The attempts to stay away from the most disappointing team in DFW have failed. Ten games into the 2015-’16 season and the Dallas Stars look like the best version of themselves. Or at least a version that will reach the playoffs. Certainly a version worth watching.
I white flagged this team after last season’s epic flop where it missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years. I routinely bought the hope they were selling, and simply gave up amid pain, frustration, sadness and despair.
I vowed not to return until they showed me something more than another plate of disappointment.
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If the playoffs opened today, the Stars would face the Winnipeg Jets in a first round series. There are only 72 more games remaining in the regular season, so that first round matchup might change.
“This year I would be thrilled if we made the playoffs,” Stars All-Star forward Jamie Benn told me on Thursday.
ME: Do you think you will?
Sign me up. The blue line is no longer 93,323 knots behind their group of forwards. Second-year D-man John Klingberg should be an All-Star one day. Jamie Benn is the best player in the NHL. The high-priced goalie tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi works.
The Stars are not perfect, but no longer are they are sports tragedy of bad timing, and a goalie that could not make the save when necessary. This looks like it will hold.
They are fourth in NHL in scoring at 3.5 goals per game. The goals against you would like to be a bit better - 2.70 is not terrible, but it’s not great; that figure ranks 18th in the NHL. Both special teams units rank in the top 10, which is usually a decent barometer for a team’s success, and the team is off to the type of start that indicates they won’t stink.
“It was something we talked about as a group,” Benn said. “We put a lot of emphasis on how we started.”
Unlike seasons past when the Stars fell face forward to start the season and had to chase games, this group is ahead.
All of it looks like for the first time since he bought the team, the considerable cash owner Tom Gaglardi has invested will yield the return he wants. The Stars have the seventh-highest payroll in the NHL. Gaglardi has OK’d the money necessary for GM Jim Nill to make whatever move necessary.
“I am communication always, but I let my guys run the club - (president) Jim Lites on the business side and Jim Nill on the hockey side,” Gaglardi said. “We have come a long way. Our season ticket base has more than doubled since I came on. We are a top-10 club now. I’m really glad I bought it.”
Now all he needs to do is to make the playoffs for the second time in his tenure, and the interest that has waned for so long surrounding this franchise will return.
“The first time we made the playoffs (in ‘14, a first round loss against the Ducks) was great, and it was a series we should have won,” Gaglardi said. “Last year was a disappointment. It’s a tough league, but I do think we are getting there.”
Ten games in and I’m in.