Invariably, there comes a time in each teams season when the fan base can either start looking forward to the playoffs (Detroit, this will soon be you) or shrug, sigh, get over it, and then wonder who will be available at the NHL Entry Draft. And when that time comes, many hockey patrons join a very small group of consumers who seemingly want LESS for their money because they feel that being in 15th place in the conference is more desirable than 9th.
With the Stars win last night they jumped from 13th to 10th in the standings, and consequently from 10th to 13th in draft order.
Repeating last years #8 position is looking unlikely with 9 games to play. Dallas needs only 5 points to tie last years' output, but the East really brought it's game this year, hogging all the top spots (apart from those magnificent Oilers). Ironically, there are teams like the Thrashers who are in better draft AND playoff position than the Stars. That's life in the West.
With 10% of the season yet to be played out, would fans really rather they lose?
Some say that once the writing is on the wall, the players slump their shoulders and apathy sets in. I disagree, but not entirely. It's natural for the compete level to come down a little bit, but once the puck drops and the in game battles commence, it's plain to see that they still want to win these games. You can't take the competitive nature out of professional athletes. Athletes don't care about draft position. The only way to tank in the NHL, or any sport for that matter, is to remove the players from the games themselves, and that's just not done in hockey.
In basketball you can shutdown an "ailing" superstar and essentially tank your season. You can trot a rookie QB in football and expect to continue losing. No one admits these things happen, but sometimes they do.
Besides, there are still story-lines to be played out. Can Kari Lehtonen continue to improve? Can Jamie Benn pass 20 goals in his rookie year? Can Mike Modano get back on the ice? Will Marty Turco be given a proper "goodbye home game"?
I'd like to see all of those things happen, and happen within the context of winning.
Still, picking 14th or 3rd, we have to educate ourselves as June and a reportedly deep draft approach.
The Stars have signed a few collegiate free agents in the past, including Tyler Shelast out of Michigan Tech (still in the organization) and Hobey Baker winners Marty Sertich out of Colorado College and Junior Lessard out of Minnesota-Duluth. Sertich and Lessard speak to the success rate that Nieuwendyk is talking about, as both moved out of the Stars organization and stayed in the AHL. Lessard is now playing in Europe.
But the new GM insists that the team will be a part of aggressive scouting of any potential free agents.
``I think you definitely have to look everywhere you can for help,'' he said. ``They have done that in the past here, and we'll definitely keep it up.''
Mark Stepneski has the updated chances of the Stars winning the draft lottery on this blog here.