All alone, #29 stands in 9th place again this year. So close.
The Stars have now failed to make it to the post-season for the fourth consecutive year, and that, unfortunately, sets a new franchise record for the Minnesota and Dallas portions of it's existence.
"It's frustrating. It's disappointing. It's kind of a repeat... Groundhog Day, of last year. It doesn't get easier."
Last year, of course, the Stars' chances took a hit sooner on the calendar, putting them seemingly out of it earlier. An unexpected turn of events between the Blackhawks and Red Wings in the season's final two games gave Dallas an unforeseen chance at a miraculous playoff berth on the season's final day, but they squandered their suddenly found gift away to Minnesota.
This year it was different. This year they knew with about ten games remaining that all they would have to do is finish out the year at about a .500 pace, and they would be in. No dramatics needed. They were if full control. They dropped 8 of 11 down the stretch instead, and now find themselves eliminated.
They may have survived to game 82 last season, but being eliminated at number 81 this year is ultimately more disappointing.
"You always want to win that last one and give our fans the opportunity to see playoff hockey again," continued Morrow. "They deserve it. Since Mr. Gaglardi took over they've been out to support us and rooting us on - It would have been nice to give them that opportunity to see some playoff hockey."
Instead the playoff hockey will be played by Los Angeles and Phoenix, both of whom will likely finish with fewer wins than Dallas has (42 before Saturday's tilt with the Blues). It's unfortunate timing for a franchise trying to re-gain it's relevancy among the always dominant Cowboys, the World Champion Dallas Mavericks, and the Texas Rangers, who took fans to the World Series in back-to-back seasons now.
As Captain Brenden Morrow said, it's frustrating.
An examination of the frustration after the jump. We'll start group therapy in the comments...Much will be written in this space and in others on the internet in the weeks to come about the season that was for this particular iteration of the franchise. Decisions will probably be second guessed. Players will be evaluated. Certain aspects of the team's play will be picked apart and turned inside out. The autopsy will be thorough.
Today is a day on which it's OK to be frustrated. To be disappointed. Today it's OK to be angry. Today we don't have to look at why, so much, as we should feel the "WHY NOT?" of it all.
How can they lose eight of eleven down the stretch? How can they have the worst power play in the National Hockey League? How can they score two total goals in their last three games? How can they get passed by teams that don't have as many wins as they do?
Those are the questions being asked on a day like today. It's frustrating because people know what this team can do. The questions are not meant to insult the team. If anything, the "how can this happen??" attitude stems from a very complimentary view of this group. This group can beat good teams, in this fan-base's estimation. This group went on a 10-0-1 run. This is a group that performed beyond the expectations of everyone external to the franchise and fan-base. It's frustrating because players and fans alike know what this could have been.
It's frustrating because this also could have been, pardon my french, one hell of a good story. A team that started the year owned by 40 different entities and banks loses the biggest UFA of the summer in 2011 in Brad Richards, brings in a rookie head coach, finds an owner at Thanksgiving and then goes on to grab a spot in the ultra-difficult Western Conference playoffs with the league's #29 payroll? And beyond? That would have been one heck of a good tale. But it wasn't meant to be.
It's frustrating because many have said that this 2011-2012 team was, perhaps, an easier team to like than seasons past. Maybe one of the easiest to like in a long time. Twitter and Dallasstars.com continue to open the players' world to us in ways hitherto un-experienced, and what people found this year was an incredibly endearing group. Eric Nystrom's meteoric rise and mustache in November, Vernon Fiddler's grandmother, the continued antics of Steve Ott, the twitter conversations between Jamie Benn and nearly everyone else, #sayaboomboomboom, etc - The list could go on and on - They all helped this club dig their claws a little deeper into our hockey hearts.
It makes this hurt even more.
Loveable is nice. Playoffs are better, though.
It's frustrating because it took until game 81 to eliminate them. It hurts because of how close it is again. Another overtime loss here... Another late lead protected there. An injury less - Who knows? The margin for error is so razor-thin, and the team is experiencing that lesson now for a second season in a row. Minnesota, Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado... everyone faded away. Again, with Dallas left to stare at 9th place.
It's just frustrating.
Still, the hope is that this season will be looked upon favorably several years down the road; That it will become known as the season the team was sold and the Tom Gaglardi era began. It will hopefully be known as the season that Glen Gulutzan soaked up knowledge like a sponge, acting like a spring board for his successful NHL career. It's the season that Jim Lites returned. It will hopefully be the year that season ticket holder numbers started rebounding - The season that the financial shackles were taken off Joe Nieuwendyk's wrists. It will be known as the season that several important Stars' up and comers turned pro.
It's frustrating because it might also be known as the year of further labor strife, following the examples set by the NFL and NBA last summer. Frustrating because the next meaningful Stars' hockey we watch at the AAC might be the first week of October, but it also might be the first week of January 2013.
Either way, we feel you today, on Good Friday. We really do. The examination of this season starts Monday. In the mean time I hope you'll join us at the American Airlines Center Saturday to salute these guys after a pretty valiant fight. After all, a day with Dallas Stars hockey, playoffs or no, still beats the ever-living out of a day in August without.