The great Mike Heika had a wonderful blog entry after last night's 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, in which he questioned whether such a loss would finally signal a full firesale of sorts for Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars.
He made a great comparison of the situation to Heath Ledger's character in the movie A Knight's Tale, summing it up very succinctly:
A common English peasant, Will has been impersonating a knight to compete in jousting tournaments. When it is discovered that he is a fraud, Will's friends warn him he will be put in the stockades if he shows up to compete at the big tournament.
One by one, Will's friends recommend he run away and escape imprisonment. He beseeches each to support his desire to stay and fight, and each one tells him the best decision is to admit defeat and live for another day.
Finally, he can't take anymore and shouts, "I will not run...I am a knight.''
I've always pictured Joe Nieuwendyk that way on trade deadline day.
For three seasons now the Dallas Stars have stood just outside of the playoff picture as the NHL trade deadline approached. In 2012, a scrambling and struggling Stars team pulled together just before the deadline to stave off a number of impending trades of notable veterans. The Stars stumbled and burned down the stretch, once again, and those same players were eventually moved in the offeseason.
This year, Nieuwendyk faced a similar situation and challenge and it seems as if the decision was not as difficult to make this time around. Just hours after a stunning 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at home, the Stars informed Jaromir Jagr that he should expect to be traded before the 2 p.m. deadline on Wednesday.
This season would mark the fourth year under Joe Nieuwendyk, and fifth straight overall, that the Dallas Stars have missed the postseason. Even with the issues faced by bankruptcy and the bank ownerships, it was expected that at the very least the Stars would have been able to have a bit more competitive team on the ice -- and as much as we like to stay optimistic, that are zero guarantees that everything is on as much an upswing as we'd like to think it is.
This season was always going to be about struggle, and transition and most of us expected the Stars to have to battle hard just to fight for a playoff spot. The problem is that for most it seems the fight left this team long ago and instead of working hard to overcome a number of shortcomings, this was a hockey team that seemed incapable of consistently living up to it's own short-term potential.
For once, it wasn't just the fact of that they lost it was how they looked while losing. The Dallas Stars, in less than a two-week span, lost two games at home by a combined score of 15-5. The night after an "embarrassing" loss to the Kings, the Stars take the ice and lay an egg against a flat Anaheim Ducks team.
In front of dwindling home crowds the Dallas Stars struggled to even put up a fight on some nights, creating an increasing sense of anger and frustration in a fanbase that was looking for anything at all to hold on to and cheer for.
Jaromir Jagr was one of those players, and now he's going to be traded.
The leading scorer for the Stars, Jagr has transcended his play on the ice to affect all levels of this organization. He's been everything we were told he would be and more and there's no doubting the value he's had to this franchise from a pure marketing standpoint. That he's been the best player on the team has been a bonus, but that fact alone is a signal of just how south things have gone.
Trading Jagr is the best decision Nieuwendyk could make for the long-term health of this franchise, as much as so many want him to stay. There is going to be a painful backlash from those that don't understand the long-term necessity of such a move, especially if the return is as good as we expect it could be, and it would have been completely understandable for Nieuwendyk to keep Jagr and sign him next season to aid in the continuing growth and development for the team.
Yet there are no guarantees next season as well. There's almost surely going to be a new coach on the bench next season, and a team in transition will suffer further upheaval. Could his presence next year alone great long term? Of course -- but so would a first-round draft pick and top prospect.
Joe Nieuwendyk is likely fighting for his job and instead of going all-in on the playoffs one more time, he's decided to punt and revert to the true long-term building plan for this franchise. How long will that process take?
We're about to find out.