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What’s next for the Dallas Stars?
Game 6 didn't end the way any of us thought it would after the Stars maintained a 2 goal lead in one way or another through 58 minutes of the game. Then the final two minutes happened and a few gaffs and some youthful inexperience kicked in and the Stars let the Anaheim Ducks back in the game.
“We beat ourselves.”
A poignant quote from the Stars head coach, Lindy Ruff that happened during the exit interviews on Tuesday. Thinking back on the series that ended prematurely, I have a hard time thinking of any of the 6 games including ultimately the 4 losses that the Stars truly were outplayed by the Ducks.
Whether it was the Ryan Garbutt meltdown in game 5, the Stars PK relapsing or even the third goal in game 6 that Kari should have had, the Stars almost always seemed to outplay the Ducks in at least 40 of the 60 minute hockey games and for that I think you have to at least tip your hat to the men in green. At the same time it is easy to be a little bitter that arguably the better team didn't get the results.
But that is the trials and tribulations of a young team. And with a young team’s early exit from the playoffs come new questions. What is next for this team? What are the projected targets for the 2014-2015 season?
I suspect the biggest thing the Stars will be shooting for the next campaign is an earlier solidification of a playoff spot. Fighting for the final spot until game 81 of the season is something the Stars have done for what seems like the entirety of their playoff drought. So in finally landing on the right side of that stalemate for once, the next logical step seems to be being able to say you’re a playoff team much earlier in the season. Whether that’s something as meager as locking up a spot by game #75 or much earlier, I think the Stars have to feel like with a few tweaks it is possible.
But perhaps a less tangible goal is bringing a stereotypical hockey phrase into actual fruition. Learning from this season is something that every team says. With a team that has so many players who had previously never been in a playoff game until this year, most people are going to expect growth. Knowing a little bit more of what it takes to win.
How it feels to be kicked out of the post-season because of a collapse in the final 2 minutes of the game. This isn’t limited to players like Eakin, Garbutt and company. This also applies to players like Kari Lehtonen whose previous playoff appearance can’t really be tallied up with his latest experience. Maybe Garbutt knows how important he is to the team after essentially giving game 5 to the Ducks on a testicle shaped platter?
And that doesn't start or end with playoff experiences. The team can look back on an up and down season and perhaps avoid two or three of those losing streaks thanks to having to go through them the first time. That in itself can take a team to a better seeding the next season.
If the players truly learn and commit to changing things. It takes a special brand of human being to really see their own flaws and an even better person to acknowledge them and legitimately try to change them. So let’s hope the “team that never quit” can become the “team that always learns” this off-season so that perhaps next year won’t be so nerve wracking for them and for we the fans.
Playoffs are back in Dallas and it was a glorious thing to behold as the AAC was filled to the brim with one of the best crowds in the first round. But if the Stars can’t repeat then you have to wonder if things don’t go back to “the way they were” before. It is on the players and the staff to make sure they don’t give the fans another out-clause and keep the seats at the American Airline City filled with victory green.
I look forward to talking about the draft and potential trades/signings this off-season. Until then, enjoy the rest of the playoffs and have fun rooting against the Ducks.