The Dallas Stars enjoyed a somewhat controversial 2018-2019, with team ownership getting involved in an almost unprecedented level and the squad responding the only way they really could.
The Stars finished the regular season with a 43-32-7 record, good for 93 points and the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. They were three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who occupied the second wild card spot.
The Stars weren’t exactly lighting the lamp throughout 2018-2019, scoring a trifling 210 goals. Only the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks scored less in the Western Conference.
Dallas kept the puck out of its own net with regularity, with the Stars allowing just 202 goals against – making them the stingiest team in the West, ahead of the Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes and the Cup-winning St. Louis Blues.
While the Stars only managed a plus-8 differential in the grand scheme of things, they played strong enough defence to pick up the wins.
Unfortunately for CEO Jim Lites, it wasn’t strong enough.
In December of 2018, Lites saw fit to curse out Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and it was bad form all around. While the team closed ranks around management and responded passably to the roaring assessment, the harshness didn’t sit well. The NHLPA issued a statement condemning Lites’ comments as “reckless and insulting.”
Benn finished third in scoring with 53 points in 78 games. Seguin was first with 80 points in 82 games, while Alexander Radulov was second with 72 points in 70 games.
Only Benn, Seguin and Radulov had over 20 goals, with just seven Stars scoring at least 10. Bright spots like defenceman Miro Heiskanen sharpened things up, as he showed creativity and flair with and without the puck.
Goalies Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin struck up an earnest tandem, with the former landing himself a Vezina Trophy nod thanks to a 1.98 goals against average and a .934 save percentage – a career-best season.
When the Stars reached the post-season, they tangled with the Nashville Predators and won in six. In the second round, Dallas met the Blues and lost in seven.
So, what went wrong? What kept the Stars from making more of their season, from defeating the Blues in the second round? Taking it down to the wire is more than arduous, particularly as Game Seven needed double overtime to solve the series.
Despite stellar goaltending and a skin-tight defensive structure, the Stars are missing that extra offensive push.
With some semblance of secondary scoring, Dallas could produce more than their brand of “low event hockey” presently provides. To that end, they added Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski to take the heat off the top line. These bold moves suggest a “win now” attitude, good news for the fanbase and bad news for the rest of the Western Conference.
(Lead photo credit: NHL.com)