(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the most. Here is Earl Sleek, retired Anaheim Ducks blogger, fondly recalling the 2013-14 Dallas Stars. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
(Apologies if this seems a bit rushed, but with a 2-goal lead with 2:10 left in regulation, I figured I’d have at least two more days to write this up.)
Today we are gathered to remember the Dallas Stars, who battled like crazy to make the playoffs before choking like crazy to save me game seven ticket money. For this eulogy, I decided to go in a bit of a different direction. I’m going to tell the story of the Stars and the Pacific Division – once its champion and now its prodigal team returned – told the only way I know how: Through Sleektoons.
When the North Stars first moved to Texas to become the Dallas Stars in 1993, they actually first joined in with the Central Division, along with such long-standing franchises as Toronto, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. That’s a lot of traditionalism for any southern franchise to endure, though, so a few years later when the Stars had an opportunity to move to the newer Pacific Division, they jumped at the chance.
That first decade within the Pacific Division was a fantastic era for the Stars. They made the playoffs eight times, won the division five times, and made it to the Cup Finals twice, winning it once. They consistently pummeled the rest of the division in those early years, and their success naturally led to some bitterness from the other franchises.
Eventually the rest of the teams in the Pacific caught up and passed the Stars, though. In their last four years in the Pacific Division, the Stars finished 5th, 5th, 4th, and 5th, while the Ducks, Kings, Sharks and Coyotes all became fairly dominant teams. T
his made the Stars miserable – they weren’t used to being so regularly outclassed by the rest of their division.
Plus their fans had to regularly stay up late because they probably never belonged in the division in the first place.
So when the opportunity arose for the Stars to leave the Pacific Division, they leapt at the chance.
And really, thanks to animosity over the years, nobody was sorry to see them go (except maybe some cartoonists).
The Stars returned to the Central Division after a decade and a half, but the balance of power had shifted in that division as well. Dallas found themselves solidly stacked behind consistent winners in St. Louis, Chicago, Colorado and Minnesota, once again destined to finish 5th in their division.
Ironically, even though this was the season the Stars were able to finally free themselves from the shackles of the Pacific Division, it also proved to be one of their most successful against those teams. Dallas went 14-3-4 against Pacific Division opponents, outscoring them 70-43, with one of those regulation losses occurring on a meaningless last day of the season.
The Stars picked up more wins and points in 21 games against Pacific opponents than they did in 29 games against Central opponents and in 32 games against eastern opponents.
Had they not switched divisions, the Stars might not have needed a wild card berth to qualify.
Despite that success against the Pacific, this return would be a pretty short one for the prodigal Stars. I do have to hand it to them, though – the Stars nearly injured their way into Round 2.
This was truly a series for the hospitals – Matt Beleskey, impact player in Game 1, out for Games 2-5. Ryan Getzlaf, captain and team MVP, hit by a puck in the face and out for Game 4. Stephane Robidas, Anaheim’s only trade deadline acquisition, broken leg, out for the playoffs. Mathieu Perreault, power play contributor, out for Game 6. Anaheim ended up using 23 different skaters in the series, which is more than they used in four rounds when they went to the Cup Finals in 2003 (I only bring that year up because it also featured the Ducks eliminating the Stars).
Now I know these eulogies are supposed to be all taunts and snark, but I’ve never been the best at that – I’m thrilled the Ducks got to kick Dallas out of the Pacific Division again, but on the other hand the Stars do deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs in a crazy western conference.
Besides, what more needs to be said?
The Stars were minutes away from Game 7 and did a very very bad thing.
I hope it haunts them for a very very long time.
I guess I’ll end by saying the future is bright for the Dallas Stars – Jamie Benn is a beast and Tyler Seguin is a handful, too. Kari Lehtonen now boasts more than two games playoff experience, and now some of that experience includes wins and games from this decade. A lot of the forward core is young and improving, and the blueline was one Stephane Robidas away from being adequate.
Wait – why’d they make that trade again?
At any rate, there’s very good odds that the Stars will continue making the playoffs plenty of times in the coming seasons. At least they’re not based in Canada, right? :)
But seriously – stay out this time.