Exactly a year ago today, the Dallas Stars were the second-best team in the NHL. After a tie-breaker over St. Louis, they were first in the Western Conference with 99 points. My, how the mighty have fallen.
After battling with Minnesota in the first round to a 4–2 series win, the Stars were largely dominated by St. Louis in the second round. On paper, it looked like a close series, 4–3. They were outscored 26–14. Twice they were defeated by five goals, another by three. In the three wins, they only won by a goal each.
Today, March 29, the Dallas Stars sit with 73 points. That’s 15 points back from the second wild-card spot in the playoffs. There are six games left. Barring a colossal meltdown by three different teams (Winnipeg, Los Angeles, and St. Louis), we can forget about the playoffs. Especially when you consider two of those teams (St. Louis and Los Angeles) an extra game in hand.
The Stars entered this season looking ahead after winning their first playoff series since 2008. They resigned the Benn brothers, Eaves, and Oleksiak. Jiri Hudler, Dan Hamhuis, Adam Cracknell, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and all joined in Free Agency.
The Stars were poised to make a run in 2017. They were ready to go. Then what happened? Hemsky, Hudler, Rousell, Oduya, and Cracknell all spent time on IR. Oduya was later traded back to Chicago. Sharp will finish the season only having played 48 games. We could have an entire discussion on injuries alone. Is that the only thing, though? Hardly.
There was plenty of disappointing performances as well. Oleksiak and Klingberg haven’t had the seasons the team and fans were looking for. Not that Oleksiak has been given many opportunities. Dallas currently ranks 20th in PP%. Only the Las Vegas Golden Knights have a worse PK%, and that’s only because they don’t begin to play until next year. Dallas is last in PK% if you didn’t get the joke.
The Stars are the ninth best at giving the puck away(something you DON’T want to be good at). They have turned the puck over 728 times this season. They rank 20 in takeaways with 467. So they let other teams keep the puck too. How generous.
Last year, Dallas was confident, arrogant even. They played tough. This year, not so much. They have only made 1465 hits this season. Granted, hits aren’t everything, ask the Blackhawks, last in the league in hits, fourth in the league in points (the stat that matters most right now).
This year’s team has played consistently bad hockey. Giving up the most PP goals, and SH goals. Failing to convert on the PP. If you really want to cry, google Dallas Stars Own Goal. It’s been THAT kind of season for the Stars. Who scores an own goal on a delayed penalty? The 2016–2017 Dallas Stars.
All things considered, looking back in February, the team could have turned things around. They didn’t. Now they sit hoping for nothing short of a miracle. There will be no movies made out of this season. Maybe a youtube sensation(see own goal reference above).
So where do we go from here? Jim Nill came to Dallas from Detroit. The man knows how to win. He helped the Red Wings win four cups. Dallas has only been to the finals twice. Nill brought the Detroit front office way of thinking. He largely kept cool, and let things play out. He trusted his team and his coach. He made a few trades but nothing that made waves. Three coaches have been fired this season, and Lindy Ruff was not one of them. It could be argued if that has a major impact. However, Ken Hitchcock (I named dropped him on purpose) was fired this season, and his team is currently in the playoff race.
The season is nearly over, something needs to be done. Does the entire roster need to be overhauled? Not really. You can’t have such a downturn season and not make moves in the offseason, though. It could be argued that Ruff needs to be fired? There certainly has been talk about it, including replacement ideas — including Ken Hitchcock.
Should Nill be on the hot seat? That could be up for debate. I wouldn’t quite go that far yet. Miss the playoffs next year? Let’s have this conversation then.
Free agency is a fun time to talk about, and I’ll get into that next time. For now, I’ll go back to wondering where oh, where have our Dallas Stars gone?