Dallas Stars: for better or worse, now it’s time to put up or shut up

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Tyler Seguin
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Tyler Seguin /

The Dallas Stars franchise hit a crossroads on Friday amid explosive criticism from their front office regarding two star players.

To put the Dallas Stars’ situation into perspective, I’m going to hearken back to a book I read about the Dallas Cowboys several years ago. The name of the book and the author escape me at the moment, but it was about the halcyon Tex Schramm/Gil Brandt/Tom Landry days of the franchise.

In that book–and I’m paraphrasing–someone was talking about the legendary General Manager, the aforementioned Schramm. Make no mistake, Schramm’s vision and business savvy helped ensconce the Cowboys into the fabric of this country. Without Schramm, the Cowboys probably never get the “America’s Team” moniker. But he was also a legendary carouser, and by several accounts, could be an out-and-out jerk.

In the book, the person speaking about him uttered a sentence that stuck with me to this day: “Every organization needs a son of a [gun].” Again, I’m paraphrasing in order to soften the language, but the point got through. Think about any consistently successful sports organization through the years. The Cowboys experienced it again in the 90s with Jimmy Johnson. Think Steinbrenner with the Yankees. Think Belichick with the Patriots. Their word was/is law, feelings be damned.

Well, on Friday, at the end of the weekly news cycle–and before a holiday weekend, no less–The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro wrote an article (subscription required) in which Dallas Stars’ CEO Jim Lites played the son-of-a-gun card and publicly lambasted captain Jamie Benn and superstar center Tyler Seguin. What made the article particularly incendiary was the expletive-filled language used by Lites. Granted, he was acting as owner Tom Gaglardi’s mouthpiece over the matter, but the gist was as crystal clear as it was harsh.

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Speaking for the owner, Lites described Benn’s and Seguin’s play as “horse [manure]”. Lites also went on: “We are in a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. It’s embarrassing, and no one writes it. Write it!”

What makes this particular case so unique is the extremely public nature of it. I’ve been following sports in this area since I was old enough to remember, and I simply cannot ever recall a member of a front office going so scorched earth on a player, or players, in such an almost-personal manner.

The tirade caused enough of a splash to where the sports talk station I listen to jettisoned all other material in order to talk Dallas Stars for two straight hours when the news broke. If you understand how niche-y hockey is in this town, you’ll understand that that was massive.

Now, of course, the comments about Benn and Seguin did a lot to polarize the fan base. Most of the social media feeds I follow immediately wanted to blame General Manager Jim Nill for poor drafting and free agent acquisition. Their argument was essentially that a sub par team had been constructed around the marquee superstars, and that the Stars’ recent misfortunes have little or nothing to do with Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin.

And while there is more than a kernel of truth to that, the fact remains that Benn’s and Seguin’s production have fallen dramatically this season. While the construction of the team can be viewed as a contributing factor, they do also have players like Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, and rookie sensation Miro Heiskanen on the roster. In other words, the cupboard is far from bare. The truth of the matter is, on paper, the Dallas Stars are far too talented to be hanging around the periphery of the playoff picture on a yearly basis.

It likely won’t make some fans of this team happy to read this, but some tough love was probably long overdue. The Stars are going on eleven seasons with only two playoff appearances to show for it. Hockey has become a niche sport in this area because of that ineptitude. Credit to the diehards for still watching and going to games. The fan base is small, but we’re devoted and very knowledgeable.

Also, as a close follower of this franchise, I think there is a goodly portion of the fan base that fell in love with the more cutesy aspects of this team (i.e. the Seguin-Benn bromance angle) instead of a quality product on the ice, hence their current defensiveness. On the other hand, I’ve long been concerned about the lack of contention, and was even a proponent of trading Seguin last season when his value was about as high as it could be. My thought being that the job simply wasn’t getting done as presently constructed. Why not trade Seguin for the farm and use that to improve the team?

But here is the other truth: now that Seguin’s ostensibly here for the long haul, I want to see them succeed. I want them to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. If you even casually follow the sport, you know that the two-month death march in late spring is the best tournament in sports. It’s even better when your team is involved. There is absolutely nothing like playoff hockey, and the Stars’ lack of participation does nothing but hurt their bottom line. No one’s watching when you’re not contending, and in this market, it breeds something worse than disdain. It breeds apathy.

These past few days have been difficult to process. Do I wish it could’ve been handled differently? Sure. You don’t want stuff like this getting to print. It makes you believe that all other avenues had been explored, and that’s usually never a good sign. But I also think that a fire needed to be lit, and if this was the way they deemed fit, then it’s far too late to do anything differently now.

Next. Dallas Stars’ CEO Jim Lites rips Benn, Seguin over recent play. dark

This is a watershed moment for this organization that will likely go only one of two ways. The Dallas Stars either rally around their embattled leaders like they did by drilling the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, or they hang around the playoff bubble and miss out yet again. If it’s the former, then the organization stays the course. If it’s the latter, then this thing gets dismantled in the off-season for a full rebuild.

  • Published on 12/31/2018 at 13:16 PM
  • Last updated at 12/31/2018 at 13:16 PM