The Texas Stars may have been eliminated in round one by the Milwaukee Admirals last night but their accomplishments this year might outstrip last season's trip to the Calder Cup Finals, at least from a Dallas perspective.
The run to game six against the Hershey Bears last year that ended in mid-June was exactly what the doctor ordered for a team in it's first year of existence (minus winning two more games). They established a fan base, showed people what playoff hockey looked like, and started wonderful traditions in a fabulous new building that really got the franchise's ball rolling quickly.
After that ride was over people began saying "If the farm team is that good it can only mean good things for the Dallas Stars down the road, right? Which of these guys should we be looking for in Dallas soon?" The answer usually went something like "Uhhh, well, that's the thing, you see..."
That roster was pieced together a little differently from a lot of AHL rosters, and it served it's purpose well in delivering a winner and establishing the team in Austin and Cedar Park, but it wasn't particularly geared toward helping the big club down the line. Part of that was just the state of the Stars system at the time and the fact that no AHL affiliate existed the season before. Garrett Stafford, Landon Wilson, Andrew Hutchinson, Dan Jancevski, Warren Peteres, Matt Climie etc... The roster was older, pricey and there weren't many (NHL) prospects that excited us.
A season later we look at the roster on elimination night and see a half dozen names that could be in Dallas Stars sweaters sooner or later and it becomes obvious that this season (and next) will ultimately have been much more productive organizationally than a trip to the Calder Cup Finals somehow was, as much as you may not want to admit it if you're a Texas Stars fan down Austin way...
Continued after the jump...
If you listened to the radio broadcast of game six from Milewaukee last night you had reason to be all a twitter with prospect love. Josh Fisher of the Stars called the crap out of that one and names like Ondrej Roman, Scott Glennie and Brenden Dillon made their way into the broadcast with ferocity and frequency.
Between Glennie, Dillon, Roman, Philip Larsen, Tomas Vincour, Tyler Beskorowany and Richard Bachman (not to mention the ever present Aaron Gagnon who had to leave last night's game early with an injury and injured Matthieu Tousignant) there was a whole cavalcade of hopeful future Dallas Stars on the roster as opposed to last season when Jamie Benn was the best thing going down there, and we already had him in Dallas at that point.
Larsen and Vincour have pretty good shots at making the big club year year thanks in large part to their developments in Cedar Park this season and there are other hopefuls on that list that could have an outside chance in September, or more likely next.
Goaltenders Bachman and Beskorowany are something of a youth movement compared to the Matt Climie and Brent Krahn tandem that finished out the 2009-2010 season, as good as they were. We've gone on about Bachman's stellar season ad nauseum in this space and Beskorowany is the kind of big lanky goaltender of the future everyone is looking for these days and should not be shoved aside for Jack Campbell's coming so easily. Competent goaltenders can be as useful on ice for your team down the road as they can on other teams (i.e. trading them). The reason the Stars got Brad Richards in 2008 was that they had a goaltender to trade.
Perhaps the best story for Dallas fans coming out of Texas' unfortunate defeat last night is defensive prospect Brenden Dillon. Just recently signed at the beginning of March, this big (6-3, 209lbs) un-drafted defenseman is a late bloomer showing tons of promise lately.
ESPN Dallas did a feature on him with some high praise from Texas Captain Brad Lukowich...
"I haven't been here very long, but I don't think he's going to be here very long either playing the way he is," quipped Lukowich, who was with the Dallas Stars when Dillon joined Texas in late March. "He's an amazing player. He's big, he skates well, he sees the ice."
And Dillon is making an impact for Texas as well, playing a key role on the blue line in the playoffs.
"You see the minutes that he's logging and he's just fresh out of juniors," said Lukowich. "He's one of those guys that he is supposed to make mistakes once in a while, but we're still waiting for him to do it. He's just a smart hockey player."
The 20-year-old Dillon played ten regular season games with Texas and has played five in the playoffs, registering two assists and a plus-one rating while playing big minutes and in key situations, including the penalty kill.
His was a name all over that radio broadcast in the post-season and coach Glen Gulutzan obviously trusted in the young man almost immediately, inserting him into his playoff lineup like that and relying on him more than we would have thought.
Couple him with the promising young Swedes who will join the Stars in the coming years (probably not next year) in Patrik Nemeth and John Klinberg and that bare defensive cupboard we talked about last June is looking pretty good less than a year later.
So while the Texas Stars didn't go nearly as far this year as we would have liked we take solace in the fact that a lot was accomplished for the organization as a whole this season.
With another draft coming up quick and some good collegiate prospects (Reilly Smith and Curtis McKenzie) in the pipeline as well, the fans in Austin should see lots of young talent come through the CPC in years to come and this will be the first in what we all hope is many, many productive developmental years "on the farm."