Apr 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; The Dallas Stars ice girls perform during a timeout in the game between the Stars and the St. Louis Blues at the American Airlines Center. The Stars shut out the Blues 3-0 and clinched the final playoff spot in the western conference. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Long Wait for the Dallas Stars Is Finally Over and the New One Begins


The concept of time changes the older you get. My four year old has no concept of time whatsoever. To her the phrase “In a minute honey” means about five seconds. After those five seconds she is immediately asking for the same thing she just asked for. She is then told again “In a minute”. The conversation then repeats itself until either the minute has passed or I finally give in just to have some quiet to finish whatever it was that I was doing that was originally too important to stop in the first place.

To me a minute is a minute. It’s either wasted, profitable or enjoyed depending on what I get out of that particular minute. If I’m working it’s profitable. If I’m spending time with my family that minute is enjoyed. Over the last five years if I was watching the Stars that minute was wasted. Or was it?

The Dallas Stars acknowledge their fans after the win over the St. Louis Blues and clinch the final playoff spot in the western conference. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Stars clinched the 8th and final spot in the 2014 Western Conference Playoffs on Friday night with a very impressive 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. It will be their first appearance in the NHL’s second season since they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals in 2008.

5 seasons and 6 calendar years ago or roughly 3.1 million minutes. That’s a lot of minutes.

A lot of time invested in following a team that was always close but never close enough. A lot of time watching as Tom Hicks’ empire fell. A lot of time watching Joe Nieuwendyk piece together a team with the goal of just getting to the salary floor. A lot of time watching Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Marty Turco and Segei Zubov age, fade and retire. A lot of time realizing that the franchise had become just another team in the league, that being a Dallas Star no longer held the same honor. Time drug on and on and the years began to blend together.

Things looked a little better last summer when new owner Tom Gaglardi talked Jim Nill in to leaving Detroit and 22 straight years of playoff appearances to come to Dallas. They looked a little better when Jim Nill hired long time Sabers coach Lindy Ruff. Then a few months later Nill trades for a young highly talented yet underutilized Tyler Seguin and things looked a whole lot better. All of a sudden it seemed like the new season was too far away.

Jamie Benn (14) and head coach Lindy Ruff celebrate the win over the St. Louis Blues Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Now here we are at the end of that season that once looked too far away. Where did it go? That happened fast. The Stars were very streaky this season. Lots of ups and downs. Mike Modano’s retirement ceremony, the long anticipated and highly successful peak of the season was marred with Kari Lehtonen’s concussion and then followed up immediately by Rich Peverley’s cardiac incident in the very next game.

They went on a five game losing streak in March after being one of the hottest teams in the league when games resumed after the Olympic break in February. Then they turned it back around and won 3 out of 5 on a season long road trip to put themselves, not only back in the playoffs, but in control of their own destiny.

So many times in the past 5 seasons it was the opposite. The Stars had been in control and lost it down the stretch.

Two years ago they lost 6 of their last 7 to finish 4 points out. 3 years ago they only needed to beat a bad Minnesota team in the last game of the season to get in and they lost playing terrible defense in front of Kari. Last year they lost 6 of their last 8.

Those seasons seemed to drag on and on. The long slow realization that they weren’t going to turn it around, that they were just winding up to kick you in the teeth one more time. That 5 game road trip was supposed to be the wind up. That was when you were expecting the loss but got the win.

Apr 1, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) celebrates with Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) after the Stars

All of a sudden time sped up. All of a sudden Phoenix loses and the Stars can get in by winning 1 of their last two games. They can even lose both of them and still get in. All they need is two points and an overtime loss in each will get you there. That was the realization going to bed last Thursday night. Oh man, was Friday going to be a long day.

Were they going to blow it?

Are we going to get to celebrate?

Is this long nightmare finally going to end?

All day long Stars fans wondered and waited and waited. The Stars made them wait until almost 6 minutes in to the 2nd period before they got their answer. They game had been fairly evenly played for the first 10 minutes with St Louis maybe having the edge but the Stars found another gear and the Blues who were playing their second game in as many nights didn’t have an answer.

Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) looks for the puck in front of St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller (39) Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Daley scored on a breakaway at 5:52 and then Tyler Seguin scored on the power play at 11:58 and the fans inside the arena could feel the tension easing. The weight of the wait was slowly being lifted as each second ticked off the clock. When Ryan Garbutt iced it with a tip in at 4:27 of the third the party was on and the wait was over.

The Stars were finally going back to the playoffs.

Now we wait. We wait for that first playoff game. We wait a little longer on the night of the first one because it’s against Anaheim and will be played in the Pacific Time zone. We will wait a little longer to see them in person since they are the road team. We wait and hope that they might treat us to an extended run. We wait to see if this is the beginning of what could be many years of playoff hockey.

Time slows down and anticipation takes over. A minute is no longer a minute. It feels more like an hour. The next game is too far away. The past 5 long seasons that seemed like an eternity feel like ages ago. During those 5 seasons I’ve had two children, two jobs, a new house and my oldest went from riding a bike to driving a car but somehow the anticipation of the next game feels as familiar as yesterday. All of those minutes wasted watching Stars hockey over the last 6 years are culminating into this feeling now. Over anticipation and excitement.

I’m starting to feel like a 4 year old.

I need the next game.

“In a minute honey, In a minute.”

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Tags: Dallas Stars Lindy Ruff Stanley Cup Playoffs Tyler Seguin