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With 24-Team Format Set, Here’s What the Stars Would Have to Do to Win the Cup

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Dallas also has potential to be one of the “hub” cities for the end-of-season tournament

Dallas Stars Cup Reunion All-Star Plaza Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I am an American Indian; my tribe is Cherokee

My forefathers loved this land; they left it here for me

But the white men came with boats and trains and dirty factories

Poisoned my existence with his deeds

Nature is our mother, we are sucklin’ her breast

He who tries to beat her down will lose her to the rest; they’ll never win

***

Well, it is happening: hockey is going to return, sometime, and we know what the Stars’ road to the Cup will look like.

It’s not going to be pretty. This whole resumption of play without fans, the designation of athletes as “essential workers,” the acknowledgement that the NHL will have to base all games in a couple of hub cities—well, it all smacks of imprudence, even if there might be some improved morale at the thought of it. But those in power will make the choices they deem best for those in power, and those rights holders are champing at the bit to get some of those sweet, sweet advertising dollars they are owed. It’s not great, any of this, but hockey is on its way back, and we will watch it because, really, what else are we going to do?

“The Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified — one for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams - and begin at a date to be determined. Candidates for the hub cities include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.”’
-Tom Gulitti, NHL.com

The Stars, about whom I am supposed to be writing, may have been dealt the most advantageous hand of just about any team in the league. They go from a team sliding into a wild-card spot to basically getting a surprise offseason reset and a potential number one seed going into the playoffs, not to mention a decent chance at being one of the two cities in which this tournament would be hosted. (Though, since fans won’t be able to attend the games, it’s perhaps a lot less exciting than that possibility might otherwise be. Not to mention the fact that Dallas isn’t exactly the least infected city in the nation.)

Anyway, yes, you heard correctly: the Stars could be the West’s number one seed.

How would this happen? Well, because the Stars were one of the top-four seeds in the West, they edged out Edmonton to earn the final “bye,” thereby avoiding the play-in round (albeit also missing out on a potential first overall draft pick, should they have lost).

After the play-in round of 16 teams in complete, and after the Stars, Avalanche, Golden Knights and Blues have all played a short round-robin tournament to determine seeding, the Stars could potentially wind up facing anyone from the Canucks or Wild to the Coyotes or the Blackhawks.

What hasn’t been determined yet is whether teams would be re-seeded after the initial playoff round between the top seeds and the winners of the play-in tournament, although Elliote Friedman reported that the players would prefer re-seeding so as to ensure that a team’s higher seed would mean more, whereas the league, because it is foolish and wants to market an NCAA-style tournament or something, would prefer a set bracket after the play-in round is complete.

Anyway, the Stars could, if they come out on top after their round-robin games, have “home-ice” throughout the West’s playoff picture, although that wouldn’t mean much more than last change, given what games will look like.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about taxi squads and such, rosters will be slightly expanded for this tournament.

(Any bets on whether the Stars will dress 12 defensemen, but have four of them wear goalie gear to get around this rule, ha ha ha.)

So, here’s one way you could see this tournament-thing play out:

  1. Dallas comes out of the round-robin tournament as the #2 seed
  2. Dallas plays Minnesota in a pseudo-quarterfinal

Yeah, I can’t imagine Dallas would mind beating Minnesota in the playoffs again, would you?

There’s still a ton that hasn’t been decided. A lot could still happen, as this tournament probably wouldn’t be getting underway until later in the summer, perhaps not even finishing until October. The next season could even be delayed until January 2021, in which case you’d probably see the NHL sticking with that schedule for the foreseeable future (which is a nonsense phrase, by the way).

So, in order to the win the Cup, the Stars would have to defeat, in empty buildings, anyone from a #5 to a #12 seed in the first round, then win three more rounds against who knows what teams.

The good news for Dallas is that they’ll have time to get healthy and, one would hope, forget about just how dreadfully they were playing when the season first halted. Make no mistake: the Stars have not added some secret offensive weapons since March, so unless you’re one of those folks in the Stars’ front office still counting on Corey Perry’s being a playoff juggernaut, you’ll be lighting a candle or five (or thirty) in front of your Ben Bishop altar, come game one. But if there’s one hockey-playing positive thing about this setup, it’s that the long break might have slightly more benefits for an older team like Dallas, whose veterans have been able to rest up. (Whether everyone has been staying in shape is, of course, a big unknown.)

These playoffs were always going to be weird, even if the format hadn’t been changed. Sports feel alternately meaningless and critical right now, and there’s nowhere near a public consensus about what their return should look like. But there is a giant vacuum in the public entertainment industry right now, and you can bet every sports league is hoping to get going as soon as possible, however base their motives may be.

As for the Dallas Stars, they at least know what things will look like when they get going again. We can only hope that things get better in the world around them before we have to start worrying about the standard amount of stress that the playoffs always bring.