Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen Taking Similar Path As Tony Romo

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 31: Kari Lehtonen
DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 31: Kari Lehtonen /

There are plenty of parallels that can be drawn between the different Dallas professional sports teams. One of them happens to be that Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s story is eerily similar to that of Tony Romo’s with the Dallas Cowboys.

Whether you believe it or not, it’s an exciting time to be a member/fan of the Dallas sports community. Each one of the “big four” sports teams currently has some sort of hype or news surrounding them.

The Texas Rangers are in the midst of a battle for the final wild card playoff spot with the season dwindling. The Dallas Mavericks are quietly building for the future and have some bright young players to show off this year. And as we all know, the Dallas Stars have quite an exciting season ahead after a jam-packed offseason.

Then we have the dear Dallas Cowboys. America’s Team that just happens to be one of the most loved and hated franchises in all of sports. After an impressive and exciting season in 2016 that largely came from the performance of two rookies, the Cowboys have their sights set on a Super Bowl berth. The recent suspension of Ezekiel Elliott may alter their chances a tad, but the team nonetheless has their sights set high.

But one of the most exciting parts of the Cowboys’ offseason came last week. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys longtime owner, president and general manager, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton last weekend.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

In his speech, he told some of his favorite stories and also thanked a bunch of people for their contributions in helping his career along. One of those people was quarterback Tony Romo, who was the team’s starting QB for 13 consecutive seasons.

“No quarterback in [Dallas] Cowboys history was asked to carry as much of a load for his team as Tony [Romo],” Jones said in his induction speech. “He beat all the odds and delivered some of the most remarkable plays and unforgettable performances in our team history.”

During his 13-season career, he played in 156 games, throwing for 248 touchdowns and over 34,000 yards. That’s an impressive career for a quarterback in today’s NFL, and it’s no doubt the Romo will go down as one of the greatest Cowboys quarterbacks up there.

Being a Cowboys fan myself, he had every reason to graciously thank Romo. The guy gave it his all in the NFL for 13 years and had to do one of the toughest things in sports: retire without winning a championship. While he hasn’t officially declared retirement, he’s already pursuing a career in broadcasting.

“I’d say singularly the biggest disappointment I’ve had owning the Cowboys is not is not getting to a Super Bowl during his tenure as our quarterback,” Jones said during the broadcast of the Cowboys’ first preseason game on August 3. “That one’s on me. [He] should have had [a] better supporting cast around him.”

Kari Lehtonen is kind of following along the path of Tony Romo at the moment, though we’re obviously hoping he gets off before the ride ends.

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  • Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Kari Lehtonen has manned the crease for the Dallas Stars as the starter. In his time with the Stars, he is 201-136-47 with a .912 save percentage and 2.67 GAA. Those stats, like Romo’s, are very respectable over a multi-year campaign. They become even more impressive when you realize the conditions in which they posted the stats.

    For the past seven years, the Stars have struggled heavily. They qualified for the playoffs just twice in the span and have yet to make it past the second round. The other five years have been largely filled with errors and early finishes. But only a very little portion of their subpar results can be blamed on Lehtonen.

    If you’ve been a Stars fan for at least a decade now, you know the kinds of teams that have been fielded in front of Lehtonen. There have been a few diamonds in the rough, but the majority of them have been lackluster. And like Romo, Lehtonen often receives the largest portion of the blame when things don’t go right.

    The Stars have received solid goaltending from Lehtonen for the majority of his career. Of course, there have been times where he has not been perfect like the rest of the team, but he fights hard and tries to carry the team along more often than not. In other words, he often tries to carry the load for his team.

    Kari Lehtonen is by no means a bad goaltender. He has not turned in the greatest performances over the past few seasons, but that’s due in large part to the lack of a competent and complete roster around him. The Dallas Stars always seem to be missing something.

    A lot of the time, the defense has been to blame. Both GM Jim Nill and GM Joe Nieuwendyk struggled with bringing top-tier talent to the Stars and left the young and inexperienced defenders in the system to play instead. That causes plenty of disarray and gives the Stars’ net-minders an increased load.

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    And when I say “net-minders,” I really mean net-minder. For the past seven seasons, Dallas has been unable to find a qualified and prepared backup goaltender to help out Lehtonen. That means that Kari has been forced to play a rather extreme amount over the past few years.

    In 2010-11, he played in 69 of the Stars’ 82 games. The next season, he started in 59 games. In 2013-14, he played in a league-high 65 games during the regular season. He matched that total in 2014-15. And last season, he was forced to play in 59 games due to the shortcomings of fellow goaltender Antti Niemi.

    When you crunch the numbers, Kari Lehtonen has been asked to carry quite a sizable load in his time with the Dallas Stars. He’s rarely had a strong/impressive team in front of him and has taken on a lot as a result.

    Now at age 33, he’s finally getting a break. With Ben Bishop now being the presumed no. 1 between the pipes, Lehtonen can assume the role of competent backup and provide quality insurance in the crease. It’s about time.

    Next: Stars Players Must Earn Their Playing Time Next Year

    Kari Lehtonen deserves a break. He’s been doing his best to carry this team along and will now hopefully receive the benefits of having a quality team around him. Lehtonen is a dedicated soldier in the Stars’ organization and his hard work seems to finally be paying off. Let’s hope it does for both Lehtonen and the Stars’ sake.