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Game 58 Afterwords: Players for Sale

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At least Dallas will get a thank-you card from Patrik Laine when he wins the Calder this year.

Winnipeg Jets v Dallas Stars Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After being out of town over the weekend, it doesn’t appear that I missed anything close to a renovation of the Dallas Stars.

Yes, the second power play finally scored against Nashville in, and I am not making this up, one of nine opportunities. You know what happened there.

Yes, Dallas beat Carolina on Saturday, and it was nice to know that the team that couldn’t win three in a row more than once all year could at least stumble into wins against bad teams, still.

Then again, maybe stumbling is the only thing you can rely on these days. I want the Stars to win games. Watching players lose isn’t fun. Watching draft pick odds potentially improve to a marginal degree isn’t fun. Sports are about winning and losing and watching sweet plays, dude. There were not many sweet plays in the last two games, for Dallas.

Patrik Laine, by the way, should send Dallas a giant chocolate sheet cake at the end of this season. Eight of his 26 goals have come against Dallas this season. That’s just the nicest sort of alley-oop for a rookie, isn’t it? Dallas is filled with nice people, some of whom I have met.

I don’t personally consider Kyle Rehman to be an extremely nice man, as his senior official (Ian Walsh the Venerable) had to take him aside to explain to him that his penalty call on John Klingberg for sorta poking his stick at the puck wasn’t, ahem, illegal. Rehman was just the latest official to demonstrate the rash of consequence calls polluting the league these days, because goodness knows it’s easier to just make a call if a player’s stick breaks than it is to penalize what the player actually does. Thankfully, the officials got the call right, but mercy. This league needs some help. Maybe more offside reviews will make everything better.

Lindy Ruff might be coaching his own sunset, but that doesn’t mean ruffling isn’t still in full force. The Stars iced a first power play of Klingberg-Sharp-Benn-Faksa-Eaves early on, to no avail. The Stars played Spezza and Seguin with, and I am not making this up, Lauri Korpikoski, at first, to similar avail. It was only when Lindy Ruff decided to try playing Benn with the best player on the team that the Stars managed to score, and only twice, then. Funny how that works, but please don’t hear me being smug. Goals are flukes, no matter when they happen. The Patricks hit three posts tonight, and they certainly deserved better than they got. John Klingberg waltzed into the low slot tonight, but he couldn’t find the five hole on some bad goalie named Connor. It wasn’t the Stars’ night tonight, because the Stars, I am starting to believe, do not have many nights.

This season is the futility of dreams, embodied. Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak can be great players, in some sense, if they do things right. They did things wrong, and the Stars were behind. What do you tell players there? Don’t screw up a 2.5-on-2 after Roussel makes a bad turnover high in the offensive zone? Sure, you can tell them that, but Patrik Laine just kinda busted to the net, and Stephen Johns make a bit of a rookie coverage mistake that even his skating couldn’t paper over. It happens to rookies, and the Stars have some of those on defense, as advertised.

***

I’ve not mentioned that Dave Strader will be returning Saturday to broadcast some games, and that is unforgivable. I should have led with that, because Strader will do what the Stars can’t do lately, which is make these games more watchable. We are extremely happy for Dave Strader, as you might guess.

***

Overall, though? The Stars still look like two children on each other’s shoulders wearing an overcoat when asked to bring out their 4v4 play. The penalty kill succeeded tonight, and so did the power play. It wasn’t enough, because the Stars make just enough errors in crucial times to outweigh their two goals. It happens. To this team, at least, it happens.

Jim Nill traded Erik Cole two years ago when the Stars were six points out the day before the trade deadline. The Stars will, in all likelihood, be many more points out than that after (or even during) their five-day bye. We know this season isn’t going to mean playoffs, and that’s an unequivocal failure on many, many people’s part. But we still watch these games because each one is a gift to us fans that we have paid for, and consarnit, Dallas is still doing the bad things. They’re not scoring enough, and other teams are getting to three goals. Stop that, Dallas! Stop that right now.

Jamie Benn is using his wrist shot more, which may mean something, or perhaps it means nothing at all. Jason Spezza is healthy again, and he displayed a lot of his talent in this game, including zone-gaining and playmaking. Tyler Seguin reminded us that he really deserves better than Korpikoski on his wing, and Ruff finally condescended to put his best players on the top line, which is a strategy that we all loathed just a short while ago, when we thought it meant minimization of ample resources instead of maximization of scant ones. Perspective does strange things to you.

The Stars are going to trade some players, and games like this are why. The Stars are probably going to get a new coach for next season, and this game is one of the reasons why. If you can’t even tie Winnipeg in a mathematically crucial game, then you are not a good team, probably. Dallas can’t score on a team with bad goaltending problems, and Dallas got a decent night out of Antti Niemi and lost. Life isn’t fair, but neither are sports. Maybe that’s what makes sport so appealing, in the end.