Well, the NHL playoffs started this weekend, but the Dallas Stars ended up on the outside looking in. And while their efforts to claw their way into the tournament were admirable, there is a pervasive disappointment in regards to their spotty playoff appearances. Try as they may, the words “Dallas Stars” and “perennial contenders” aren’t typically uttered in the same sentence.
Of course, there were mitigating factors this year. Injuries and delays due to Covid and weather conspired to jam more games into an already truncated 56-game campaign. In the end, it proved too much for the Stars to overcome. This is especially painful when one takes into account Dallas’s win-loss record in matches that required extra time.
The Dallas Stars aren’t far from contention, but time is of the essence.
To wit, they were 6-14 in overtime or shootouts. They missed out on the playoffs by four points. Do the math. If the Stars had somehow found five more points along the way, they’re in. Alas, that is now the loser’s lament. When it comes to the bottom line, they simply couldn’t find a way to score enough when it mattered.
If you’ve followed these guys for any stretch of time, you know the Dallas Stars are a hard scoring team. Goals simply don’t come easy for this bunch, and it hurt them in close games. To that end, the offseason and near season-long recovery of Tyler Seguin hurt them greatly. Couple that with Alexander Radulov getting shut down completely after he’d been fighting through an early-season setback, and the scoring spigot was pinched in a profound way.
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But that’s not to say it was a complete disaster. Left winger Roope Hintz continued to develop and showed major goal-scoring prowess despite playing through a left adductor injury that hindered him all season. He will undergo offseason surgery, but he is expected to be ready for training camp. Perhaps more importantly, rookie winger Jason Robertson burst onto the scene and provided both elite skill and scoring punch. Couple that with forward Joe Pavelski more or less carrying the power play, and the offense is in decent shape, especially when Seguin and Radulov are poised to be healthy for next season. In other words, a relative modicum of health would assist the Stars and their postseason fortunes.
There are a couple of huge factors that loom for this franchise moving forward. First, the impending expansion draft will likely expose players such as goalie Anton Khudobin and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. Khudobin underachieved this year. It’s hard to say how his Covid infection affected him, but there simply isn’t enough time to figure if his downturn was temporary. Also, rookie netminder Jake Oettinger’s improvement will likely make him a quality backup behind returning number one Ben Bishop.
The other thing to consider is that this iteration of Stars’ hockey is likely the last under the current regime. The mix of veterans and youngsters and coaches will likely change dramatically whether they make the playoffs or not. It will take some luck, but so long as they avoid the tragicomic set of circumstances they faced in 2021, the Dallas Stars should be positioned for another run at the playoffs.