Dallas Stars running on fumes, playoff possibilities dwindling

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 09: Jason Dickinson
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 09: Jason Dickinson /

It seemed unthinkable back around Valentine’s Day, but the Dallas Stars’ free fall from playoff contention is very real and extremely disappointing.

The Dallas Stars are soft. There, I said it. I had refrained from issuing that particular edict up until now, but I’ve seen what I needed to see. They are in the home stretch of what was once a very promising season. Yet at each turn, they continue to shrink away from the opportunity in front of them.

To wit, this team has a tremendous amount of difficulty escaping a good opposition forecheck. Worse yet, they don’t create enough chaos in the offensive zone. They don’t get to the front of the net on the power play, and they have a maddening tendency to give up goals late in periods.

For everything that went so well during the first four months of the season, the final two months are shaping up as abject disaster. In short, they look completely out of gas. After last night’s 4-2 loss in Winnipeg, the Stars sit out of the playoff picture, which seemed like an impossibility a month ago. But that’s where they stand, and now we have to start playing the blame game.

Is it the coaching? I personally do not think so. But even if the players aren’t responding to their current guidance, I’d be hard pressed to see any regime change in this team’s near future. Not unless Ken Hitchcock leaves, or is relieved of his duties unexpectedly. This only leaves one possible unexplored avenue: the players on hand right now.

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The most obvious underachiever on this squad is Jason Spezza. Whether it’s diminished skill, inability to play in Hitchcock’s system, or both, his play is sorely lacking. This is especially true when you consider he’s the third-highest paid player on the team.  It’s difficult to envision him being here in any capacity next season. Beyond Spezza, one must consider what exists on this team in terms trade-worthy commodities. The answers won’t be popular to the armchair general managers, because it may involve some hugely popular players. Frankly, if the Stars fail to make the playoffs, wholesale changes would definitely be on the horizon.

Here’s the bottom line: as presently constructed, it just isn’t working. So if the Stars miss the playoffs this season, it’s probably time to blow it up in some form or fashion.

This probably means a guy like John Klingberg. More profoundly, this might even mean Tyler Seguin. Sure, Seguin’s played his tail off this season. He has evolved into a much more refined two-way player. It’d be a shame to see him go. But as far as trade chips, there isn’t a more valuable one on the roster, and next year is the last one on his current contract.  It’d be their last chance to get real value out of him before his walk year.  Plus, in his five years with the team, they’ve only made the postseason twice.

Furthermore, on paper, this organization should contend for a playoff spot perennially. But they simply continue to underachieve on a yearly basis regardless of who’s in charge. Think about it. Of the first fourteen years this franchise was in town, they only missed the playoffs twice. Conversely, they’ve missed the postseason seven of the last nine years, and they’re threatening to make it eight-of-ten with this season’s free fall.

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So barring a miracle turnaround, we’ll probably remain on the outside looking in yet again. We’ll once again be deprived of the most exciting tournament in all of sports. It’s shameful, really. I’m having a hard time remembering a Stars’ team that showed so much promise through the first two-thirds of the season only to flame out this spectacularly.