The prediction game

It’s August and that means the predictions for the season start rolling in from some of the better known yearbooks. The Stars aren't getting a lot of love in the early prognostications. There are questions about the defense and if Kari Lehtonen can stay healthy through an entire season. None of that is a surprise.

The Hockey News 2010-11 Yearbook doesn’t come out until later this month, but THN is counting down its predictions on its website. Today THN hit the No. 12 spot in each conference and in the West that's the Dallas Stars.

It was an official changing of the guard in Dallas this summer, with mainstays Mike Modano and Marty Turco leaving via free agency for Detroit and Chicago and Jere Lehtinen still unsigned. Offense isn’t the problem in ‘Big D’ as Brad Richards seems to have found his former assist-happy self and the next wave of scorers – Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Jamie Benn – are improving and settling into a groove. The major obstacle here is the defense, where Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen have to step up, and goaltending, where Kari Lehtonen needs to figure out a way to get through a season healthy.

The Sports Forecaster’s 2010-11 NHL Preview and Fantasy Guide was released this week and it has the Stars pegged to finish 13th in the West:

In their second season on the job, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk and coach Marc Crawford face increasingly tough tasks. Veterans have been let for monetary reasons, and the system isn’t littered with high-end prospects ready to step in. The Stars’ AHL affiliate in Austin reached the Calder Cup Finals last spring, but most players on the roster were non-prospects. So, things have to get worse before they start getting better in Texas. The Stars still boast a decent core of talent, led by centers Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro, and they’re quite difficult to play against. However, questions in goal (Kari Lehtonen) and on defense linger.

The Sports Forecaster picks Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, Los Angeles and Calgary to make the playoffs out of the West.