Dallas Stars Daily Links: "We're Number Twelve! We're Number Twelve!"
Teams are ranked higher or lower by their fanbase for a number of different reasons. Here are some of the most important ones. Or you could read stories about: Spezza defeats Stepan in a fantasy battle, Josh Harding could just kick something (and did), and Steven Stamkos shows Harding how to break o
ESPN calls themselves the worldwide leader in sports, and when you have a bunch of money and broadcast rights, you can do that. If you're the choke point for most major sporting events throughout the year from the PBA to the WPT, then you're going to wind up being the face of sports for most of the world. This is the main reason everyone was so embarrassed when Gary Bettman shunned ESPN for OLN back in 2005. It was as if your best friend was in charge of getting you a date for winter formal, then you watched them say no to that girl you totally never even bothered trying to talk to because let's face it, there was no chance, she was that amazing, then she looked over at you across the hall with this look of puzzled frustration upon being denied, and turned around and walked away. (You would next see her at the movies with Jared, who is the worst, smiling as their fingers brushed in the shared bucket of popcorn.) Then your friend came back after lunch and informed you that they had set you up with their sister, unless she has to wash her hair that night. She will have to.
I think ESPN is like that, somehow. It's this almost unfathomably intimidating media entity that you forget is composed of people, just normal people like you and me and Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Just regular ol' folks, you know.
So the Worldwide Leader, self-proclaimed, does this thing each year where they rank all 122 pro sports franchises from the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. It's mostly just fan fodder to liven up that time of year when baseball is just playing out the string and the NFL isn't dramatic yet. Anyway, they released their rankings for 2014, and would you believe it? The formerly stagnant Stars are ranked #12, as you may have heard.
Why is this? Well, let's look at the obvious: after toddering about the back alleyways of inept mediocrity for half a decade, the Stars are back. Yes, things are at a possibly unsustainable high as they stand right now, but that is so, so much better than being irrelevant. The players are really good once again, with bright futures aplenty; the owner has money, but he's not trying to ruin everything with every dollar that he spends; the team is well-managed by a patient, steady and wise (if not quite wizened) team of knowledgeable veterans; and the tang of playoff hockey was just brief and painful enough to whet the city's appetite for more, more, more. Dallas fans are so greedy.
In looking through the list, though, it's tough to understand a few of the rankings. For instance, how are the Stars ranked 27 spots above the Boston Bruins? Boston hockey fans generally tend to be pretty optimistic about their team, at least recently, and at least when comparing it to every other franchise. There must be more to the story here. Time for some science, so get those goggles on and crank up the old Bunsen burners, boys and girls.
Note: The ESPN rankings took things into account in addition to the local fanbase's answers, but those are the ones I'm going to focus on because A) I will never attempt to plumb the depths of ESPN minds, and B) it's more fun. Friday, after all.
Why are the Stars ranked higher than so many other teams?
1. They aren't run by inhumane robots who punish their fans regardless of the circumstances surrounding the team. Remember the horrible weather last year that kept most fans from being able to make the Philly game at the AAC? Instead of just pouting about it, the Stars invited all the fans down to the lower bowl before the game had been going too long. Or you could look at ticket prices over the last few years. I have to think affordability was one of the biggest factors in the Stars' high ranking here, as fans can still watch a Dallas game (from the upper bowl, at least) without foregoing breakfast for a month, which is more than Toronto fans can say. Hey, where did that legendary franchise place in these rankings, by the way?
2. Dallas markets to its fans with intelligence and purpose, usually. If they're going to get people in those seats, the club knows that they have to give them reasons to be there. From everything to crowd-sourcing the music played in the arena (I'm an all-organ guy for the most part, so I don't get a vote there) to sparring with the Cowboys on Twitter, the team doesn't back down from its strategy. I am including Mr. V.E. Green in the "purpose" category here, although he could totally be a secret genius.
3. Fans are willing to forgive the team's bad decisions right now. After all the goodwill accumulated this season, fans barely even remember that stupid fake new sweater reveal with the horse head mooterus guy, or the fact that Jamie Benn missed 10% of the team's regular season games in 2013 due to contract negotiations. The Sergei Gonchar and Aaron Rome Adventures could sour a lot of people, but most fans just give a wry smile right now, because we're willing to look past that. Why are they willing to do that? Well, because...
4. They're not a Canadian team with impossibly high expectations. (By the way, here are the Candian teams' rankings on this poll among NHL clubs: 17, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30) This is a town that keeps deciding to fork over money to watch the Jerry Jones Disaster Parade every year, for whatever reasons. Even after two World Series appearances, fans aren't rioting over the Texas Rangers' steering their car into a pile of those water buckets at freeway dividers. And even with all the love built up for the Stars, most of the very casual hockey fans are still in that "wake me up when they do something big" mode for the time being. Jim Nill could hire Don Cherry to run an analytics division, and you'd find some fans that would be okay with it because "at least he's doing something." Until Dallas makes some real noise that gets them a spot on that hate map, they've got a lot more leeway than most teams should be trusted with.
5. Everything seems primed for long-term success. Even if things don't fall quite into place this year, the Stars are in an undeniably enviable economic position. Cap space is about to start opening up right around the time they're seeing an influx of talented young (read: cheap) players. The cap is said to be headed up even more. They don't have a single deal right now for more than two years that another team wouldn't snap up in a second. Lehtonen's deal might be the least appetizing salary on the books right now in terms of length and dollars, and it still is not a bad deal at all for a top 10 goalie. The dollars are all set up extremely well, and players are starting to desire Dallas as a destination again. Oh, and you have a few superstars (present and soon-to-be) on the team for the next few years. No big deal.
The team isn't perfect. Far from it. Chicago, that model franchise, was still playing "The Stripper" at intermission every time a woman lined up to shoot the puck. Seriously, that is a thing that everyone in that organization was ostensibly okay with. So yes, there are things about any team that fans would all like to change, tweak or revamp. But when evaluating the Stars' rating, look at it this way: of the five NHL teams in front of them, four have won a cup in the last ten years, and St. Louis fans always think their team deserves to win everything. That's some pretty decent company, in ranking terms, at least. Not literal company.
The Stars have earned every bit of their current ranking, and frankly, I can't wait to see where they are next season. It isn't completely insane to say that they should expect to be a top-five NHL franchise in a year, and I don't think anyone can ask for more than that. You could, but I mean, that would just be greedy. Greedy Dallas fans, all of us.
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Friday Links, everybody. Pants optional? Maybe not, but here are some almost as cool things.
John Klingberg and Colton Sceviour should be healthy for training camp, per Jim Nill. [Twit Longer]
If you believe that competition leads to a strong market, then you'll love Dallas training camp, says Josh Bogorad. Surprising note: there will be seven goalies at training camp. I'm thinking there will be a lot of times when it will suck to be that 7th goalie. [Stars]
So Seguin and Benn are even dressing alike now. This is getting out of...actually, no. This is just getting more and more awesome. [Twitter]
NBC Chicago stops by Dallas in their preseason opponent assessment. They are most interested in seeing Hemsky bounce back after he "wore out his welcome" in Edmonton. When was he ever welcomed there, exactly? [NBC Chicago]
Mike Heika runs down the Rich Peverley questions from Thursday. [DMN]
ICYMI, Heika also went over the Eakin/Dillon negotiations. No news is not not good news, I guess. [DMN]
*CAGE MATCH ALERT* Jason Spezza VERSUS Derek Stepan: "Even if both players receive Ice Time similar to 2013-14 levels they still could realistically produce at a 70+ point pace." Well, wouldn't that be nice. [Dobber Hockey]
Mac Engel says "hockey" a few times in this Fort Worth Star-Telegram note about training camp starting up. [The Big Mac Blog]
Josh Harding broke his foot by kicking a wall after a brouhaha with a teammate. Then Minnesota suspended him without pay until he's healthy and ready to compete against animate objects again. The team's now-obvious desperation finally forced their hand, and they signed Darcy Kuemper to a one-way deal for the next two years. Don't worry, though--Bryzgalov will be at training camp. Everything is great in Minnesota again, everybody except Josh Harding! [Twincities.com]
Nobody wants to know precisely which 52 players will be at Blackhawks camp, but we are finding out anyway. [Second City Hockey]
Everyone knows, but Teemu Selanne was not a fan of Bruce Boudreau in any way, shape or form. No cheap form/shape jokes, people. Unless they are funny, in which case I would ask you to please refer to the style guide. [SportsNet]
Did you say unhappy Ducks? Of course you didn't, unless you read to yourself aloud with weird commentary. But anyway, Ryan Kesler also has some grievances to air, although his are more media-related. Pull quote of the article: "if I was such a bad teammate, 95 percent of the guys wouldn’t have texted me (afterward)." No, Ryan. They would have called. [Pass It to Bulis]
Crosby and Malkin (you know the ones) will miss the beginning of Penguins training camp, Jim Rutherford announced today. Unfortunately this is not the type of "sitting out the start of training camp" that allows for an offer sheet. [TribLive]
Detroit was hoping that Anthony Mantha would be their hot new number playing in a top six role this year. Well, he just went from top six to eighty-sixed for the next six-to-eight weeks with a fractured tibia. That's part of a human leg, most likely Mantha's. [Detroit News]
Down Goes Brown goes off on character: why we need to stop characterizing everything a player does in terms of work ethic, "want" and hard work. I actually enjoyed the part on luck and the loser point even more. This is a should-read/good-read, right here. [Grantland]
Finally, watch this video of Steven Stamkos breaking things. I like the music and the editing in this video.