I was in diapers when the Dallas Cowboys won the last two of their three 1990s Super Bowls, and only five years old when my dad put me to bed after the second period of Game Six on June 19, 1999. The Texas Rangers let me down in 2010 and shattered my sports soul in 2011. The Mavericks lent a helping hand that summer with their Cinderella run to the championship over Miami, which healed part of the scar left by the Rangers. I remember one championship over the course of my life, and I hold onto it dearly. This all to say that part of being a Dallas sports fan means that sports disappointments usually mirror the seasons: the Cowboys by winter, the Mavs by spring, the Stars by summer, and the Rangers by fall.
What does this have to do with the Dallas Stars? Everything.
If you take a look around the Dallas sports landscape, the Stars are the best we have right now. The Cowboys are a circus, the Rangers are probably destined for a rough year, and the Mavs were tanking, but they aren’t anymore (finally). However, we still have the Stars. I’m calling for all Stars fans to put down their pitchforks over the recent string of losses and take a deep breath. The Stars are fine and the sky is definitely not falling. I’m also calling for all Dallas sports fans to put their collective support behind the Stars in the last eleven games of the season.
The 2017-2018 Dallas Stars are far from out and far from a bad hockey team. Sure, the team has gone through a rough month, a tough drought in goals, and the panic button seems to have been pressed. However, after all of this, the Stars are in the first wild-card spot, two points behind Minnesota for third in the Central Division, and still the 11th best team in the National Hockey League. The Stars have survived this stretch and have the opportunity to control their own destiny down the stretch into the playoffs. Simply put, there is still time left in the season and the Stars are far from the end of it. I’ve been reading a lot recently about Stars fans wanting Jim Nill and Ken Hitchcock out, and I believe that to be a knee-jerk reaction. Much like the “Dak sucks” movement from the football season past, everyone needs to decompress and look at the bigger picture.
Were the Stars sitting in this position a year ago? No, and that is the most encouraging fact of all. The Stars are still in the fight, they might be stumbling around the rink right now, but they are still standing. I credit General Manager Nill and Hitchcock that the team, with eleven games left, is right in the thick of things in the brutal Western Conference. This is a position that fans would have given anything for a year ago. Am I saying I blame the fans that are hitting the panic button? No, because this stretch is happening at the end of the season, but this almost happened back in November.
The Stars theoretically could have been toast by December for the second year in a row, but the team dug deep against the Edmonton Oilers at home on November 18, and went on a run that ended exactly four months later on February 18 against the San Jose Sharks. The team, constructed by Jim Nill and guided by Ken Hitchcock, has placed themselves in a position that half the league wishes they could be in right now.
The Stars have a solid chance to get into the playoffs and compete on the biggest stage in professional hockey. A team has to earn that right, and the Stars have more than earned the right to control the outcome in these last three weeks. The system that Hitch coaches has earned this team a top-five place in goals allowed, still an offense benchmarked in the top half of the league, and a penalty kill that ranks in the top ten.
Jim Nill, for his credit, has put together a team that has been more than good this season, and hopefully should be for years to come. Nill hit a home run with Alexander Radulov, solidified the goaltending position with Ben Bishop, trusted Kari Lehtonen to shine in a new role, and placed depth around the team’s top players. Nill has done his job. Before I get crushed for the Martin Hanzal signing, I’ll go on record to say that signing has been vitally important to the team this year and the system Hitch coaches. Hanzal’s loss down the middle for the Stars has been difficult for the team to overcome, which makes it a simultaneously good and bad signing. Overall, Nill held up his end of the deal on being aggressive in free agency and revamping the roster.
Yes, Hitch has made some surprising roster moves this season. He has neglected Julius Honka for the majority of the season, but Hitch loves veteran players, so none of us should be surprised by this. Hitchcock’s system is the Darwinism of sports in practice, and he has stuck with that principle, which has earned him the third-most wins by a head coach. All in all, the two men at the top have done what they promised to do.
The Stars still have eleven games to go this season before the playoffs begin in mid-April. Their performance in these next eleven games will determine if they see the playoffs and just how far they will go in that race to the Stanley Cup. So I know that this article may not age well, and I’m completely fine with that.
The Dallas Stars are still in a good spot to make the dance at the end of the season. They are still in this, and they need the full support of the Dallas sports faithful. This team is the last hope the Dallas sports fan has this season, and it’s not even close. Fans still have a team that can make some noise in the postseason. This is a young hockey team that is looking to take that next step into the playoffs and hopefully earn some silverware at the end for their hard work. The future is bright with the Stars; in fact, the Stars have the brightest outlook of all the Dallas teams.
What keeps a sports fan from calling it quits after all the losses and disappointments in any given season is hope. Hope that next season will be better, and that next season we can finally make the playoffs. Well, folks, the Stars have this season left still, and they have a chance to extend it. Save next season for next season, let’s finish out this season strong and support the Stars with everything we have. As the song says, the Stars are bright deep in the heart of Texas - and every sports fan.