The Dallas Stars just finished off a pretty extraordinary week. They played their best game of the year in shutting out the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, 1-0. After that game, I walked away thinking, “now that was a playoff team.” Their attention to detail in that contest completely belied some of the ups and downs of the regular season in general.
They followed up by dropping an overtime decision to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and then topping the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. All in all, they picked up five huge points out of a possible six in the span of five days. As one might imagine, this only helped to improve their situation at the bottom of a crowded Western Conference playoff race.
A faction of Dallas Stars fans would have you believe that Rick Bowness is an idiot.
In fact, the Dallas Stars currently sit in the top wild card spot in the conference. Not only that, they’ve managed to pull even in points with the Nashville Predators with the six-most (91) in the West. It goes without saying that they’ve come a long way in the past few months.
I’ve covered this in this space before, but on January 20th, the Stars’ record was an exceptionally mediocre 18-16-2. They were 13th in the conference and the panic level was high. The fans were understandably on edge, but that also gave a louder voice to the faction of fans that wanted change behind the bench.
Look, if the team’s course would’ve stayed the same, changes would’ve happened a long time ago. On paper, the Stars have the talent to compete for a playoff spot. As of that day in January, they were severely underachieving.
But since then, the team has posted a 25-11-3 record. That’s a sample size of three full months and almost half a season. Furthermore, they’ve posted the third-best points percentage of any current playoff team in the West, trailing only Colorado and Calgary, and those two teams have essentially been running away with the conference for the entire year.
So I ask now what I posited on Twitter not too long ago. Do the Dallas Stars lose because of Rick Bowness, or do they win in spite of him? It’s somewhat of a rhetorical question, because anyone with a decent hockey brain can see how this team has responded and turned their season around.
I admittedly got caught up in what the disproportionately vocal minority has to say about the state of affairs on this team. The crowds for the past few games have affirmed my belief that the fans at large are recognizing a surging team and are turning out in droves to show their support.
To that end, Rick Bowness and his staff deserve a ton of credit for keeping their team on an even keel. Sure, the season has been a weird series of amazing wins and befuddling losses. But if the big picture is taken into account, the Dallas Stars are right where they want to be, and they currently appear to be primed for a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This doesn’t mean anything is set in stone. Collapses can come out of nowhere. But to that end, I would preach patience to the anti-Bowness faction. If the Stars falter and miss, or if they get run in the first round, I would imagine that a lot of you will get your ultimate wish and won’t have the head coach to kick around anymore. But in the meantime, he needs some deserved latitude for guiding the team to the brink of the tournament.