Stars preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

Establishing a strong relationship with stars Jamie Benn, left, and Tyler Seguin will be critical for new Stars coach Jim Montgomery. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

New head coach Jim Montgomery takes over a Dallas Stars team that features one of the most dangerous top lines in the league.

How they finished in 2017-18: 42-32-8 (92 points), finished 19th in NHL, 6th in Central Division

The team had been in playoff position since before Christmas, but an ugly mid-March road trip sent the Stars into a tailspin. None of Dallas' splashy free-agency moves panned out as planned as the team missed the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 seasons and, with the retirement of Ken Hitchcock, made a coaching change for the third time in three seasons.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 94.5

Best-case scenario: Valeri Nichushkin and Jason Spezza find a special chemistry to create a second scoring line, and Jim Montgomery becomes the latest first-year coach to turn a struggling team into a playoff team.

Worst-case scenario: The team has to adjust to a new coach's system (yet again) and this adjustment takes time. So much time that by the time the Stars finally get into a groove, they're too far out of the playoff picture.

Forward overview: Ken Hitchcock's defense-centric structure wasn't a great fit for this group. Antoine Roussel, Brett Ritchie, Tyler Seguin, Devin Shore and Spezza all dipped in production under Hitchcock and could use a Montgomery bump. A wild card is Nichushkin, who returns from the KHL hoping the confidence he gained scoring in Russia translates back to the NHL. NHL rank: 14th

Defense overview: Dallas has an elite offensive defenseman in John Klingberg and a top-tier prospect in Miro Heiskanen, but other than that, not much to write home about. Dan Hamhuis, who anchored the second pairing last season, signed with Nashville. Roman Polak is the free-agent replacement. NHL rank: 22nd

Goalie overview: Ben Bishop wants to shake off the "oft-injured" tag, but it doesn't help that he missed 13 of the final 15 games last season with a lower-body injury. As insurance, the team signed Anton Khudobin to a two-year, $5 million contract. NHL rank: 18th

Special teams: The Stars had the league's 19th-best power play (19.3 percent) and 14th-best penalty kill (80.8 percent). Both units should look slightly different under a new coach.

Pipeline overview: Having one of the very best young defense prospects goes a long way, as I think Heiskanen will be a long-term difference-maker for Dallas. Aside from him, the team has two quality goalie prospects in Colton Point and Jake Oettinger, along with some high-upside forwards in Ty Dellandrea and Jason Robertson. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: He's back. More experienced and presumably more mature, Valeri Nichushkin is reconnecting with his former NHL team after a couple of seasons in the KHL. One of two scenarios likely unfolds here. Nichushkin could join a second line with Jason Spezza and put up decent, if unspectacular, scoring numbers (50-ish points?) while helping to refresh the aging center's career (last season was not pleasant for Spezza). Or he could replace Alexander Radulov on a top unit with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and score 60-plus points, assuming a gig on the top power play is a given regardless. We'll learn a lot more about new coach Jim Montgomery's preference in the latter stages of camp. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? It's the first year for Jim Montgomery, who coached at Denver (NCAA) the past five seasons. This is likely the last coaching hire for GM Jim Nill, who has cycled through too many coaches without seeing results.

Bold prediction: Ben Bishop plays a full, injury-free season and posts career-best numbers. That helps the Stars keep up with the Joneses in the ultra-competitive Central Division.