This was going to be a good season. At least that is what you thought in February.
It started with the 2017 offseason. The Dallas Stars were once again praised for winning the offseason. The front office brought in Marc Methot to bolster the blue line. Martin Hanzal was added to make this offensively heavy forward line more defensive.
A change at goaltending was made as Ben Bishop entered to be the model of consistence between the pipes. Adding Alexander Radulov solidified the productive offseason as he could be the third head of the Seguin and Benn monster. And there was a coaching change as 1999 nostalgia set in after Jim Nill replaced Lindy Ruff with Ken Hitchcock.
Unfortunately even all that could not prevent the Stars from not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs once again. Their 42-32-8 record and 92 points puts them four points out of one of the eight playoff spots. It is now the eighth season the Stars have failed to reach the playoffs in a decade. But it was not the fact they are not playing in the postseason, but the manner in which they lost that privilege.
Before March began, the Stars had 76 points. At the time that was good enough for the top wild card position and two points from third in the Central Division. But then it hit the fan.
With 18 games to play, the Stars secured just 16 points. During that time, the franchise saw their worst losing streak since the move to Texas. They also witnessed their playoff probability go from near 90 percent to zero.
Nobody saw this coming. The team was rolling and seemed to be adjusted to Hitchcock’s system. Goals against were top five in the league. Special teams were dominant and the team was out skating their opponents.
But all of sudden they stopped scoring. The Stars went from league average in scoring, 2.9 per game, to bottom ten in the league. In their final 18 games, their 2.5 goals per game was third worst among the 31 teams.
If you wanted to pin point one reason for the sudden demise, you would get much argument against their lack of scoring. But there was not one thing wrong with this s2017-2018 Dallas Stars.
Goaltending had lapse down the stretch. At times opponents got too easy of goals that made you ponder at how year after year the same problem occurs.
However the player between pipes do not get all the blame. It starts with the guys around the goaltenders and again the Stars struggled to clean defensive hockey. Too many defensive turnovers and inability to clear the zone resulted in more odd man rushes that I have ever seen against the Stars in a season.
The Stars, for the most part, had a healthy team this season. But some key injuries derailed their season. Defenseman Marc Methot was a dominate blue liner when on the ice, but the veteran only played 35 games battling injuries all season. Martin Hanzal falls under the same header playing only 38 points but positively impacting the forwards especially on the penalty kill. Though Ben Bishop was mostly healthy, on March 5th, the starting goaltender suffered a knee injury and never returned back to action. The Stars won just three games in his absence.
Even with all that, this team was right in the hunt. A win or two here and there gets you in the playoffs. It will especially drive you insane looking back at that eight-game losing streak wondering how they could not find a win amongst some of those opponents.
But the bottom line, at the end, is all that matters. Even in a season with so much good like Ken Hitchcock coming out of retirement and being the third all-time winningest coach. Or Tyler Seguin becoming one of the best two-way players in the league while scoring a career high 40 goals. And John Klingberg where his 59 assists were the most among defensemen and most in Dallas Stars history.
Unfortunately, the bad is going to outweigh the good. People will quickly forget you won the offseason, when you do not make the Playoffs. Now the Stars enter another offseason earlier than they wanted, looking to answer a lot of questions and once again build a team that can rekindle playoff hockey in Dallas.