The Dallas Stars have just three games remaining in the season. After Saturday night's exciting 5-4 overtime win against the Blues the Stars walked away from their last game of the season at home victorious yet eliminated from the playoffs. It's just the third time since the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 that the Stars failed to make the playoffs and now fans find themselves in a very unfamiliar position.
This season has been such a roller coaster of emotion; from the bad start to the season, the frantic run up the standings in December and January and then the deflating collapse in late February and March. So naturally the ideal course of action would be for the Stars to end the season on as high a note as possible. A winning streak to end the year would be give a big lift to the team, the front office and the fans and the long transition to next season will become that much simpler.
While a winning streak would be great, should fans secretly hope for a few more losses and the possibility of a top 5 draft pick?
Follow the jump for a breakdown of both arguments.
The case for the winning streak.
The Stars have just three games remaining, all on the road. They face Minnesota tomorrow, Colorado on Thursday and Anaheim on Friday.
For teams that are out of the playoffs and not tanking it to the bottom of the standings, playing the spoiler is just about the only thrill left to play for. Minnesota sits in 10th place, three points out of the final playoff spot and needs some help, along with winning out, to jump Nashville and St. Louis. While the standings could fluctuate a bit tonight, the Stars could put serious damper in the Wild's post-season plans with a big win tomorrow night on the road.
The game in Colorado could be interesting. Colorado (66 pts) is just 2-7-1 in their last ten games and currently sit third from the top spot in the NHL draft lottery. While falling past Atlanta (61 pts) is unlikely, right now the Avalanche are battling with the Islanders to lock down the number two spot in the lottery, all the better chance winning and being awarded the number 1 pick in the draft.
It's a tough game to play, to appear that you care about winning and putting up the good fight while still wanting to nab that top pick. Yet Avs fans are hoping for a bottom three standing, mainly because the team is in desperate need of its next big franchise player. So it will be interesting to see how the team plays the Stars in a few days, when neither team has much to play for and one of the teams is hoping for a few more losses.
And then the Stars face the hated Anaheim Ducks. This is a team that could be fighting for it's playoff spot (although currently they hold the 7th seed, two points ahead of Nashville), and a loss to the Stars could put a hurt on their chances. So the old adage of "well if I'm not going then I'll make damn sure you're not" could come into play here, with the Stars wanting to finish this season by doing their best to knock the Ducks out of the playoff race.
It's also a matter of pride. This season the Stars have fought hard, played through injury and fatigue and have driven themselves to the point of collapse while attempting to come back from a dreadful start to the season. This is a proud franchise, one that carries itself as one of the premiere teams in the NHL and for a season that started with so much promise, not making the playoffs is a serious blow to group of players determined to make it even further than they did last year.
Ending the season on a high note, with a neat little winning streak and the young players on this team building confidence and working towards a permanent spot next season. I wouldn't expect any player on the Dallas Stars to ever give up, to ever back down and not give 110% every single game, especially with a lot of the team wanting to make a statement the final few games.
Steve Ott sure won't give up and you know damn well he won't let anyone else give up either.
The case for losing a few more games and securing a higher draft pick.
With the amount of injuries, and the level of players involved, it's tough not to find excuses for why this season went so wrong. You can't fault the players, who obviously ran our of gas in March after treating every game for two months as if it was their last playoff game. It was an exhausting trip up the standings and when Brad Richards and Toby Petersen went down with injury, the straw fell and broke the metaphorical camel's back.
Yet despite the injuries, it's plainly obvious that this team needs help, needs young help and they need it fast. Remember, this team got off to a horrible start to the season with most of the team intact (with the exception of Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen). The Stars need a puck-moving defenseman, one who can at least attempt at stepping into the shoes vacated by Zubov. The team has plently of young and talented physical defensemen but this team requires a few offensive minded blue-liners to help the power play and act as a catalyst for the even-strength offense.
This draft there are some of those players available, one's who could conceivably work their way into the NHL relatively quickly. Problem is, these players will be gone after the top 10 picks and most after that will turn into short and long-term prospects.
Currently, the Stars sit in the ninth position in the draft. This means they will be included in the draft lottery that determines the number one overall pick, with a weighted system applied to each corresponding ranking at the end of the season. The Stars have a 4.7% chance of winning the lottery, but NHL rules dictate that teams can only move up a maximum of four spots in the draft. So conceivably, if the Stars stayed in ninth at the end of the season they could move as high as the 5th overall pick. But what happens with an 0-3-0 finish?
The Stars have 80 points and sit at 22nd overall in the league, six points ahead of of 27th place Atlanta. The lower the Stars finish, the higher the pick and the better chance of moving even higher in the draft. However, losing doesn't mean an automatic drop in the standings. The Stars would still need the teams below them to keep winning, which Ottawa, Toronta and Phoenix and currently doing at a good pace.
So what does a top 5, and at least a top 10 pick mean historically for the Stars?
- 1982 | 2nd overall | Brian Bellows
- 1988 | 1st overall | Mike Modano
- 1989 | 7th overall | Doug Zmolek
- 1990 | 8th overall | Derian Hatcher
- 1991 | 8th overall | Richard Matvichuk
- 1993 | 9th overall | Todd Harvey
- 1995 |11th overall | Jarome Iginla
- 1996 | 5th overall | Richard Jackman (fail!)
Getting a pick in the top ten has worked out fairly well for the Stars. Obviously, moving up higher gives you a better chance at the best player available and this year could be a great class for top 5 picks.
Remember, no draft pick is ever a sure thing.
So what do hope happens? Are you hoping for a big, victorious finish as playoff spoilers or are you secretly wishing for three more losses and a better draft pick? There is a good chance that the Stars lose these last three games and don't move anywhere in the overall standings, so you'd at least want to end the season on a good note, right?
Where do you stand?