Let's discuss the black, green and gold elephant in the room, shall we?
A week has passed since Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk pulled the trigger on three pre-deadline trades that sent Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr to new locations and the complete makeup of the Stars roster was changed; instead of talking about the "youth movement" coming sometime in the future we've suddenly seen the future become the present. The Stars were falling behind in the playoff race and didn't show any signs of actually figuring things out, so Nieuwendyk was forced to make the moves the hardcore fans expected to be made yet still came as a shock to many.
With the sudden change in direction and the path the season had already taken, it was natural that Stars fans would quickly look to a deep draft and drool over what a high draft pick could do to the franchise. Now the Stars wake up on Monday morning just four points out of a playoff spot and renewed hope of the postseason growing after wins in Anaheim and San Jose -- an occurrence of events that has created a paradox in the desires of those that closely follow the team.
There's an interesting sentiment that the Dallas Stars front office should do what it takes to ensure the team has a better chance at a high draft pick, aside from the trades carried out last week and earlier this season. There have been calls for Richard Bachman to start more games, that the Stars should recall even more young players and consider scratching a few more veterans now and then -- perhaps as a way of "sabotaging" the team a bit to make certain a higher pick is seized by the Stars.
After all, this is a very deep draft and getting a pick in the top eight would be a very big boost for the franchise. There's a feeling that anywhere in that range a franchise player could be found, that the star-studded center the Stars desperately need could be had -- if only the team is mediocre enough not to win too many games down the stretch.
With the two wins over the weekend, the Dallas Stars currently sit at No. 12 in the draft standings. For some, it could be said that the Stars don't even know how to lose the right way...
Yet here's the reality of the situation.
Everyone involved with the franchise, from Nieuwendyk on down to the equipment managers, are in this league to win hockey games. The coach of this team -- who may or may not have a job after the season ends -- is out there to win games, and he's going to put the team on the ice in the configuration he feels is best to accomplish that task. The players on the ice aren't interested in just rolling over; even the worst teams in the league will at least attempt to win their games, no matter what the odds.
So asking the team to make moves to ensure the Stars have a lower chance of winning just won't happen, and frankly I don't want to be a fan of a team where that mentality exists . I want a team that is working hard to build a culture of pride, success and winning -- and with the players on this team making up the core "future" of the franchise, I don't know if I'm a big fan of wanting my team to embrace such a defeatist mentality.
We also see the big picture, however, and we understand the gravity of the situation. While the Stars certainly still maintain a mathematical shot at the playoffs, those chances are still very slim. Facing a brutal schedule for the remaining ten games, the Stars must earn 14 of the final 20 points to even have a greater than 50% chance at the playoffs -- and even then that would likely mean a first round matchup with the powerhouse that is the Chicago Blackhawks.
So, even if the Stars do somehow fight their way into the postseason with a plethora of rookies on the roster there's likely going to be a very quick first round exit waiting for them.
In the minds of many, the question then becomes which is better: A first round exit, or a top eight draft pick.
It's an incredible conundrum, because even those of us that don't want the team to actively tank for the playoffs understand the value that losing down the stretch and getting a high draft would bring to the franchise. So, we root for the team to succeed and we're happy with the wins yet we cringe when we see the Stars working their way back up to standings and right back into that no-man's land when it comes to draft positioning in the first round.
We've also seen this movie before, we've read this story and we're wary -- for many Stars fans, this is just setting up to be another failed shot at the postseason that ends with the Stars a few points out and no closer to gaining the elite offensive prospect this organization desperately needs.
That being said, perhaps we're all getting ahead of ourselves. These were two big wins, yet the Stars are still playing relatively poor defensive hockey and Kari Lehtonen had to reach down deep to keep the Sharks from scoring six or so goals on Sunday. This is also a very young and inexperienced team and while the Stars are being boosted by a youthful energy and all-out offensive aggression -- there is nothing to say that the Stars are capable of maintaining the wins to the extent needed to make the postseason.
So, we're left in the middle and not knowing what to think. The Stars would be better served with a high draft pick, but there's also the argument that these players could also use a fight for the playoffs and a chance to make this team theirs and not belonging to the old guard that has now moved on.
There's also the notion of what if: what if the Stars make the playoffs and get on a run and gain valuable experience for the young players...what if the Stars fight for the playoffs and put a package together to move back up in the draft...what if it's the same old story as it has been and we're left with a No. 14 pick and two second-round picks and no playoff appearance...
...what if indeed.