Texas Stars 2011-12 season preview

By Mike Farkas
Photo: Starting the 2011-12 season on the IR, Scott Glennie has to prove he was worthy of being picked eighth overall in 2009. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Last season, the Texas Stars were able to clinch a playoff spot narrowly at 41-29-4-6 (92 points) behind the defensive crafting of Glen Gulutzan, who has since been promoted to the Dallas Stars head coaching position. The Stars were ousted in the first round by Milwaukee in six games of a very close series that saw half of the games require extra time to decide (including games five and six). The young roster was defensively sound and got a lot of help from two outstanding goaltending performances from Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany – both utilized more than expected after the injury to Brent Krahn. Already a young roster, both Stars clubs had to scramble at times due to injuries and only a handful of players were able to top 75 games and none made it to 80.

Forwards

AHL veterans such as Colton Sceviour, Raymond Sawada,and Francis Wathier are plug-and-play wingers that make up the team’s quality two-way depth. Matt Fraser, WHL overager from Kootenay, will provide scoring and toughness and replace the organizational spot vacated by Matt Tassone. Non-prospects such as Tyler Arnason, Eric Godard and Travis Morin will also provide a punch and some depth points. In the same vein, Mathieu Tousignant continues to work his way up the latter with his agitating style and decent skill level and should see plenty of action for Texas this season.

Tomas Vincour made the Stars out of camp after a lengthy call-up last season but may spend some time in the AHL with the recent acquisition of Eric Nystrom from Minnesota. With more anticipation, and growing impatience from the fan base, Scott Glennie has found himself on the injury list on the cusp on his professional career. He has big expectations on his shoulders, not so much to dominate the American League, but to prove that he is worthy of his eighth overall selection in 2009. Inconsistency and questionable determination has plagued him throughout his junior career.

Ondrej Roman, who had been scratched most of last season’s playoffs, will get a chance to prove himself under a different coaching staff. However, if Roman has another below average season, the playoff scratching in the past has shown that that is a plane ticket out of town sooner rather than later. Finding some playmaking chemistry with goal-scorer Glennie would probably be best for both parties who are fighting for reputation points.

Otherwise, Texas may not have a lot of help from the Dallas organization under tryout offers are handed out after college and junior seasons come to an end.

Defensemen

The Dallas organization has been piecing together an increasingly impressive defensive pipeline in recent years. Unfortunately for Texas followers, many of them are not ready for the AHL quite yet. Signing overager Brenden Dillon was a big step in the right direction and impressed late last season. He’ll be a top call-up this season for Dallas if necessary and should be a huge part of the Texas defensive schematics. Jace Coyle will also get a chance at extended AHL time, although he may be relegated to more of a power play specialist if he can’t handle the even strength pace.

Dan Spang, Brad Lukowich, Maxime Fortunus, and Jordie Benn will make up most of the rest of the roster. Philip Larsen may make his way back to the AHL at points to help refine his game. He still could use some additional strength to handle the rigors of the NHL game on a regular, long-term basis. Additionally, Hubert Labrie is expected to make his pro debut as he has not been sent back to the QMJHL. The gritty, but undersized, Labrie will have the ability to bang-and-crash his way up the Texas depth chart.

Goaltending

With frequent injuries to Brent Krahn over the past few years, Richard Bachman has been thrust into the lineup and became the clear-cut starter last season where he put up top-five numbers in all major statistical categories. Bachman won’t have Glen Gulutzan’s tactics in front of him but he will have a wealth of experience to build upon from last season. Same for Tyler Beskorowany, last year an ECHL All-Star, Besko served as a reliever for Bachman and did well for himself. He will firmly be the number two behind Bachman coming into the season. The big goaltender has a lot of potential and is highly thought of within the organization.

Coaching

After two seasons in Cedar Park, Glen Gulutzan is out as Texas head coach. However, he wasn’t handed a pink slip for poor results, he was handed a promotion to the Dallas Stars. A veteran of eight seasons behind the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL) bench and 12 ECHL seasons in all, Jeff Pyle brings a lot of coaching experience to the club. The 52-year-old coach was third all-time in regular season victories at the ECHL and was champing at the bit to get a chance at a higher level. He preaches a little bit of an up-tempo aggressive style than Gulutzan which may invigorate an offense and power play that has been only average the past two seasons and has relied on a scoring-by-committee approach, spreading out goal-scoring through all lines.

Prospects

Much of the cavalry that is recharging the Stars prospect grid is still under-aged by AHL standards. There isn’t much in the way of professional help at the ECHL either. Jack Campbell and Jamie Oleksiak will likely be brought in when their respective seasons end as they are already signed to entry-level contracts. Austin Smith will also likely get a tryout offer when he completes his senior season at Colgate to bolster the Texas depth. Other than that, there are a pretty healthy amount of young junior players and stand-out Europeans that might not be able to provide too much in the way of depth even after their respective seasons are complete.