With the local football team mercifully out of the picture, now is the time to focus your energy and attention on the Dallas Stars.
Look, I get it. This is football country. Always has been, always will be. And judging by sheer numbers, there are a lot of you that may not be aware of the professional hockey team in town. If this includes you, then allow me to introduce you to that other tenant of the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Stars. You might like what you see.
You see, the Stars currently hold one of the wild card spots in the NHL’s Western Conference. So if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs. This holds a degree of importance on two fronts. For one, that’s a step farther than the Cowboys are at this point. For another, a berth in the Stanley Cup tournament would be only their fourth playoff appearance in the past eleven seasons.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Why on earth would I root for a team with such a shoddy postseason history?!” To that, I counter, “You watch the Cowboys, don’t you?!” Why not give the Stars a spin? The product the NHL puts on the ice from night to night is about as good as it gets for regular season action. The game itself is an intoxicating mix of speed, skill, and violence. What more do you want?
To that end, the Stars possess two of the more dynamic players in the league today. Namely, I’m speaking of forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Up until this season, they usually spent their time playing on the same line. But coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t hesitate to split them up in order to spread the scoring wealth. So far, that bit of experimentation has worked.
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Speaking of old coaches, yes, Hitchcock is back. You might remember him from the late nineties. It’s that almost forgotten time back when the internet was in its infancy and social media didn’t exist. If you’re old enough to remember that era, Hitchcock helmed the organization to its only Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Well, General Manager Jim Nill brought him back in the offseason. At first, the move seemed dubious. But as time passed, it made more and more sense. Hitchcock’s teams win and they possess a definite structure. Both elements were sorely lacking during last season’s failure.
So while the coaching seems to be remedying the ailments of seasons past, I didn’t want to venture too far away from Benn or Seguin. Make no mistake, the short term fortunes of this team are tied to those two for better or for worse. Seguin possesses a ton of speed and scoring ability. Under the new system, he’s developing into a strong two-way player the same way Mike Modano did in the Cup contending heyday.
Benn, however, is the bell cow of this team. It’s no surprise he wears the captain’s “C” on his sweater. He is the quintessential hockey power forward: big and fast, can score and hit. He can fight, too, but those days are behind him as he matured into his role. He’s a lead-by-example captain that plays with a snarl, and that completely belies his soft spoken nature off the ice. The Stars’ future successes and failures are tied to Benn more than any other player on the roster.
Finally, I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention one last element. The offseason acquisition of winger Alexander Radulov looks more and more like a genius move with each passing day. Radulov brings an infectious enthusiasm bordering on the maniacal. He has done nothing but display a penchant for the clutch, and that will only be a positive once the playoffs arrive.
So there you have it. Football season in these parts is over, and there’s a sour smell left behind. I’m telling you, the remedy for that is to tune into Dallas Stars’ hockey. They’re only halfway through the regular season, so you’ve got the rest of the winter to jump on the bandwagon. This is a winner’s town, so I won’t tell anyone when you trade your Dak Prescott jersey for a Jamie Benn sweater.