One of the relatively few great things about this season so far has been the quality of Josh Bogorad's "On the Radar" series. Perhaps he knew we would be needing some measured-yet-sympathetic reactions here in Starsland in the first part of the season. He certainly knows that now, and his piece from yesterday really got me thinking. See, here:
Last week the Stars saw an increase in a lot of areas that had been lacking this season. Kari Lehtonen looked like the goaltender of old. He came up with big saves when the game was on the line, and pulled rabbits out of his hat like this one in Los Angeles, that is the leading candidate for Save of the Year. Their penalty killing tightened up, as they went 13-for-14 on the week. They limited the number of bad turnovers they were committing - especially in their defensive zone. They saw the emergence of a wildly impressive young defensemen in John Klingberg, who showcased that he could be trusted with enormous minutes. The Stars won a couple of games on the road to snap a winless skid. The first came in dramatic fashion. The second game in controlling fashion. The confidence appeared to be resurfacing. Then Dallas suffered a setback when Minnesota squeaked out a win on Saturday, setting up a Sunday finale in Chicago. The Stars and Hawks traded blows - both figuratively and literally - and played an even, opening-40 minutes. Then came the third period, and...
In one horrific, 20-minute spell, all of the improvements from earlier in the week were long forgotten. That it came in the third period, where the Stars have been abysmal this season, only added to the frustration. [Stars]
Frustration is certainly the word of the year so far. Not enough goals when the Stars needed them, too many giveaways when they couldn't afford them, players underperforming both high and moderate expectations. When you choose to watch the game and give your time and money over to this team, it can hurt to experience failure, even vicariously.
Because why do we even watch? There are theories about 'escaping' from everyday toil and misplaced competitive aggression that needs to be worked out with sweat and bruises. Sports, though, are basically a bunch of miniature quests within a season-long quest that may even be a part of a fan's lifelong quest to feel validated in her fandom; I think that's it for a lot of us, really. We want to back this team and ride with it through the ups and downs of a game, grimacing less frequently than we cheer. And we can even handle losing a few games--dozens of them, usually--as long as we can walk away from the season still feeling confident in the nature of the team. We want to know that our hope is not misplaced, that we haven't chosen our allegiance poorly.
Dedication to a team is something that can happen quickly, especially at a young age. I fell in love with the Miami Dolphins when I was five years old because I liked their colors, and I still retain a bit of that love today, which is categorically stupid. Why should I care about that team? No one I knew ever cheered for them, and I never really declared any lasting public allegiance to them that would put my "pride" on the line, as if one's ego should ever have anything to do with the outcome of a contest utterly removed from oneself. I think it just became one of those things where I felt like the Dolphins were "my" team, and so I knew I could keep cheering for them (or at least following their season) without being part of any targeted marketing campaign. I chose them, and that was good enough for me. It's kind of like love when I say it that way, which completely weirds me out. I don't love them.
We chose the Stars, however it happened. We continue to choose them (although we threaten to forfeit that duty during third periods like that one on Sunday) over and over, like sipping a bad can of Coca-Cola. The metallic taste of horrible losses and horrible struggles just gets stronger, coating our metaphorical mouths until we almost want to spit out whatever terrible generic cola we feel like we've been drinking over the past umpteen games, or seasons. We don't though, because we pull the can away from our face with disgust, and then we see that logo, and all of those stupid unjustifiable reasons for being a fan stare right back at us.
I don't have a point here, at least not yet. I do agree with Lindy Ruff, Brandon, and everyone else who says just how crucial these next five games will be. They will be, and we'll be watching, or slamming the laptop shut in anger, or changing over to whatever team isn't ruining our night right now. I guess I just hope that I can keep watching with hope, for now, because that's the best way to enjoy victory, even if it heightens the acrid taste of failure that much more.
Besides, if the Stars turn things around, then you get to be all, "I told you so" to all your less dedicated friends. They may return when fortunes swing up again, but they won't know the team like you know them. They won't have the stories of where you were on that night in Chicago when you were ready to throw the TV out the window, but you didn't. You did not throw it, because you still cared, no matter how much you wanted not to.
I hate the Dolphins so much, though. Seriously, what is wrong with me.
* * * * *
Tuesday brings a rare sight: a game against an opponent the Stars expect to beat.
Where does Dallas fall among the Best, Mediocre and Worst teams in the league so far? Yeah. [Grantland]
Mike Heika compares the Stars' path forward to a sewage pipe, sort of. I would normally consider making a joke here about said pipe and the quality of a few of the teams on the upcoming schedule, but I can't say those kind of things right now thanks to last weekend's games. Thanks for ruining my jokes, guys. [DMN]
"Good teams are great at home," says one Stars defenseman who knows they haven't been. [Stars]
ESPN ranked all the coaches in the league. See if your guesses can line up from #1 all the way to #DallasEakins! [ESPN]
Mike Modano talks about all sorts of things from back in the day on this podcast, displaying his usual class despite questions about fallen gurneys and whether Hull's skate was in the crease (as if that was ever the actual issue). [Mayors Manor]
Chuck Fletcher maintains that Minnesota waived Josh Harding to as to avoid any timetable for his conditioning stint. Harding hasn't played since December. [Star Tribune]
Derek Neumeier declares that Mark Giordano is your 2014-15 Norris Trophy winner. [The Hockey Writers]
Montreal might actually benefit from having Gonchar on the squad, which is an opinion you can read about in this article that also states the hauntingly familiar sentiment, "Many wonder how a 40 year old player with a history of injuries and whose best years are far behind him can help a speedy team in the midst of a youth movement." [The Hockey Writers]
Here's an interesting case for why Eric Lindros is as deserving of a HOF election as Forsberg, if not more so. [Greatest Hockey Legends]
Evgeni Malkin misses Sergei Gonchar. Like, a lot. Did he make that sign himself? [Twitter]
Mike Modano's speech last night. Yeah, it's amazing: