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Game 59 Afterwords: Taking It Personally

It’s hard not to be rather offended by a lot of this season.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

I try not to take things personally, if possible. The Stars went 0% on the penalty kill tonight, but I can put that performance into context (0-for-1) and be okay with it. Of course, I can put it into the context of the season and be very much not okay with it, too.

Still, it’s getting tough not to feel like the Stars are looking me dead in the eyes and keying my car, some nights. Why would they choose to not score on Minnesota? They have good players on their team!

There was a time when Dallas owned Minnesota. The Stars would go into Minnesota, chuckle at the cute li’l Minny fans whining about a team stolen, then go ahead and pound them. This season continues to unravel that former trend, and after knocking Minny out of the playoffs despite some harrowing moments, the Stars will now watch the Wild get knocked out by someone else.

More than anything, this season is weird because there is little to look forward to, night in and night out. Lindy Ruff’s teams put up three straight years of Funtimes Goodwatching. there was the 2013-14 Return to the Playoffs, succeeded by an offensive explosion capped by an Art Ross celebration in 2014-15, and then last year was basically a victory lap after an otherworldly autumn.

This season has been otherworldly, too, but in the worst sort of way. Dallas isn’t scoring when they should—Spezza, Benn and Eaves all shanked their gilded chances tonight—and the penalty kill is what lots of fans thought the power play was last year, which is to say overly generous and insufficiently powered.

Backup goalies. The Stars keep facing backup goalies, and they keep losing. Curbus Mackeldonnery in Toronto, Kuemper tonight, and every other backup you can imagine have been beating the Stars. It’s maddening. This is not how teams should prepare to face the Dallas Stars! If there is anything to be learned from this season, it is that an offense is powered by far more than those whose names are attached to the goals.

Cody Eakin got hurt pretty badly and had to have his knee fixed, and he’s been off all year. Lindy Ruff clearly couldn’t wait for him to get back, but it’s important to remember that most fan frustration about Eakin’s role is not at all pointed towards Eakin himself, but about who makes the decisions. It is a great thing that Eakin scored, and I hope he scores many more goals. The kid is having a miserable season, as TSN put it the other night, and it would be nice to have that turn around a bit despite what else happens (or doesn’t). No one gets to yell at a Dallas Stars Playoff Overtime hero on my watch, even if I’m sometimes grousing about Eakin’s ineffectiveness myself. The kid deserves your support, even if you want to see Jim Nill or Lindy Ruff humiliated by his lack of production. The players care about winning.

Bruce LeVine was saying that the Stars might protect Jamie Oleksiak, or that he thinks they should, or something. Any discussion about protecting Oleksiak begins and ends with Stephen Johns, because that’s the only person whose spot would be even possibly given up for him. I don’t see how Oleksiak’s value is higher than Johns’s, but if the Stars think Oleksiak would be lost for nothing, then I could see them finagling. Still, I don’t think Oleksiak makes it to the Expansion Draft as a Stars, anyway. Trade value is a helpful thing to a GM.

Saturday’s game against the Lightning is a fitting way to head to the Stars’ five-day hiatus. Tampa Bay, for all of its supposed perfection, has had a similarly awful season. Yes, it turns out that the team with Ben Bishop, Vasilevskiy, Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman and the forward corps of dreams could also be sabotaged with a few simple injuries and down years. If someone went through the NHL’s secret stash of Fun with a sledgehammer and a flamethrower, they could hardly have done more damage to these two teams. (Also, it turns out the Lightning aren’t great at zone exits because their defense out of Hedman has been struggling.)

Anyway, I couldn’t really enjoy this game. I resent that. These games are for enjoyment, but I’m being reduced to having to contemplate them instead, like some kind of filthy robot. Do I look like a robot? Don’t answer that.

Everyone wants to know who will go, who might be gotten, and what needs to be done right the danged now in order to make them feel better as fans. Well, here’s some fun news: this is the part of the season that is just going to suck. Caught in the DMZ of a lost season that can’t officially be named as such, the Stars will continue to operate their hockey team like a lame duck city council member, showing up for work, shuffling papers around, but somehow never quite achieving anything remarkable, because why? Why? Accountability and integrity are great words to throw around, but when all the “response” data you have consists of how Jamie Benn scoring a lot and hitting other people a bunch in losses, your team will continue to drift.

Have you ever caught yourself watching Pink Panther 2 or something on TV, just because it’s on? That’s what this season feels like, right now. It’s there, and I want to keep watching (and I will, because I have problems, enormous problems), but I oughtn’t. I’d best follow the Stars (only by reading this page and nothing else because I am the only one who doesn’t lie about things like David does) from afar, shielding myself from further trauma of my own asking. I won’t do that. I’ve watched Marc Crawford and Bradon Segal, and I’ve halfheartedly rationalized the franchise’s worst free agent signing of its existence. If you think a little thing like demoralizing drifting is going to keep me from griping about the second power play unit (which, by the way, only scored on Sunday because Tyler Seguin was playing on it, which makes it more of a 1.5PP unit as far as I’m concerned) then you have another thing coming.

Adam Cracknell is amazing, and he should probably be playing at 1RW after the trade deadline. These are thoughts that will occupy my mind no matter what else happens in my life. Now, at last, I am finally adopting that old Stars’ team slogan: Nothing Else Matters. That seems like an appropriate slogan this year, differently.