By Martin Iheke
The season did not end the way your Dallas Stars had hoped after making the playoffs for the first time in six years. There was a chance that they could shock the hockey world by upsetting the #1 seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round and playing well into the month of May. Sadly, that did not happen as reality quickly settled by losing a heartbreaker in overtime of Game 6 at home to have their season come to an abrupt end. Like head coach Lindy Ruff said after Game 6, the game of hockey can be cruel. Really cruel, but sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win. There is no doubt that this loss will make this team even hungrier going into next season. But let us not dwell on the negative here and focus on the overall nice season this team had and what areas they need to improve on so they can take that next step moving forward.
October: The Stars got off to a slow start to start the season going 5-6-1 in the month. They struggled to find their identity and had some key injuries along the way including goalie Kari Lehtonen missing some time.
November: Things started to improve for the Stars as they found their identity and key players like defenseman Alex Goligoski started to play better. They got healthier and their record reflected that with a 7-3-2 record.
December: The Stars continued their solid play into the last month of the calendar year despite having a more challenging schedule. But this also showed us that they can play with any contender in the league. They finished with a record of 8-3-4.
January: The first month of the New Year was not very kind for your Dallas Stars. They lost their first six games (against all Eastern Conference teams) and nine of ten. It is not that they played horrible in this stretch, but like any other team around the league, just went through a dry spell of not winning games. Fortunately, they were about to bounce back and finish the month strong going 3-0-2. Their record for the month was 4-8-2.
February: The Stars played the least amount of games this month of any other because of the league stopping down for the Winter Olympics. When the Stars did play, they did not do too badly going 4-0-1. They beat the Phoenix Coyotes, twice, a team from this point on that the Stars battled with for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
March: This was sort of an up and down month for the Stars, both mentally and physically as well as emotionally. The franchise retired the #9 worn by the great Mike Modano before they proceeded to beat the Minnesota Wild at home in a huge game. They also lost Kari Lehtonen after being knocked out and suffered a concussion. Then the next game at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Stars experienced what almost could have been tragic. Forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench and had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm. He was taken to the hospital and ended up okay. He would miss the rest of the season and whether he will play again is yet to be determined. The team was able to put the incident behind them and win at the St. Louis Blues the next night in probably one of the biggest wins in franchise history considering the circumstances. They also had a four-game losing streak later in the month, but were able to bounce back winning four out of their five to finish the month. They had a record of 8-6-1.
April: The Stars went 4-4-0 by winning every other game. They clinched a playoff spot at home when they beat the St. Louis Blues on second to last game of the season. They played the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs before losing to them in six games. Their record for the season was 40-31-11 with 91 points.
The Stars made some big strides during the season and because of some injuries, were able to get younger and faster. You found out that Jamie Benn, who was named captain at the beginning of the season, can lead this group. Forwards Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, Colton Sceviour, Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt are a young solid core moving ahead. Defensemen Brenden Dillon, Alex Goligoski, Patrik Nemeth, Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton and Trevor Daley are not a bad group to go with. They still have some areas they need to improve on. A #1 defenseman, a second-line center, and a backup goalie are the primary needs. General Manager Jim Nill will have his work cut out for him trying to fill these needs whether it is through free agency or trades. Another area that has to improve is the special teams, especially the power play. At times during the season, the power play was dreadful. It pretty much cost them the series against the Ducks. The good thing is they cannot get any worse. I would not be surprised to see Lindy Ruff bring in someone who is able to draw up better plays that can result in more goals on the power play.
If you are a Stars fan, you are disappointed in the how the season ended, but overall, you have to realize they had a good season by making the playoffs for the first time in six years. Not a lot of us were sure if they could do that. This is a young team with a very bright future ahead. Hopefully next season, they can take that next step.