(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 and fans who hated them the most.)
(Here’s Kung Fu Canuck, remembering the 2015-16 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.)
Friends, mourners, attendees of that Tea Party rally happening next door: We are gathered here today to say goodbye to the 2015-16 version of the Dallas Stars.
I know what you’re thinking: Who is this guy with less Twitter followers than fingers eulogizing my team? Well, it pains me to say that Puck Daddy was unable to find somebody from a well-known blog to talk about the Stars. Try not to read too much into the fact that this team apparently matters so little, they could barely find a blogger to eulogize them. Luckily I’m more than up to the task.
“I barely knew the Dallas Stars, but as a blogger I have no problem telling their most loyal fans all about them”
Mourners, I come not to praise the Dallas Stars. Nor do I come to bury them, as the St. Louis Blues were nice enough to do that for me. Like pallbearers throwing layer upon layer of earth onto the deceased, so too did the Blues entomb the Stars in a coffin of vulcanized rubber and shame, scoring six goals on the Stars’ three best goaltending options in Game 7.
It may comfort you to know that this burial took place at the Stars’ home, in front of a horrified cadre of fans who were no doubt wondering why the team who had struggled to put away an 87-point Minnesota Wild crumbled against an opponent who possessed mere qualities like “structure” and “goaltending.”
Some mysteries are beyond even the greatest of human comprehension.
But, dear Stars fans, you should be happy with what the team achieved this year! They climbed to the very top of the Hardest Division In the League©, and managed to avoid facing a team in the first round that would most likely spank them like they were Cody Eakin as a step child!
Instead, they faced the Minnesota Wild, who held the prestigious record of being the worst team ever to make playoffs in the cap era. Hilarious near-collapses aside, Stars fans should take pride in their franchise’s first series win in nearly a decade. Offering the good people of Minnesota a sliver of false hope in a time of despair and then curb-stomping their dreams has essentially been this franchises only ever achievement — except that one Stanley Cup victory that the hockey world has tried its absolute best to forget ever happened.
“It’s known as the 'Stars Stanley Cup,' but that only refers to the asterisks”
However, in Round 2, the Stars were cursed with the misfortune of having to play an actual hockey team, and, despite home ice advantage, the Stars were bounced by the Blues in a Game 7 that will rank amongst mankind’s greatest war crimes.
Faced with the problem of an expensive Finnish goaltender with a nasty habit of occasionally turning into a double-agent for the opposing team, Jim’s solution was to sign Antti Niemi — a human blobfish widely known for almost destroying the San Jose Sharks and turning Joe Thornton into a homeless alcoholic — to a three-year, $13.5 million deal. Clearly Nill’s logic was that if you have one goaltender who is a flaming garbage pile half of the time, and you add another goaltender who is a dumpster fire half of the time, you’ll never allow a goal again! It was only after the deal that the Stars’ front office learned you can’t actually play both goaltenders at the same time.
“Pictured: Assistant General Manager of the Dallas Stars. Unnamed. Possibly John Chayka’s older sister”
In the ultimate case of trying to fight fire with fire, if one was hypothetically trying to burn down their own house, the Stars iced a goaltending tandem that cost a league-high $10.4 million a year. Of course, like all of Nill’s moves it paid off in spades, as the Stars went from having the third worst goaltending in the league all the way up to… the fourth worst goaltending in the league! And despite both netminders turning in a Game 7 performance that one could only describe as “shades of Patrick Lalime”, all Nill has to do is sign Cam Ward to a $12 million per year contract and maybe the Stars’ goaltending can break into the top two-thirds of the league in 2016-17!
In fairness, the horrifying on-ice performance was not the only reason for bringing in another goaltender. Niemi also brought valuable experience to the up and coming Stars team, and Nill probably hoped he could help them learn such lessons as “what does it take to beat the best?” and “how does one possibly win a Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi as their goaltender?”
Unfortunately, all he could tell Nill was to be the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, which was clearly the team’s poorly executed plan already.
“I, for one, question the hockey judgment of man whose mustache suggests that his scouting experience involved a windowless van and shockingly little hockey”
However, it would be unfair to lay all the blame for the Stars’ exit at the feet of the goaltenders — dangerous too, given the chance that the blame would somehow find its way untouched through both their five-holes.
It’s worth looking at other reasons the Stars will have to forego the Western Conference final and instead have to vacate Dallas as quickly as possible for the summer (though some would call that a reward).
Perhaps it was the Stars’ inability to score in their home arena, going a paltry 1-3 in Dallas during the second round and pissing away home ice advantage like it was rodeo cool Lone Star Beer. Even if the Stars hadn’t been the league’s best offensive team in the regular season, there’s simply no excuse for getting outscored 15-7 on home ice. One could blame the atmosphere in Dallas for their shooting drying up, but let’s not pretend like the city doesn’t have a rich history of people making difficult shots under high pressure.
Perhaps the blame should be given to individual players, like captain Jamie Benn, who, when not being generally a great hockey player, still finds the time to throw “totally out of character” dirty hits and nut shots — ironic for someone who does his best to avoid the box at all costs. While his team-leading 15 points was a respectable total, it’s worth questioning his leadership abilities when his team played Game 7 like they had money on St. Louis.
Maybe Benn should have used his super-secret code to tell his team how to win — the bench would be filled with cries of “poot the shuck!” and “sake a [expletive] mave!” and the Blues would have been none the wiser! In fairness to Jamie, it’s tough to play well and keep your head straight when you’re on a top line centered by the Weasley brother who betrayed Harry to advance his career.
Speaking of rodents, it probably also wasn’t the greatest idea to ice left-winger and seal-clubbing enthusiast Antoine Roussel after we found out that he was being told what do by a rat living in his helmet who gave him directions by pulling on his hair. It may have been cute, but I question Lindy Ruff’s judgement to let it continue when it became apparent that the rat only knew how to communicate instructions for embarrassing dives and dirty hits.
Nonetheless, I’m sure Brad Marchand was happy that his brother had finally found gainful employment.
We can’t find fault with every forward though. Patrick Sharp was a nice addition and was polite enough to keep quiet about which of his teammates’ wives he slept with this season. Faksa, Johns, Oleksiak, and Janmark sound like great prospects and not at all like made up names of Nill’s imaginary friends.
Val Nichushkin will no doubt be great on whatever team Nill trades him to when he rushes him out the door out this summer. Jason Spezza had a great season and playoffs — except for his age, drive, history of debilitating back injuries, and overall weirdness, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be worth $7.5 million a year until he’s 36.
"At which point he can finally retire and join Nill on those 'scouting' assignments we talked about earlier”
However, up until this point, much like Nill, we have ignored the Stars’ defense. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t good — one might even describe it as “the Dallas Stars’ Game 7” of defenses. It’s bad enough that John Klingberg forgot how to score in the playoffs, but his regular season success will no doubt mean that we’ll have to hear the constant screech of “this guy would have a Norris if not for the East Coast Bias” from Stars faithful — or at least we would if any of us bothered to stay up late enough or learn what channel the Stars were broadcasted on.
In Nill’s defense he did try to shore up the blueline by bringing in Kris Russell in a trade that reminded us all why GMs have wisely stopped doing anything on trade deadline day. Despite the fact that Russell was a possession black hole during his tenure with the team, the titanic cost sunk into his acquisition means that he’s likely going to be resigned to a hilarious contract while Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers walk out the door this summer. It’s going to be tough to imagine this bottom-ten defense getting worse next year, but just wait until the 36-year old former Blackhawk and 2010 Cup-winner Brian Campbell signs a five-year, $32 million deal with the Stars.
And yes, I can already hear you Stars fans yelling at me for saying the defense is the problem with this team after spending so much time saying it was the goaltending. I promise you there’s a simple explanation here.
“Oh, it’s you again. I thought I buried you already?”
So, Stars fans, we say goodbye to another year of Jamie Benn’s prime without victory. Maybe Nill will make all the right moves to shore up the blueline. Maybe he’ll drug Jeff Gorton’s morning bourbon and convince him to trade Lundqvist. Maybe (or, rather, almost certainly) he’ll trade pennies on the dollar for a forward in his early thirties whose team is looking to dump him for some reason.
And if not, then have no fear, Stars fans. You still have one whole season to contend before Jamie Benn’s new contract obliterates your team’s cap situation and forces you to move several good players. Given that a perennial Art Ross and Hart Trophy candidate can command around $10 million a year these days, you better hope Nill hasn’t decided to commit that amount of cap space anywhere else.
If he has, for his sake, I sure hope it was worth it.