The Dallas Stars played their 41st game of the season wining an absolute thriller against the New Jersey Devils 5-4. I will recap the first half of the season, highlighting a few key games and moments. Also I will give my outlook on the 2nd half. First off I will give a little back story starting with the 2018 NHL off-season.
Dallas finished the 2017-18 season 42-32-8 with 92 points, missing a wildcard spot by 3 points. It was the 2nd season in a row the Stars missed the playoffs. The stars also had to search for another head coach as Ken Hitchcock “retired” (I’ll explain later) from coaching, This would be the 3rd coach in 3 seasons for the Stars. Dallas found it’s next coach in University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery. Montgomery spent 5 seasons at UD posting a record of 125-57-26, Leading the team to back to back trips to the Frozen Four in 2016 and 2017, winning it all in 2017.
Seguin gets paid
Also in the off season was the issue of Tyler Seguin‘s contract. The previous season he registered 40 goals and 38 assists to the tune of 78 points, it was time for him to get paid. Jim Nill did just that signing him to an 8 year 78.8 million dollar extension, witch kicks in next season and will keep him in Dallas until the 2026-27 season.
The Stars opened the season at home against the Arizona Coyotes. It was a great opening win as Ben Bishop recorded a 30 save shutout. They opened with 4 games in Dallas going 3-1-0 in that stretch, with the only loss being to a great Toronto team. Dallas dropped their first 2 road games of the season to Ottawa and New Jersey. The Stars would end October and go into November on a long 6 game road trip. They dropped their 3rd straight road game against Detroit. I was starting to worry about this team whenever they played away from Dallas. Montgomery’s squad quickly turned it around with 3 great wins against Montreal, Toronto, and Washington. However, they dropped the final 2 games of the trip against Boston and Columbus. The Stars returned to Dallas for a match up with the Sharks. It was a great game with the Stars winning 4-3, but it came at a cost, as the Stars lost star defensemen, John Klingberg with a broken hand as Klingberg was a key piece of the power play unit.
They finished November 4-4-2. It was a disappointing month for Dallas, The problem was depth scoring they couldn’t score outside the top line of Seguin-Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Which makes me wonder if they should make a move at the trade deadline.
Hitchcock returns to Dallas
I said that I would explain about Ken Hitchcock’s “retirement”. In late November Edmonton fired then head coach, Todd McLellan, and hired former Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock I was shocked by the announcement because I didn’t know how to feel. I thought his 2nd stint was just a transition year as the team moved on from Lindy Ruff (who I loved) to finding the next permanent replacement. But on the other hand Hitchcock was the coach of the 1999 Stanley Cup team, so I had mixed feelings. Dallas won the game convincingly 4-1. They showed a shot of Hitchcock that was priceless.
Road woes continue
In early December the team hit the road for a 4 game trip, and in my post “On the road with the Dallas Stars” I talked about each game and how Dallas would stack up, I think I jinxed the team by doing so as Dallas went 0-4-0 on the trip. I believe part of the problem was our goal scoring and also they’ve been hit hard by the injury bug. The Stars went just 2-2-0 after the trip, with bad losses against Chicago and New York (Islanders) it was a very frustrating time because they shut out a Calgary team that was on top of the Pacific Division at the time to giving up 5 goals to a Chicago team that is a shell of their former selves.
Clashes with the front office
After the Stars 2-0 win over Nashville in late December Dallas CEO Jim Lites went on a profanity laced tirade about Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin saying they weren’t good enough and calling them F****** horse S***. Both players said they needed to play better. They have, as Benn and Seguin combined for 8 goals in the 6 games since the outburst. In my post “Trouble Brewing in Big D” I gave my thoughts on the matter saying I understand your upset but you cant call out your players like that. It also got a reaction from the NHLPA and commissioner Gary Bettman. The Stars capped of 2018 with an overtime loss against Montreal.
2019 and going forward
Dallas opened 2019 with 2 games at home against New Jersey and Washington, which both ended in wins for Dallas. After that the Stars go on the road for 3 games against Winnipeg, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. Dallas was blown out 5-1 against the Jets. the effort was not there and execution was lazy. The Stars got a good bounce back win against St. Louis last night 3-1. As of last night Dallas sits at 23-17-4 with 50 points. Going forward our schedule is great with our final 4 games in Dallas before the all star break and 3 out of 4 games at home coming out of the break. But then Dallas hits the road in February, playing only 3 out of 11 games in Dallas. The schedule gets better in March as they play 8 games at home witch includes a 5 game home stand, then finish the season with 2 out of 5 at home.
The Stars currently sit at 3rd in the Central Division. They have been hovering at 3rd or a wild card spot all season, with a 2nd place sport earlier in the season. I believe this team is good enough to make playoffs as a the 2nd or 3rd team or maybe a wild card. I believe Winnipeg will win the division with Dallas and Nashville taking the 2nd and 3rd spot. Chicago and St. Louis are shells of there former selves. I can see Minnesota getting a wild card spot, but being a 1st round exit. Colorado could also get a wild card, but I think they’ll be out in the 2nd round. If the Stars do get a wild card I’m hoping for WC1 meaning they would play the Pacific Division, they have a 10-3-1 against the Pacific, but regular season means nothing in the playoffs.
The big question in Dallas is; if the Stars miss playoffs for a 3rd straight season, is Jim Nilll out as GM? I think the answer is yes. It has been very frustrating as a fan watching this team choke in playoffs or stay home. Dallas did make playoffs in 2 out of 5 seasons under Lindy Ruff. First in 2014, the 1st time since 2008 where they reached the Western Conference Finals, but choked in game 6 against Anaheim when they were up 2 goals with 2 minutes left. Dallas would make playoffs again in 2016, winning the regular season Western Conference with 109 points only to lose in the 2nd round to St. Louis. So, yes if Dallas stays home this season, Nill has to go.
Stats from NHL.Com and Sports Illustrated
player profiles provided by hockey-reference.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals