Mac Engel

Dallas Stars are good enough to be trusted, which is the scary part

After nearly a decade of kicking both on and around their fans’ hearts, the Dallas Stars are a franchise that can be trusted.

Which is the scary part. The Stars are now officially good enough to break your heart again.

They may not win the Stanley Cup this season, but they are “around it.” They are one of the franchises that is in the discussion to contend not for the playoffs but to actually win it.

Las Vegas ranks the Stars with the seventh-best odds to win the Cup, at 20-1. Tampa Bay has the best odds at 6-1.

The Stars’ season began on Thursday night against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins, and currently both teams are good enough to contend for the Cup. Contending is all that any fan of any team can hope in this league.

More than any other pro sport, predicting the NHL’s champion requires a Magic 8 Ball, a fortune teller, and or someone with legit precognitive skills. The margin between the Stanley Cup winner and the eighth seed is now thinner than the red goal line.

The Stars know this because they were a thin-red line away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals in the spring against the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues team that won the Stanley Cup Finals against Boston.

Any Stars fan can remember where they were when they watched forward Jamie Benn’s wraparound attempt in the second overtime in Game 7 of the West semifinals in St. Louis.

The puck was on the red goal line before St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington cleared it out with his left pad.

The Stars lost the game, 2-1.

“The play I really remember was (forward) Matt Zuccarello had in regulation when he was on the door step (in front of the goal) and he was grabbed. I remember that more than the Benn shot,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said Thursday morning. “You play it back for a while but that’s sports. We had other opportunities.

“The game I play back isn’t that so much as that but Game 6 here (at the American Airlines Center). We were up 3-2 in the series and we had a chance to close them out. We didn’t finish the job. They won it so they were the better team.”

It should be noted the Stars were dominated Game 7. Only because of goalie Ben Bishop did the team not lose by 10 goals; he stopped 52 shots in the game.

The goalie is a part of the team. That’s sports.

When the Blues celebrated their first ever Stanley Cup trophy a few weeks later in Boston, every single Stars lamented Benn’s near miss along the goal line.

They were that close.

The core of a team that was “that close” is back. Rather than re-sign Zuccarello, Nill opted for veteran free agent San Jose forward Joe Pavelski that should give the Stars a legit top two lines.

When Nill was an assistant GM with the Detroit Red Wings, they were renowned for grabbing a player at the back end of his career and squeezing out another year or two of production.

“Any time you can add a player with a pedigree of Joe Pavelski, you add him,” Nill said. “He has a presence to him. Some guys are natural winners and that’s who he is. Everyone talks about age, and for some guys it just doesn’t matter.”

The Stars also added veteran forward Corey Perry on a one-year deal, and who knows how much he has left.

Defenseman Miro Heiskanen is the best player in our backyard whose name you need to know. He’s that good. He was a teenager last year and he will become one of the best at his position in the NHL.

And Ben Bishop can carry a team.

The Stars are a good NHL franchise again with an upper tier roster.

They may not win the Cup, but they are good enough to be trusted, which means they can now break your heart.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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