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Stars Tenuous Playoff Situation Has Media Questioning Nieuwendyk on Richards Once Again

In the blogosphere, watching the local and national media's coverage of your team is a sport in and of itself. For hockey fans living in the Southern United States it's usally of the whiny variety, and we're not apologetic about it. Today, however, we'll keep the whining to a minimum.

The Stars playoff race (or lack of race) is starting to call attention back to Joe Nieuwendyk's decision to not trade Brad Richards. If the Stars don't make the playoffs, doesn't that make the decision even more regrettable than (the national media) already presumes it is?

ESPN briefly kicked off this soon to be burgeoning discussion this morning with their daily debate between Burnside and LeBrun.

Burnside: You have to wonder if there isn't a little seller's remorse going on for GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who could have added some valuable assets for Brad Richards at the trade deadline but opted to try to make a postseason run. The Stars better put up some wins or that decision may come back to haunt the franchise come July 1 when Richards will likely sign in New York or Toronto or Atlanta (OK, just kidding; wanted to make sure you were still with me).

LeBrun: I can't fault Nieuwendyk, and I won't even if his team misses out. He was in a lose-lose situation. He decided to believe in his team at the trade deadline. I know 23 players on that roster who were likely happy he made that decision.

Read the rest here, though the discussion quickly devolved into Canucks talk, and the Flames, though no one's sure why people still talk about that (Calgary).

LeBrun's view is fair and is shared by us here, but it's interesting how the discussion has evolved over time if you look at what has happened in March since the deadline passed.

Dallas wasn't sure when Brad Richards would be back at the deadline. This made his value somewhat shakier than it otherwise would have been and the offers were lowered accordingly. He didn't return until the home stand began in March and at the time the Stars were riding a 5-0-1 stretch of hockey that had seen them seemingly rise from the dead back into the playoff race. They did all that themselves without him.

Would they have, had he been traded?

That's the kind of silly question that just can't be answered. It could be that NOT trading him, even thought he wasn't in the lineup at the time and wouldn't be for another 10 days, boosted the Stars confidence and helped them come back from that Pacific road swing with 7 of 8 points.

It could also be that they had resolved themselves to go on without him, winning those two games just before the deadline, and that the Jamie Benn Express was going to take them on that ride regardless of what happened.

So would the Stars be in a comparable position here on March 30th if they had dealt Brad Richards for a prospect, a pick and a marginal roster player? It's not out of the question. Richards has put some points in the bank since returning and has looked better as of late but it can't be denied that he isn't on his A game right now and that they were doing just as well (or maybe better for some reason) without him before as they've been doing with him since his return.

It can also be argued that that line of thinking is insane and that "Of course they're better with Brad Richards and they'd be in far worse shape without him!"

So take your pick. Our feeling (and we'll never really know) is that the offers weren't good enough and that even if they don't make the playoffs, the chance at re-signing Brad Richards in the summer was worth keeping him. He would not have been traded and then come back to the Stars. That sort of thing just doesn't happen. And it certainly wouldn't happen without an investigation.

It's a fluid discussion that we'll revisit and continue to watch. No doubt Joe Nieuwendyk is in for quite a lambasting if the Stars don't make the playoffs, but not from us. Even as the narrative changes it was still a lose-lose situation created by the ownership fiasco.