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Dallas Stars Daily Links: Stars Prepare for the Avalanche, and the Agonizing Reappraisal

Goodbye and good riddance, 2016-17. Plus, the Phil Kessel Trade Tree keeps growing, and Team USA does it again.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars will end a historically bad season tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. The process of placing blame began months ago, but the official version will take at least a little bit longer.

Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News gives something of a preview as the team prepare for what is almost certainly its last game with head coach Lindy Ruff:

...[D]efining the role of Ruff and his staff in the collapse is a difficult task. General manager Jim Nill said any decision on the coaches will wait until the season is over, and Ruff also declined to talk about his future with the team. Injuries to six key forwards created adversity, and the Stars struggled to overcome that even when the lineup returned to relative health.

But at least one person isn’t ready to put the blame on Ruff’s system – alternative captain Jason Spezza:

"If you are going to play a go-go-go system, it comes back to the mental part of it," Spezza said. "You have to play with confidence. I was guilty of forcing things this year, and I fell into some bad habits.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with how we played last year, I don't think there's anything wrong with how we wanted to play this year," Spezza added. "I think it's just a matter of if you're not going to play with confidence and with the belief you are going to win every night, it's hard to play any system."

There’s more at Mike’s place. [SportsDayDFW]

For the last time this season, it’s Stars gameday in Dallas. Puck drop is at 7 o’clock, Central time. Brad has the DBD preview, and here’s the Stars version.

@DallasStars makes sure you know who’s who as Denis Gurianov and Mark McNeill join tonight’s lineup.

Ruff summed up the season in video:

Tim Cowlishaw says it could be worse: The Stars could be the Dallas Mavericks. He told readers which team he thinks will bounce back next season during a live chat on Thursday. [SportsDayDFW]

The Avs have been even more hopeless than the Stars (and everyone else) this season, but there’s light on their horizon, too: Prospect Will Butcher just became the first defenseman since 2009 to win the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s best player. [NHL]

It was all quiet in the Central Division (and the rest of the league) last night, but today makes up for it.

There was some action: The Tampa Bay Lightning kept their playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, and Bolts fans feel like they should be dancin’. [Raw Charge]

The final Eastern Conference wildcard spot is coming down to the wire: The Toronto Maple Leafs can keep it away from the Bolts if they win either of their final two games. [Sportsnet]

The Washington Capitals won the 2016 President’s Trophy and exited the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round. Now that they’ve clinched the best record of 2017, what does their shot at the Grail look like?

Yes, the Phil Kessel Trade Tree is still alive, and even if it weren’t, Steve Dangle would never let it rest. Tyler Seguin makes his regular cameo in the latest update. [Sportsnet]

And hey, speaking of Segs and cameos, Goon: Last of the Enforcers has gotten a U.S. release date of Sept. 1, 2017.

The NHL’s announcement that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics is just one more terrible decision in a history full of them, writes Brandon Hicks of CBC Sports. Brett Hull and the dreaded FOOT IN THE CREASE RULE make a return appearance in this hall of shame. [CBC]

The U.S. Women’s National Team just keeps dictating terms: Kacey Bellamy scored twice and Hilary Knight netted the game-winner as they defeated Team Canada in OT for their fourth straight World Championship gold.

Meanwhile, in Cedar Park: 18-year-old prospect defender Ondřej Vála, late of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, will report to the Texas Stars.

Finally: Bryan Bickell returned to the ice this week for the first time since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His Carolina Hurricanes teammates gave him the surprise of a lifetime at Raleigh’s 2017 Walk MS fundraiser. Enjoy.