last year. Let's say it does. They add a big bodied winger (a la Ray Sawada from early 2011-12) to the lineup, but with better hands than any of their previous linemates. This should be a great scoring line, but their plus-minus could be questionable. There is also some chance that Chiasson starts in Dallas, but I think he's more likely to be a mid-season callup.
Smith, A.-Petersen-Smith, R.
The Smiths work on either side of veteran pivotman Toby Petersen on this second line. Austin Smith is a great goal scorer and Petersen is an effective goal and assist producer at the AHL level, potting 51 points in 63 games in 07-08. Reilly Smith is also a goal scorer with 30 goals and 18 assists in his final season at Miami Ohio (39 games). I feel like this line would be more defensively responsible thanks to the influence of the veteran Petersen.
Why not reunite one of the most successful lines from last season, the Swagger line. Defensively responsible hockey that can score as well? Who wouldn't want that going over the boards as the third line? If Scott Glennie can continue to mature his game, then this line could become lethal in terms of scoring prowess.
I'll admit that the sandpaper might need to be spread across the lineup a little more than this, but I think this lineup could be a solid one. Really, this particular line hinges on the skill advancement of Mathieu Tousignant. Hampered by injuries in his first and third years with Texas so far, can he be an effective pivot for this or any line? If he can return to his season two form (10-13-23 in 78 GP), then this line works. If not, then this may be the last year for Tousignant.
Despite his placement on this last line, I think Texas is looking for more out of Luke Gazdic. He started to show flashes of it last season: the ability to score and be an effective part of the PK. It is sure that he will probably get a few fighting majors this season, but it won't be anything near as many as last year. Antoine Roussel, who I have here in the 13th forward position, could be the enforcer this year.
Finally, it is known that Hedden can play up and down the lineup. Hopefully he won't have to this season, but what he brings to the fourth line is that ability to elevate his game when it is called for.
This list, of course, leaves several players out of the equation for the 2012-13 Dallas Stars organization. Remember that this list could change in a second though. For example, Dallas signed Ray Sawada and Texas signed Nick Layton both on July 19th last year. I've included the player's new home, if they have one, for 12-13.
NHL UFAs - Godard, Lukowich, Raycroft (Milan, Italy), Sawada, Spang
NHL RFAs - Hauswirth, Neal, Stefanovich
AHL UFAs - Layton, Schultz, Weller
AHL PTOs - Arnason, Berube (Allen), Brodie, Campbell, S., Case, Connolly, Lowe, Spratt
AHL ATOs - Vause