When the Dallas Stars organization was overhauled prior to this season, bringing in a new general manager, a new head coach and new young talent on the ice, no one knew what this team could accomplish in its first year.
So even after the Stars gave up two goals in the last 2 minutes of regulation in Game 6 and then another in the first minutes of overtime to end their season against Anaheim in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday night, Dallas fans recognized something special had happened. An initially disappointed crowd gave the team a standing ovation as it left the ice.
The team accomplished its mission. It brought playoff hockey back to Dallas.
However, the locker room after that Game 6 loss did not look like a team content with achieving that season-long goal of making the playoffs.
It knew it could have won that series despite being the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference.
“We took way too many penalties, and we shot ourselves in the foot,” veteran forward Vernon Fiddler said. “I don’t think Anaheim beat us. We beat ourselves more than anything.”
The next goal will be to accomplish more next season, whether that be a higher seed or a longer playoff run.
But if there is a theme for this off-season, coach Lindy Ruff said, it carries a much more tempered tone.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” Ruff said. “We set a platform for ourselves of where we can be. We were an eighth-place seed. There’s a lot of room to grow.”
Much of that growth will be mental, Ruff said.
This year’s team was easily one of Ruff’s favorites to coach, he said, because it never gave up or gave less than its best in practice and in games. But Ruff knows next season will have the same challenges and more.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve coached,” he said. “This was a tough but fun year as a coach. These guys brought it every night, but you can’t think that it’s going to happen again. We have to use these next three weeks to decompress and then use the next three months to become a better team.”