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With Season Sliding, What’s Next for the Dallas Stars?

A season full of struggles has Stars fans asking about The Plan. As games continue to slip away, it’s fair to wonder when faith gives way to inaction.

NHL: NHL All Star Game
After being a pre-season darling, the Stars sent a single player to this year’s All Star Game.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

I guess the Stars are gambling on health? Maybe? I’m deliberately positioning that as a question, because I don’t understand the plan. Is Patrick Sharp the thing that makes the Stars a powerhouse? Was it Mattias Janmark, or pointing at Robert Tiffin, Ales Hemsky? To go even more aggro: can I get a firm date on when the Eriksson-for-Seguin credit expires?

The defending Western Conference Champions begin the post-All Star stretch in 11th place. I covered their march back into contention in greater depth elsewhere, but the Stars have 32 games to pass 3 teams in the standings. For a team sputtering along at 4-4-2 in their last 10 games with a -22 goal differential for the season, that might as well be 3 games to pass 32 teams.

The Dallas Stars have lost 30 of the 50 games they’ve played this season, and enter the home stretch without any meaningful changes to their roster outside of an injury call-up for Julius Honka. There are certainly plenty of Honka enthusiasts (Honkers?) out in Stars-land, but staking the season on an Orange Julius-fueled stretch run feels more like a reaction than a plan.

Is there a plan?

A tepid trade market (looking at you, Ben Bishop) has done the Stars no favors, but they haven’t really tried to make any luck either. The defensive side of the roster is still bloated by the same prospects that couldn’t quite nail things down last year. Think about Honka, the supposed wonder-prospect, and then try and fit him in the lineup if everyone is healthy.

This isn’t about getting “value” any longer. If the Stars truly believe in Patrik Nemeth that’s one thing (and I’m picking him at random, the same could be said of anyone on the blueline at this point), but if they don’t, or even if they believe a little bit more in Esa Lindell or Honka or even Mattias Backman, there’s a value in getting Nemeth out of the way.

Or they could use a package of assets to buy their way out of the great $10-million crease experiment? Or try to fix something? This team has flaws! It’s impossible to see Jason Spezza pushed to the wing without thinking maybe lineups could be tweaked a touch. Because isn’t the alternative a belief that things are going to get better on their own?

Management has two more years on Tyler Seguin’s sweetheart deal ($5.75 per season). Jamie Benn will begin making $9.5M next season. Steven Stamkos signed for $8.5M. Both of these recent contract older than Seguin. Scan the list of players making more than Seguin and shudder: Bobby Ryan, Brad Marchand, Vladimir Tarasenko.

Flexibility isn’t forever in a cap league. The Stars leapt from bottom-dweller to frisky on the strength of bold action. Isn’t another step forward worth another shot?