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Dallas Stars on “Loser Avenue” Like 90’s Mavericks With Underachieving Jamie Benn Per Local Writer

It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.

Ben Franklin knew a thing or two about maintaining a reputation. As an important politician and thinker he had to guard his image to maintain his credibility. Credibility is critical to developing the practice of any profession or trade. Once it is established the person establishing it will naturally do what they can to maintain that credibility out of a sense of survival. Losing credibility can be a deathblow in some careers, and re-gaining lost credibility is a very difficult task.

I think about credibility often. Whenever I write something I think about the reputation our site has. I think about the personal credibility I’ve developed over the years. There are standards in my mind for things I write that I want met before I’m willing to attach my name to something that people will be reading because I’m conscious of reputation. If you establish a reputation for poor work it is very hard to come back from that. One example of poor work will not kill your reputation, but one really poor quality piece can do some serious damage to your place as a credible source of discussion.

When I read an article like this, thoughts about credibility are at the very forefront of my mind. Articles like this are credibility killers, if the author has credibility to kill. Blatant inaccuracies and a transparent agenda make you question whether the inaccuracies were accidental or intentionally included to push the agenda. This article is insulting to a hockey audience, and even the most casual of Dallas Stars fans could see through it.

For the ever-decreasing few of us who still care, April is no longer a time of hope but rather a moment of despair.

What should be the most enjoyable time of a hockey season locally, and the time when the bandwagon doors are wide open, instead is once again the point when it all crashes into a wall of apathy and resignation.

It starts off with a bang. Attendance and fan apathy have been consistent talking points when discussing the Stars. In the past these were topics worth contemplating, but they are now lazy points that are relics of the past. People have always cared about the Stars, and that group continues to grow in measurable ways. The article just threw that comment in there, but I’ll add a little bit of evidence for the counterpoint.

The first bit of evidence is the monthly SBNation traffic report our fearless leader sends us monthly. Blog traffic isn’t going to be a definitive indicator of fan interest. Any number of things go into high blog traffic, but fan interest is certainly among those factors. You could craft a quality argument that it is the most important factor with how traffic fluctuates around playoff time, at the draft, at the trade deadline, and during free agency. Here is our traffic report for March with the blog names ahead of us hidden:


Defending Big D was the 5th most viewed team specific hockey blog on the network in March with nearly half a million pageviews and 200,000 visits. In the interest of full disclosure one of the ones above us in March is our College Hockey blog, and this is the time of the Frozen Four and college free agent signings. Apathy doesn’t appear to be setting in.

In February Erin tackled the Stars attendance in the 2015 season:

WIth 28 home games already played this season, the Stars are 18th in NHL attendance with an average of 17,065 fans per game, or 92.1 percent of the AAC’s capacity. And unlike the other brief spike in attendance numbers in the last five years, this one isn’t driven by giveaways, discounted tickets and a shorter schedule that avoids early-seasons conflicts.

Keep in mind that the Stars have 41 home games so 28 covers most of the home schedule. If you wanted to split the data up to support the point of view that the fanbase is apathetic you could just look at a handful of games at the end of the season, but regardless of whether those games do or don’t support your view they are only a few data points. They will neither validate or invalidate an argument. The larger trend shows that people are watching this team.

All of those bold and big off-season moves made by second-year GM Jim Nill — namely adding Jason Spezza, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky — netted nothing. Nothing kills an NHL team like missing the playoffs, and no local franchise continues its parade down Loser Avenue like the Dallas Stars.

The Stars big off-season acquisitions like Jason Spezza, Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky have netted nothing according to the article. The paragraph is unclear, but it seems to suggest that all three players were acquired this past off-season. Shawn Horcoff was acquired on July 5th, 2013, a fact easily checked via Hockey-Reference, in return for Philip Larsen and a 7th round pick.

Are many big and bold moves made by dealing Philip Larsen and a 7th round pick? Are we really comparing current Horcoff with current Jason Spezza? Spezza, in the midst of one of his lowest scoring seasons in his career, has twice as many points as Horcoff. At best this is disingenuous, and at worst it is intentionally misleading.

I was a fool (again). I bought in because I wanted to believe that run in 2014 was the sign that this team was ready to contend, and merely the beginning of a window. It turns out it was an aberration.

It hasn’t been a good season. But there is no window for contention here? Jamie Benn is 25. Tyler Seguin is 23. John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth are both 22. Valeri Nichushkin is 20. There are any number of prospects right on the cusp. Even if you go out on a limb and believe the Stars can’t contend while Spezza, Alex Goligoski, and Kari Lehtonen are of an age where they can be big contributors you would have to squint very hard to see that this team isn’t in a contending window. They’re still a possible playoff team on April 6th and just barely on the bubble with last year’s Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. This season has just not been successful. It happens. There is too much talent present to suggest otherwise however.

No one could blame you if you don’t care. The Dallas Stars have officially become the Dallas Mavericks of the 1990s — a franchise burdened by bad drafts and wretched management.

The Mavericks of the 1990’s (the 1990 season through the 1999 season) were one of the worst franchises in professional sports history. They had a cumulative record of 246-542 for a 31% winning percentage. In the last seven years the Stars have a points percentage of 53%. The comparison is flat out inaccurate.

The author adds more clarity to those final two points:

Nieuwendyk’s decision to go all-in on contracts for goalie Kari Lehtonen and defensemen Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski, and the inability of this team’s scouts and coaches to draft and develop a competent blue line are keeping the Stars in a holding pattern of irrelevance.

Those three players have a cumulative cap hit of about $14,000,000. Daley has certainly had his struggles, and the debate rages about Lehtonen given the porous defense just referenced, but did the Stars really go all in for any of them? They hardly kill the Stars cap space either. The Stars are still poised to add significant roster players should moves materialize.

Nieuwendyk also was smart enough to recognize the value of forward Jamie Benn, who this season has not been himself because he clearly has been playing hurt. How hurt we will never know, but this guy is better than what we have seen this season.

One of the few complimentary aspects of the article ends with a criticism of Jamie Benn. Benn, apparently, is better than what we have seen this season. Benn is four points off the league lead in scoring. Everyone around him has twice as many powerplay points. If the Stars had anything close to a powerplay that reflects their talent he would be leading the league and the Stars would be in the playoffs.

Benn has picked up an extra minute of penalty kill time per 60 minutes of ice time. At 2.68 Points/60 he leads all Stars forwards at even strength and only eight forwards in the league have scored at a higher rate. He could almost literally not be any better unless he develops into the single best player in the league.

Nieuwendyk was also too blind to see what he did not want to see — the likes of Lehtonen, Goligoski and Daley are overhyped players who were put into roles for which they are not ideally suited.

NHL goaltenders have one of two roles: starter or backup. If Lehtonen isn’t in a role he is ideally suited for as a starter is the author saying he should be a backup? He’s struggled this year, but to suggest he isn’t a starter is unfair.

Goligoski, in particular, doesn’t belong in this group. He plays 24 minutes a night and will end the season at about 40 points. He takes the most difficult minutes on a nightly basis (zone starts, quality of competition) of any Stars defenseman. He’s still a positive possession player through it all. He leads Stars defensemen in shorthanded time on ice/60. He has done just about everything you could ask a defenseman to do this season. Is he a top pairing guy? Probably not on a top team, but that doesn’t mean he is a bad player or overvalued or overpaid. He’s giving the Stars exactly what they paid for.

But Nill has not fixed the blue line, and he remains fixated on Lehtonen, likely because he has no other choice. At $5.9 million per season, Lehtonen is the Stars’ third-highest paid player and his contract does not expire until the 2018 off-season. That contract handed to him by Nieuwendyk remains a noose around the Stars’ logo.

A noose.

Once again, those around the Stars are selling just how good their crop of minor league D-men is and how it will complement what is one of the best group of forwards in the NHL. Of course, they have been saying this for years. The names change, and the results don’t.

That isn’t entirely accurate either. Julius Honka is in the AHL and hopes are very high for the young blueliner. Esa Lindell will be there permanently soon. Ludvig Bystrom looks nice. But most of the Stars future on defense is currently in the NHL. John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, and Jyrki Jokipakka are well thought of. Klingberg and Nemeth in particular are expected to be key pieces long term. And as we’ve seen, when they aren’t playing with Daley they usually do really well.

The biggest issue with the article is that it looks down on the audience and hockey. By having so many factual inaccuracies the author is telling the reader that his sport is so inconsequential that it isn’t worth putting the effort in to write about competently and telling the reader that your patronage is so unimportant that I’m almost explicitly going to tell you “I think you are an idiot”.

The question of audience here is inescapable. Who is the target audience of this article? The author treats Stars fans as if they are idiots. You generally don’t want to treat your audience like they are idiots so we can’t be the audience. The article pushes the inaccurate narrative that no one in Dallas cares about hockey and that hockey fans in the area are idiots so the article could aimed at the uninformed aspects of the national hockey media, but even still that isn’t a very large faction. Why would an article be written to a target audience very unlikely to see it in a newspaper that isn’t even in the top 25 largest Sunday circulations in the US as of 2013 and doesn’t even have dedicated Stars coverage?

Then again, perhaps that is the point. No one goes to the Star Telegram for hockey coverage. They have a self perpetuated situation where no one comes to them for information about hockey, and because no one comes to them it’s easy to assume no one cares about hockey so they can justify not covering them and make uninformed statements like those which riddle the article with few consequences because they have no reputation to consider.

The Stars aren’t perfect. No writer is perfect. No team is above reproach. Factual inaccuracies happen. The Stars certainly deserve to be questioned for how this season has turned out. But the hockey-craving audience of the Metroplex deserves better coverage than this, and if the Star Telegram ever does decide to cover the Stars it’s going to be hard for readers to take them seriously when the only coverage they publish is articles like this one. Some writers may not care about hockey in Dallas, but their opinions don’t reflect the larger population who actually do want to read and be involved in intelligent discussion about the sport.