By Pat Hauldren
So far this season the Dallas Stars’ scoreboard looks bleak with five losses out of seven games (2-4-1). And on the surface, one might think the Stars will, at best, tread hockey water for the rest of the season.
But those projections are based on a team that is going through player transition and adjustments, thanks to Jaromir Jagr missing some time on the ice and the late signing of Jamie Benn, that cut deep into the Stars’ ability to net the puck.
Never mind that the Stars, as of this writing, have played more games than anyone else in the Western Conference. The Stars are a classy group of guys who never (well, rarely, Sean Avery doesn’t count) whine. (Yet, I can’t say the same for some fickle fans.)
Never mind that the Stars began the season with more “foreign” players (i.e., not from last year’s roster) than usual. Most teams have been drawing heavily on their CHL and AHL affiliates, if not for player replacements, then definitely for part-time fillers for injured players.
Never mind that the Stars have a travel challenged season with many back-to-back games. Their travel in just one month has already exceeded almost every other team. The draining journey to Detroit from St. Louis should have been a direct shot northeast. Yet, thanks to Detroit’s winter weather, the Stars had to jet down to Dallas first before flying to Detroit. Then once there, the team got jammed up in Detroit traffic, the asphalt-and-vehicle kind of traffic.
And never mind that other NHL teams seem more Stars-like than the Stars because they have former Stars players—players with names that fans recognize. (Sorry to hear Jason Arnot didn’t make the team due to an F on his physical. Was it his ankles?)
Benn is back.
The Stars have Jamie Benn now, and that makes all the difference in the world. Why?
Because Benn, once he gets his ice legs under him, will be the glue that binds the team together and the player who performs at such a high capacity, his presence alone elevates the entire team to a more cohesive and productive unit. He’s the Dirk Nowitzki of this Stars team.
The Stars are just now ready to play at full capacity. For the Stars, today is the first day of a whole new outlook. The Dallas Stars are ready to make some magic.
New and improved Stars
Because we all know that Louis Eriksson is a playmaker, that Brenden Morrow is a solid player (sans penalties of course). Kari Lehtonen, again barring injury, is goalie gold for the Stars, making some fantastic moves (ie, the miraculous Columbus save.)
Newcomers to the team are also playmakers—Ray Whitney has already proven he’s ready to rack up the points and Jaromir Jagr, even with only a one year contract, has already sealed his green, gold, and black on his jersey. If he can stay healthy he will be the consistent star of the Stars every game. Even young Cody Eakin is polishing his NHL hockey skills with the Stars and establishing himself as a quality player.
And in the back, defensemen Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley seal up the lines. But this is where I think we are the weakest. The Stars haven’t been able to replace the loss of Sergei Zubov, a defenseman with more in his hockey bag of tricks than all the defensemen in the rest of the NHL. (Zubov is coaching a kid on another NHL team. Why can’t we get him back in Dallas with us?) And although defense is not as glamorous or as star-studded as our forward lineup, we can’t expect defensemen to replace the forwards and make all the goals as well. Without pucks in the net, all the star defensemen in the world won’t win games.
The opportunity for Stars magic
The Dallas Stars haven’t been quite the team fans expected to see so far, struggling against penalties and holding the blue line. That will change.
Hockey magic is within reach. With Benn back, and with the right lineups, the Stars are destined to be big this season. The Stars organization and the Stars fans are quietly holding their breath, knowing all the right ingredients are there.