There were no moments of blissful shock for defenseman Trevor Daley after the Dallas Stars made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
“Yeah, it’s sunk in,” Daley said. “We’ve been at it for 82 games here, waiting for this time and finally it’s here.”
For Daley, it goes back much further than the 82 games this season. He remains the only Star present when the organization last made an appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2008.
For those like Daley, in the front office and on staff, head coach Lindy Ruff has allowed himself to celebrate a little longer than he originally said he would after the clinching 3-0 win over St. Louis on Friday.
“For me, it’s just looking at everyone in the organization,” Ruff said. “People that have been here and suffered through some tough finishes. See the smile on everyone’s faces.
“That’s the part I’m enjoying.”
The Stars begin a best-of-seven first-round series on Wednesday at Anaheim. The 2-2-1-1-1 format means the Stars’ first home game will be Monday at American Airlines Center.
“We’ve got a fun group in here,” Daley said after Friday night’s win. “We’ve got a special group in here. We’ve got a mix of old and young and I think everybody got a chance to step up and play tonight and be a big part of it.”
Tyler Seguin led the team in scoring with 84 points. Jamie Benn had 79 points and defenseman Alex Goligoski was third with 42.
Goalie Kari Lehtonen led the league in games played. He carries a 2.41 goals-against average after posting 33 wins.
To Daley, it was Jordie Benn, Jamie’s older brother, who made the biggest strides this season.
“Jordie Benn has been unbelievable for our team. The guy was playing for the East Coast Hockey League a few years ago, and where he’s come and the player he is for us today is pretty remarkable to see,” Daley said.
Ruff said this season’s success started with the hiring of general manager Jim Nill.
In a short time, Nill revamped the team, including bringing in Seguin. He also quickly developed knowledge of the farm system, helping Ruff with players such as forward Colton Sceviour.
Sceviour has surprised many with his scoring touch, tallying six points in his past 10 games. The Stars held training camp in Fort Worth to keep the family atmosphere going.
“I knew very little about a lot of the players and a lot of the Texas guys,” Ruff said. “And that’s tough, because you can make some decisions as a coach in quick fashion about players you didn’t know very much.
“Without Jim’s help, we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
One of those decisions was to bring Ruff into the fold and his presence was a calming force to an organization in turmoil. Ruff had to deal with losing streaks and one of his players suffering a cardiac event during a game.
“I’ve really enjoyed Lindy,” Daley said. “He’s been good to me, good for me. When he felt like he maybe needed to give me a kick in the behind, he’s given it to me, and he’s praised me when I was good. I’ve seen him do it with every other guy on the team.
“He doesn’t treat anybody any different than anybody, no matter who you are on the team.”
The playoff drought, the longest in franchise history, was a frustrating puzzle to everyone involved. However, they made the playoffs with a game in hand.
“We deserved to be where we ended up,” Ruff said. “We didn’t fall into that place. We climbed into it. In the last 10 games, we were the better team and we beat some good teams to get there.”