Mac Engel

Dallas Stars are the Blackhawks, minus one vital component

Forward Jamie Benn is the Stars’ captain and the best athlete on the team.
Forward Jamie Benn is the Stars’ captain and the best athlete on the team. AP

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. It is only a test. This column is about hockey and specifically the Dallas Stars.

Again — this is only a test.

Outside of a handful of markets it is considered professional suicide to opine about hockey; that the only way to turn off an audience in this region faster than a good ol’ hockey game is to weigh in on college basketball, even when this state is collectively having its best year ever in that sport.

Despite this recent blip of bad where the team is 3-5-2 in its past 10 games, the Dallas Stars are enjoying their best year since 2002-03, and are FWd’s best chance at a big-boy trophy title this calendar year.

The Stars are becoming what owner Tom Gaglardi envisioned when he rescued this team from bankruptcy creditors in November 2011: They are a version of the Chicago Blackhawks.

As good as this team is, until it adequately addresses one specific area, however, it will not be the Chicago Blackhawks.

DEPRESSING FACTOID ALERT: The Dallas Stars currently lead the NHL in scoring; the last team to lead the NHL in scoring in the regular season and win the Stanley Cup in the same year was the Pittsburgh Penguins, in 1991-92 ... or the same year Stars center Tyler Seguin was born. And one year before the Stars relocated from Minnesota to Texas.

Don’t worry, the Stars are going to make the playoffs (and Mexico is going to pay for it).

Fully prepare for at least two rounds, but anything beyond that will entirely depend on whether their defensemen are Blackhawk-ish.

The Stars are built exactly like Chicago when it began its run several years ago — young, skilled, talented, fast with a goalie named Niemi.

Goalie Antti Niemi played two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks — 2008-09 and 2009-10 — and led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010. He signed with the Stars in 2015.

Not enough people outside of the Stars’ loyal fan base know this, but the team has the best group of young forwards in the league. Forward Jamie Benn is the best pro athlete in Texas not named J.J. Watt, and Seguin is not too far behind.

There is not a more entertaining team in the NHL to watch than the Stars, which is wonderful for the regular season and terrifying for the postseason.

As a rule of thumb, teams that score the most don’t win in the playoffs.

Stars GM Jim Nill tried to address the defense issue again this week when he overpaid to acquire Kris Russell from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a talented young kid named Jyrki Jokipakka (no, he can’t say it, either), another young forward and a conditional pick.

This move won’t do much, leaving the Stars to go with what they have and what they do. What they have is one legit top-tier defenseman in second-year player John Klingberg, some middle-of-the-road pros and a handful of unproven prospects.

The game has changed — look at the Blackhawks. It’s a different dynamic. It’s about skating and pure speed and a lot of goals scored.

Tyler Seguin, Stars center

Since this is the way it’s going to be, I posed this question to a handful of the players: Can a team that plays the Stars’ aggressive offensive style, which can leave its defense vulnerable, succeed in the playoffs or will it have to change to accommodate the postseason’s more physical play?

“The game is about scoring goals, but you need to be able to play defense,” Seguin said. “The game has changed — look at the Blackhawks. It’s a different dynamic. It’s about skating and pure speed and a lot of goals scored.”

Benn: “When we play the right way, we are confident in what we can do and are one of the best teams in the league. We play with tempo and are a high-scoring team.”

And this from head coach Lindy Ruff: “Ask me when we have 10 games remaining.”

Ruff has coached every style known to the sport. His 1999 Sabres choked the life out of the puck and they reached Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Stars. In 2007, his team won the division, led the league in scoring and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

1 Playoff berth for the Dallas Stars in the past seven seasons. In the 2013-14 season playoffs, they lost in six games in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Stars are going to do what they do and that’s that.

From a forward standpoint, that’s fine; the Stars are the Blackhawks. They are versatile, skilled, loaded and deep.

From a blueline standpoint, what the Stars lack are Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Without those talents, the Blackhawks are not this era’s dynasty.

From a goalie standpoint, who knows?

The Stars are going to make the playoffs and should be back in it for a while, thus ending their run of missing the postseason in six of the previous seven years.

After that, once their defensemen catch up to their forwards, then they will be the Blackhawks.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

  Comments