A look ahead: The Stars
Avery says he watched the Stars battle the Red Wings in the Western Conference finals and felt like they were one piece away from getting past Detroit. You can guess who Avery thought that piece might be.I don't know about that, but I do think the Stars will be a team to watch this season in the Western Conference.
"If you throw me in the lineup in that series, it's definitely going to make the difference," he says.
To this point in his career, Avery has received far more pub than his output has merited, something that stems from just how much he stands out among hockey's pretty bland bunch. Being controversial these days is reason enough for copy to be spent, and Avery — along with Ray Emery — is as close as the NHL comes.
Avery's 28 years old, but prior to his latest 104-game stretch with the Rangers (including playoffs), he had only had 42 goals and 114 points in 293 games, the equivalent of three and a half full seasons.
In New York, he scored at a 22-goal, 51-point pace, but his $15.5-million, four-year contract calls for more than that going forward. Dallas is paying for potential, as much as any team does these days with its youngsters, and I don't think that's such a bad bet.
Avery played under 16 minutes a game last season with the Rangers, with very little time on special teams, and that'll change this time around. The Stars have done a decent job adding top-end pieces after being a team short on scoring depth for so long, but they will still lean heavily on their top six forwards: Brendan Morrow, Brad Richards, Jere Lehtinen, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Modano and Avery.
So he's a factor — but hardly the only one. More than anything, what should propel Dallas forward will be some better luck in the health department, as Sergei Zubov, Lehtinen and Philippe Boucher all missed 30-plus games last season. All will be integral when it comes to taking on difficult opposition, especially with some green players like Fabian Brunnstrom coming into the fold.
Toss in a full season for Richards, who should be re-energized after a lost campaign, and they'll be tough to beat in the Pacific Division.