It's tough to figure out what to say on days like this.
The Stars are not out of the playoffs and there are several scenarios that could happen where the Stars indeed find themselves in the postseason. It's certainly something to hold onto and we'll always have that hope and dream and if it happens, then there will obviously be an incredible amount of celebration and in some ways, relief. At the same time, it's been incredibly tough to recover from such a soul-crushing game like we endured last night.
Expectations are a funny thing. Before the season, with no owner and absolutely no budget, the Stars did their best to build a team that could at the very least compete for a playoff spot. That's the highest expectation that realistically existed and most of those that cover the NHL couldn't imagine the Stars actually getting close enough to even compete. Even some of the most loyal and fervent fans thought the Stars would struggle more than they have.
Yet here we are, two games left in the season and feeling the devastation that comes with the thought of another long summer ahead of us. Another long summer, contemplating changes and improvement and what could have been while discussing what might be. It's the natural and cyclical nature of being sports fans and while we may be overcome with depression today, we'll be right back on the horse tomorrow leading the charge of the die-hard Dallas Stars fan.
For those of us here at Defending Big D, it has been an incredible ride. This season has been like no other in recent memory and it has been a pleasure to be able to ride this rollercoaster with so many passionate and dedicated fans.
I want to share some personal thoughts as we try to figure out where to go from here, and as we muster the strength for two more games with the dream of more in the back of our minds...
Since Defending Big D was launched on January 15, 2009, I have written 1,191 front page articles for this website. I think, on average, I usually write about 1,500 words per article -- especially when you factor in my epic diatribes and verbose rants.
That comes out to somewhere around 1,700,000 words typed out about the Dallas Stars, all driven by my love of this sport and this hockey team. It's incredible for me to contemplate that amount of work but when I think back, it's tough for me to remember when Defending Big D wasn't a part of my life. It's been an incredible journey to see how this website has grown and matured and it's been even more rewarding to see the community that has been built here.
Brad and I have been working together as partners with this website since the fall of 2009 and I'm proud to say that he's one of the closest friends I've ever had. Brad and I don't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to the Stars and we certainly have differing points of view on this team but for me, that is what has helped drive us as hockey fans and as Stars fans. I don't think people quite understand the level of dedication and love that Brad gives to this team and to this website and I'm honored to be able to work with him on a daily basis.
This website has taken us to places we never thought possible and every time that we feel like we can't do it for any longer, we get rewarded with yet another incredible experience that we never thought would be possible. Getting to walk through the tunnels of the AAC and then step into the Dallas Stars locker room was a dream of mine when I was a kid (then, of course, it was Reunion Arena) and getting the honor to talk hockey with Bob Sturm, Mike Heika and Mark Stepneski is something that I don't think I will ever want to give up.
There are times, especially over the past few months, where we might have asked ourselves if all of this was worth it. For me personally, the past 18 months have been the craziest of my life and I've asked myself if all of my hard work was worth the heartache and stress that comes with doing this job.
Whenever I feel like that, I remember the people that we've met and the experiences that we have had. Hearing stories from people across the world that love and appreciate what we do here, who thank us for the hard work and dedication and who want nothing more than to share with us their own stories of Stars fanaticism -- that is when all of this is worth it.
There are difficult times. This is one of those times.
I look back at the 1,700,000 words I've written about this team and I dream of what it will feel like to finally be able to sit in front of my keyboard to write an article about an upcoming playoff matchup. I've had a dream in my head for over a month now of exactly what I will write when the team clinches it's first playoff berth since 2008. I knew exactly what I would write, every single word and I kept telling myself that when the time comes to publish it, it will be the proudest moment I've had a Dallas Stars writer.
It seems that I'll likely have to wait one more season for that moment.
There are a lot of emotions flying around right now with Dallas Stars fans about what should happen next. Times like these bring out the fanatical opinions and the calls for sweeping changes to be made and it brings about heated emotions and arguments. We're disappointed about another lost season and I understand the frustration that comes with another long summer of discussing what needs to happen for the team to improve and move forward.
What I hold onto and something I've held onto all season long is that whatever happened this season was going to be a bonus. I think back to a summer without an owner, a summer where the Stars were completely incapable of really and truly improving their team and it's amazing that they were able to actually stay almost as competitive as they have the past few years. We talk about "letdowns" and "collapses" and yet I don't think any of those terms should ever apply to this team, this season.
Disappointing? Sure. Frustrating? Certainly. But I'm not going to pretend that a team with a rookie head coach, no owner and no payroll should have realistically expected to be in the position they are in today.
If nothing else, I am thankful that this team helped restore our faith in hockey in Dallas -- that when the team is showing character and heart and the games really and truly matter, the fans here are some of the best around. I've loved nothing more than being able to sit in the American Airlines Center and listen to the roar of a big crowd and hear the chants that have been much too rare in this area over the past few years.
I see the momentum building and I see the change that is coming. We have an owner in place that not only is dedicated to this hockey team but loves the sport and knows how it works and knows that he's going to have to make some financial sacrifices to get this team back on top.
I see that after three years of stagnation the Stars can finally move forward with their plan for building a contending team. It won't happen next season or perhaps the year after, but the Dallas Stars are about to embark on a path of improvement that hopefully leads this franchise back to the Stanley Cup.
This has been a wonderful, frustrating, disappointing and incredible three years here at Defending Big D. We have been with this team every step of the way during that time and the excitement I possess at what the future can bring overshadows any incapacitating disappointment and frustration I may experience over a loss like last night's.
This is the team we love and this is the sport we adore. That is all that truly matters.