Deciding on a Rival for the Dallas Stars

"Are You My Rival?" But the other team just said, "Blackhawks.""Oh, you are not my Rival."

The title is as self-explanatory as it gets, so I'll skip the preamble. The Stars do not have a clear "Rival" right now. Let's decide who might be the best candidate for such a rivalry. That's it.

Still, we ought to define our term before basing an Entire Thing on it. When we're talking about a Rival, we are not just talking about a team you want to beat. We are talking about a team whose box score you hate-check right after the Stars's, even when the two teams are not especially close in the standings. We're talking about a team whose logo you simply won't abide in your home, even if you aren't a crazy sports fanatic who gets nothing but official Stars-branded merchandise on each and every birthday.

Or, to make it more relational: if you went on a first date with someone whom you discovered mid-date to be an ardent fan of this team, you would give serious consideration to breaking things off immediately and never seeing them again. Rivalries and sports-hate involve a measure of internalized disgust that swells up in response to seeing the other team's name on the license plate frame ahead of you at a stoplight. That, and so much more, is what we're looking for, because who doesn't want to internalize some disgust? It is important to feel strongly about sports all the time.

Detroit Red Wings

Time was, Red Wings fans were the scourge of every non-Detroit fanbase, so it's tough to say the Stars hold an extra-special claim on any such Rivalry (not to mention a certain mountain-dwelling Central team with a much stronger claim). Yes, the Stars met the Wings a couple of times in the playoffs here and there a while back, but the Red Wings meet teams in the playoffs literally every year. With a couple of playoff defeats in the fading past, the Wings are rivals for Dallas in the way that the 2010 Yankees were to the Rangers, which is to say effectively not. Also, they are in the

Eastern Conference,

so there's really no point discussing any of the teams on this side of the line. Let's not stoop to Wednesday Night Rivalry levels of fatuity, mmk?

St. Louis Blues

There is potential here, and not just because of this spring's seven-game series. Both the Stars and Blues are well-positioned to be good for the next little while, and another couple of playoff battles with a Stars team that should be the new muscle in the Central could really solidify that antagonism. And with Doug Armstrong and (for one more year) Ken Hitchcock leading the way, there's even some history to be found in the matchup.

But that would be selling Blues/Blackhawks short, I'm afraid. The 40-year divisional companions have a well-established hatred that has found a resurgence since Chicago returned from the wilderness of the post-Belfour/Chelios/Roenick era. This is Cubs/Cardinals on ice, and they just had their own seven-game tilt as well. The Stars may be somewhat hated by both franchises, but they've got a long way to go before they'll be in a true Rivalry discussion with either club.

Chicago Blackhawks

See above.

Don't get me wrong: this is probably the team Stars fans hate the most right now. From swaths of invading bandwagon* fans to arrogant assertions of dominance to just being the stupid Blackhawks, Chicago is the team the majority of Stars fans most love to beat. Whether it's Antoine Roussel taunting the crowd or Patrick Sharp potting some post-trade biscuits, there has been a special sort of exultation in winning against the Blackhawks.

But mere fear and loathing aren't a true Rivalry. And besides the Blues, the Kings could also lay solid claim to a Special Relationship with our friends from the Windy City. (Truth bomb: the 2014 LA/CHI series was among the best I've seen since the turn of the century.) Chicago/Dallas has a lot of ingredients needed for a Rivalry, but the exclusivity factor is sorely lacking. The Stars are, at best, third in line among teams with Chicago grievances to file. That's probably not going to change any time soon.

Minnesota Wild

There's some good groundwork here, but this matchup has always felt rather one-sided. Minnesota obstinately and ignorantly chooses to hate Dallas for "stealing" their team, while Dallas fans tend to view Minnesota as the annoying little brother who keeps trying to borrow big brother's cool Air Jordans to impress the other kids. Start saving up to buy your own shoes, dude. (And also, maybe next time don't invite Chicago to your outdoor party like every other kid does, okay?)

The playoff series this year was a bit anticlimactic (despite Dallas's best efforts), as Minnesota was missing Zach Parise, which turned their popgun offense into an even less lethal metaphor. Still, Minnesota gave Dallas a scare, and you could see the Wild someday becoming enough of a thorn in Dallas's side to really make this matchup something special. But until some of that Minnesota/Dallas hatred becomes mutual, this is more Winnipeg/Arizona than Boston/Montreal.

Arizona Coyotes

Speaking of which, Arizona is a hockey team that plays hockey in Glendale, right now. Dave Tippett and Mike Smith are there, and it is warm there, and also they play hockey. This concludes the "Is Arizona a Stars Rival?" segment.

Colorado Avalanche

Despite the sting of the 2004 and 2006 postseason embarrassments, and despite the 1999/2000 seven-game classics, there exists within Stars fans today about as much focused animosity towards Colorado as that found among current Bull Moose Party members towards the Whigs. (I will add a Cody McLeod caveat though, because I wish him and his employer ill during most contests during the season.)

Geographically, Colorado sort of makes sense as a rival; practically though, both they and the Stars endured a few too many years of irrelevance for any tempest to still be simmering. Besides, they still hate Detroit, I guess? You can't have multiple rivals. We'll revisit this in another 10 years or so when Avs fans have finally accepted that the Red Wings have not truly feared them since before the first lockout, but today? Nah.

Winnipeg Jets

Google just said, "Did you mean: Cowboys Jets Tim Tebow?"

Anaheim Ducks

First-person time: I have lived in the Los Angeles/Orange County area for the last 12 years (though I'll be in Seattle for the next little while). I've been to a couple of Stars/Ducks playoff series in Honda Center, and let me tell you, Ducks fans do not like the Stars very much. Also, Ducks fans do not seem to like anyone very much. Back in the last decade, the division-heavy format saw Pacific Division members Dallas and Anaheim playing eight times a year. While the NHL eventually decided that seeing every team was more important than beating fans over the head to create Rivalries, I personally loved that system, in no small part because it meant that I, living in California, had eight opportunities to see the Stars in-person each year between Kings and Ducks games. Steve Ott and Mike Modano drew a lot of unrepeatable comments related to their propensity and reluctance (respectively) to engage physically during those days, and Roussel gets the same sort of treatment now. I suspect this is mostly because of his playful poking of Ryan Getzlaf's gumball-machine-looking jaw protector during the 2014 series. Not everyone finds Antoine Roussel merely playful.

Historically, the Stars and Ducks have three six-game series under their belts. The 2003 5OT epic was a good little kick in the pants for these two, and the Ducks' Stanley Cup run came while the Stars were also still relevant. We all loved 2008, with Modano scoring the series-sealing EN goal while Brenden Morrow hopped furiously on the bench, and the 2014 heartbreaker at least confirmed that it still feels really, really good to beat the Ducks in playoffs games (and that it really, really does not feel good to lose to them). Still, the Ducks and Kings have a much more natural rivalry that has (finally) blossomed over the past few years. And with the Stars now a few years removed from the Pacific, it's safe to say that Dallas will have to look elsewhere for anything more than an Historically Significant Playoff Opponent.

Edmonton Oilers

Take that "Historically Significant Playoff Opponent" thing and add another 10 years to the cobwebs. Also, the Oilers are probably still going to be terrible for a long time, so yeah. They're still weird, and Stars/Oilers games are crazy, but we're almost 20 years removed from the perennial playoff beatings Dallas used to administer to the Oil. Let's move on.

Los Angeles Kings

Nothing here to speak of, except that one of my favorite Kings/Stars memories is watching the first game of the 2005-2006 season in a Carl's Jr. with my brother. You may remember that game as the one in which Dallas spotted the Kings a 4-0 lead (guess the three LA goal-scorers!) in the first period, then came back to win 5-4 in regulation. It was as wonderful a Welcome Back gift as hockey could have given us after the stupid lockout. Also, the nice folks at Carl's Jr. came by and got me a refill multiple times even though the soda fountain was just like 10 feet away. The only thing anyone should ever order at Carl's Jr. is the family of Western Bacon Cheeseburger products. The Stars and Kings do not have a significant rivalry.

*Here's the note from the Chicago bandwagon fans asterisk, because I experienced this in Los Angeles pre- and post-2012. Bandwagon fans are annoying, but what are they but a bunch of brand-new fans spawned by one magnificent event in a franchise's history? They are going to be less knowledgeable, at first. They are not going to be as Respectful About Sports as they ought to be, and they are not going to be the Right Kind of Fan now, or possibly ever. There will always be more tales of bad fan behavior about franchises with more bandwagon fans, because there are more people, and we Stars fans would desperately love to gather a huge bowl fulla those bandwagoners after a couple of championships, too. I am probably sounding sanctimonious, but that must mean I am the Right Kind of Fan. It is very important to make sure everyone knows that you are the Right Kind of Fan. Some bandwagon fans are jerks to opposing fans, though. Don't be a jerk!

San Jose Sharks

2008 was a lot of fun, but that was eight (eight!) years ago. San Jose has much deeper hatred for its West Coast brethren now, as well they should. Besides, it's tough to see them being a significant playoff opponent with their aging core and all, said all of us last summer.

Nashville Predators

We finally arrive at what I would call an immediately viable candidate for a Dallas Stars Rivalry in the hockey team from Tennessee. It's not quite what Dallas/Houston could be, but Dallas/Nashville has all the makings of that Unadulterated Loathing that good Rivals need. After all, both teams are from "the South" according to many sports publications I have read, and that means their fans are just familiar enough to strongly dislike each other.

The possibilities for this really showed up in 2007, when Jordin Tootoo decided to sucker punch Stephane Robidas after laying a hit on the sacrosanct Modano. Robidas had to be stretchered off the ice, and Tootoo was suspended for five games. To top it off, Number 9 later scored to pass Joe Mullen to set the American-born goalscoring record, but Nashville chose not to recognize the Stars' icon for his accomplishment, given the circumstances. This led to some resentment from Stars fans, with comments like "Modano is one of the main reasons you even have a team in Nashville" popping up here and there. The emotion was palpable, and there began to emerge a deliciously hostile dynamic between the established Southern franchise and its gaudy, yellow-sweatered upstart of a cousin. The Perds even have a condescending cousin-like nickname, to boot!

Unfortunately for the Rivalry hopes of 2007, the Predators wouldn't even win their first playoff series until the next decade, which was also how long it took for Dallas to finally get put in a division whose inhabitants weren't mostly based two time zones away. Now, at last, the time seems ripe for the Rodeo Series (we'll workshop that) to gather momentum. In fact, the two clubs were each a mere Game 7 from a surprise meeting in the Conference Finals back in May. Had it happened, can you really imagine this Rivalry not coming to immediate and vicious fruition?

Both squads have plenty of young talent in front of goaltending that definitely exists, usually; both squads are coached by a veteran who made a name for himself elsewhere; and both teams are looking to entrench themselves within the hockeysphere after having only won three playoff series apiece since 2005. P.K. Subban is rightly drawing all eyes to Nashville, and Jamie Benn is finally being recognized as Jamie Benn.

Nascent is the word for this Rivalry, I think. (Maybe burgeoning?) Stars/Perds today feels like Ducks/Kings before they finally met in the playoffs in 2014. Once the Freeway Series got some postseason traction, it took off. Dallas and Nashville are slightly farther apart than those two, geographically; they seem a lot closer to establishing a Rivalry than a drive through Los Angeles at rush hour, though.