After the bitter disappointment of talks between the NHL and NHLPA the idea of a lost season is coming closer and closer to reality. With Bettman inferring that the cut off for a season to be able to get underway, with a season between 50-60 games, on the 1st of January then it appears very likely that there will be no 2012-2013 season. Obviously this would be devastating for the sport and for the loyal fans who are thoroughly sick of both sides. But at Defending Big D we are here to give you hockey news and hockey analysis. So in the light of the possibility of a lost season I am going to ask an interesting, but deeply unpopular, question. Would the Stars actual benefit from the loss of the 2012-2013 season? In my opinion its quite possible that the loss of a season is not a body blow for the organisation and in fact could be beneficial for them.
Firstly I am going to make this perfectly clear: I, in no way, am cheering for a lost season. I will be bitterly upset and angry if they do lose a season. I want to see the Dallas Stars suit up and take the ice at the American Airlines Centre. I want to see them play, to see them win and lose, to watch the goals and the saves, to see another beautiful Jamie Benn goal or another stunning Kari Lehtonen save and to cheer and to cry with the ups and downs of the team. But if the season is lost then I can't do that, but I can see if, whenever they take the ice again, the Stars might come out of this even stronger than before. This needs to be done and I have to take away the vast amount of emotion around this issue and looking at the impact of a lost season objectively on the Dallas Stars organisation. So I repeat: I do not want a lost season.
I wrote this article a while ago on the chances of the Dallas Stars getting a top pick if there is no season. The Stars have the odds on their side when it comes to getting a top five pick. The importance of this cannot be understated. The Stars have drafted very well in the last few years and have picked up a lot of good prospects but there are very few bluechip prospects in the Stars system. Jamie Oleksiak and Jack Campbell are those I would call bluechip and have the potential to reach the top. But the Stars need more of these elite prospects that will in the future fit in the top line or be that number one centre or offensive defenseman. They just aren't in the system, there are plenty of low risk big reward prospects here but will they reach their top potential? Who knows. But being able to draft someone like Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones or Sasha Barkov would be exactly what this system needs. That true elite blue chip prospect. Someone who could step out onto the ice on opening night in 2013-2014 and make that impact and be a cornerstone of the franchise for a decade. If the season is lost, that can happen, the odds are on our side and maybe the team would be willing to move up to try and get one of those players.
This year was always seen as a stop gap year for the Stars. They weren't ready to compete for the Stanley Cup this season, they might have made the playoffs but there was no real hope for them to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a year for the prospects to develop, to mature and to meld as a unit. Instead of having to worry about these players performing as injury replacements in Dallas they can develop in the AHL and focus solely on performing well there. It is likely these players would be suited for extended duties in the NHL in 2013 or 2014 rather than short stints this season. Having a year without the NHL would not be detrimental for their development, in fact having so many young studs playing in the AHL, instead of the NHL, it would help them develop even more.
Playing against players who were outstanding in rookie season in the NHL but have been forced to play in the AHL will give them a taste of what its like to play against the best of the best. So many of our prospects, even though they look like they have bright futures ahead of them, are not ready for the NHL. It will take at least one year but more like two years to get them ready for Dallas. Some of the best players who in the last lockout were forced to play in the AHL benefited from it hugely. Plus having so many good players with the Texas Stars is excellent for competition. It has already been shown that minutes on the ice in Cedar Park is based more on work and effort than how high they were picked during the draft. The prospects in Cedar Park get that year etc without the dislocation suffered when Dallas calls up players to replaced injured players to just improve against better competition. They will benefit and it will help their development.
But apart from the draft and the prospect development what other aspects could be beneficial for the Stars? I know many think that Gaglardi would be one of those owners who are very much against the lockout, especially considering he only purchased the team last season. But I think this actually plays into his hands and into his vision of what the Dallas Stars will become. Its clear that he wants to leave his mark on the Dallas Stars, be it uniform or players. Coming out of a lockout scenario attendance is likely to be very low as many casual fans will have ignored or forgotten about hockey and the hardcore fans will shun the games in order to show their displeasure at the entire situation. So how can this be used to the organisations advantage?
The management, who have so far refrained from laying off staff, are likely preparing a massive marketing campaign for when the season eventually returns in order to get as many people in the seats as possible. This combined with what appears to be the likely arrival of a new jersey, of so far unknown design, will be folded into a massive marketing strategy to get people back into the AAC and to create an entire new generation of Gaglardi Dallas Stars fan. This is not a Winnipeg Jets situation, where the team has had an entire season to build a huge amount of excitement and risk losing it all through a bitter lockout. Yes, attendance in Dallas started to improve but it wouldn't be a body blow to have to start from scratch again, especially considering a combination of factors that will occur at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. But there is one final piece of the puzzle that would make the lost season and the marketing campaigning appear like gifts from above: Seth Jones.
Imagine the Stars starting the 2013 season with Seth Jones, Texas native, articulate and also incredibly good, wearing the new jersey on opening night. Even if they didn't get a draft lottery pick that could get him if they make a move to move up to be able to do so. A marketing campaign focused around a player who could become the corner stone of the Dallas Stars defensive corps alongside Jamie Oleksiak. The power of having him as a face of the franchise reaching out to the local community, having a well known Father in Popeye Jones from the Dallas Mavericks, cannot be understated. This combined with the young guns such as Jamie Benn has the potential to create an excitement around the franchise. Out of the darkness of the lockout and lost season the Dallas Stars future burns brightly. It would have the draw factor to fill the AAC to the rafters. The marketing would have him everywhere playing the role that Mike Modano played when the Dallas Stars first arrived in Texas twenty years previously.
So in conclusion, the Dallas Stars could benefit from a lost season. In fact they can very much use it to their advantage if they handled the situation correctly. Having this time to develop the prospects and prepare a marketing strategy, a new jersey and a chance to pick an elite prospect, like Texas native Seth Jones, they could create an entire new generation of Dallas Stars fans and meld the Stars into Gaglardi's vision of what he wants them to be.
For current Dallas Stars fans the bitter pill of a lost season could be manageable if the Stars come out of this stronger than before. That is, if it works and if there is even a 2013-2014 season.