Fighting, Not Falling for Better First-Rounder Better for Dallas Stars

Ronald Martinez

Through the trades and the ashes of a demoralizing three-game losing streak at the wrong time has arisen something valuable to the franchise's turn-around: Pride.

How quickly things change in sports.

Friday evening, following three straight losses and a trade deadline that saw Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow depart, Dallas Stars fans had largely resigned themselves to the idea of a strong first-round draft pick. The Chiassons and the Frasers of the world would play, Cody Eakin would center the second line, and intrigue would be had by those who looked hard enough, though through certain defeat.

Three wins later, tell us you haven't peeked at the standings.

Tell us that gut-wrenching stomachache wasn't back Tuesday night as two points loomed unexpectedly and surprisingly large in the third period against the Kings while the game remained close.

We want them to succeed, though our brains tell us it's probably better to sink. For all but the most cynical it's impossible not to. For the players it's unthinkable.

To "suck for Seth" or even just slide to a top-five pick would require failure beyond the scope of 60-minutes of game action.

Take the Colorado Avalanche and out-spoken veteran J.S. Giguere, lauded this spring for calling a spade a spade in Denver through the press...

"Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games. Quite frankly, I don't care about your Vegas trip right now."

"And it's just embarrassing, the way we, you know, the energy we have in the room and the way we approach practices and the way we approach this game. It's not how you're going to win any games in this league. I mean, this is a team [Calgary] that we can beat if we set our minds to it, and every day is the same story."

That's what losing looks like. That kind of dysfunction is what it takes if one wants to truly "suck for Seth" or what have you, and it doesn't come about as part of a grand design. It is suffered. It is counter-productive to everything a major sports franchise should be.

To be fair, there's plenty of space a team can occupy between that level of dysfunction and treading water at 9th-11th place. Colorado has become an extreme example of a team heading in the right direction where only the draft is concerned. They will certainly see massive turnover. They will almost certainly see another coaching change.

Edmonton has seen their fair share of that and then some, acquiring world-class talent along the way. It doesn't necessarily coalesce and manifest as positive results. Talent is nice, but a team must be built. An identity must be forged.

If the Stars should prove able to prolong the stomach-ache and standings-checking against well-earned disadvantageous odds, though damaging their draft standing, most fans (this one) will be pleased with the experience.

It builds character. It "develops". Isn't that what we're most interested in as a group at this point? Coaches, ownership, front office, fans - All the same. Development is the name of the game right now. Hoping for Alex Chiasson and Cody Eakin to show something Joe Nieuwendyk can count on in losing efforts every night is not a strategy.

The other side of the coin is obvious and deserves equal billing: Is this latest uptick a farce? Is it a fallacy of equivocation? Aren't teams taking the Stars less seriously these days? Will we not see a correction in that regard in the next 3-4 games? Is it, as Bob Sturm says, a "dead cat bounce?" after the trade deadline?

That very well may be. The tenor of Stars-related analysis right now swings wildly with the latest results. Kari Lehtonen's latest injury may have already pre-ordained the outcomes and outlooks of the next 17 days. Who's to say? Joe Nieuwendyk or powers above him will have to rise above the daily swings to assess what changes need to be made. Short term success or failure may prove immaterial to the more substantial evidence of what transpired pre-trade deadline.

My opinion is that to fight is better than to not. The front office did their due diligence in asset acquisition in expiring contracts - And still the team sits just two points out of 8th with nine games to play. If asked prior to the season beginning, be it in September or January, most would have freely defined such a position as the "high end" of the realistic expectation spectrum.

The odds are poor. Everyone knows that. To be in the hunt, though, outweighs the alternatives. The Avalanche have... well. The Predators have dropped 11 of 15. The Flames sold everything they could and boast not the same spirit of determination (not to mention mathematical odds) as Dallas. Those aren't situations to build on in the off-season. They're situations to forget. To escape.

It may end poorly. History says it likely will - But this year the Stars have the same chance as in previous years while having already pulled the trigger on the deals necessary to strengthen the system for the future, and a little camaraderie and heart goes a long way, too.

What's more, they look like they're having some genuine fun - And that's easy to get behind.

Lament not the value of their first round pick. Enjoy some meaningful hockey for as long as it lasts. Remember the lockout? Dare to hope a little bit. You don't have to tell anyone about it if you don't want.

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