Dallas Stars: A Supporter’s Guide to Playoff Fandom

Once again, it’s time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Also a recurring theme, the Dallas Stars did not qualify for the postseason. So, who are we pulling for this year?

On Saturday night, the Dallas Stars capped off a disappointing 2017-18 season on a high note, winning by a 4-2 decision on the road against the Los Angeles Kings. Jamie Benn tallied a hat trick for the second time in three games and John Klingberg finished within a point of the NHL lead amongst defensemen with an assist in the victory.

It was only a consolation to an epic, unforeseen collapse that saw the Stars, a postseason team for the majority of the season, fall to levels of 2009-2013 incompetence and frustration. On account of that absolutely miserable fall from grace, fans of the Dallas Stars have to find a team to root for in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

To continue our running theme of, well, running themes, this is a reboot of a column from last season. The format will be the same and we will all be sad anyway, but we’ll list the team, some cool reasons to call yourself a fan (or not) for a couple of months, and former Stars staples skating for them.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 20: (L-R) Alex Ovechkin

Washington Capitals (#1 – Metro)

Pros: Alexander Ovechkin is perhaps the greatest pure goal-scorer of all-time, and yet has never lifted the elusive Stanley Cup. Ovi, the perennially underrated Nicklas Backstrom, and the thought of redemption for a team mired in postseason mediocrity for a decade are three great reasons to root for the Capitals in April, May, and June.

Cons: Remember when the Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2017 NBA title? What we lost that night was the glorious set of “Kevin Durant has never won the championship” jokes. If we are stripped of the same humor with Ovechkin, a part of me will die.

Former Stars: defenseman Matt Niskanen, right wing Alex Chiasson.

Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card #1)

Pros: The Blue Jackets have long waited to be a contender. An expansion team in 2000, the Jackets have never won a single playoff series, as a city starved for hockey success has maybe its best shot ever. Likable young guns like Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones make for a formidable lineup, and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky is capable of stealing a series.

Cons: John Tortorella will somehow find a way to play Matt Calvert and Brandon Dubinsky for 35 minutes a night because Artemi Panarin didn’t block a shot with his face. Tortorella is the most intolerable head coach in hockey, and to see him succeed would put hockey back 20 years in time.

Former Stars: None.

Pittsburgh Penguins (#2 – Metro)

Pros: The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoiled us for the past decade and change with two of the most transcendent talents to ever lace up a pair of skates: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In addition, playmaking superstars Phil Kessel and Kris Letang make head coach Mike Sullivan‘s offense-first gameplay system even more fun.

Cons: For the same reason we naturally root against the New England Patriots and the New York Yankees, few people like to see a reign of dynastic dominance. A third-consecutive Stanley Cup in the Steel City would only be that.

Former Stars: defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.

Philadelphia Flyers (#3 – Metro)

Pros: An unbelievable resurgence from Claude Giroux and the emergence of youthful Selke Trophy contender Sean Couturier are reasons to like this club. That, and we get a Pittsburgh vs Philly postseason series – as an unbiased fan, that stuff is amazing and exhilarating. By the way, Ivan Provorov is everything.

Cons: Dave Hakstol is like a calm John Tortorella, so to speak. Also, and this really isn’t on the Flyers, but Philly sports, man! The Eagles win the super bowl, Villanova wins the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the 76ers are in the postseason… this city doesn’t deserve a Cup the way other, more championship-starved markets do.

Former Stars: defenseman Johnny Oduya.

TAMPA, FL – APRIL 3: Nikita Kucherov

Tampa Bay Lightning (#1 – Atlantic)

Pros: This team is everything that’s right with hockey. Playmaking forwards, offensively-gifted defensemen, a Vezina caliber goaltender, and a head coach (Jon Cooper) that seems to condone offense-first hockey. They’re in a non-traditional hockey market like ours, and they play the way every team should: fast and fun.

Cons: 1) Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning fight with hunger and inspiration is enthralling. If they win a Cup, the last step of their long climb, that exciting team that fights and claws for a Stanley Cup Final will be gone. 2) They willingly employ Dan Girardi.

Former Stars: None.

New Jersey Devils (Wild Card #2)

Pros: The trade was one-for-one, and Taylor Hall on the Devils has been nothing short of top-class entertainment. With Hall and speedy, young players like 2017 number-one pick Nico Hischier and 19-year-old Jesper Bratt, the Devils are already ahead of schedule in terms of being able to compete and look poised to play the role of spoilers in 2018.

Cons: Weren’t the Devils, like, just dominant? The Martin Brodeur days of perpetual postseason qualification seem all too recent for this team, after a five-year playoff drought, to be on the doorstep of another lengthy run of Cup chances. Though the Devils are fun, it isn’t their time yet – they had 13-15 years of that.

Former Stars: None.

Boston Bruins (#2 – Atlantic)

Pros: This team plays fast and their defense is constantly circulating the puck up the ice, allowing for crisp, exciting hockey. Boston is a great, original-six hockey town and postseason games at TD Garden always seem like a blast. Patrice Bergeron is a saint, also.

Cons: I cannot stand the Bruins, and everything I typed above is garbage. Brad Marchand might be the least enjoyable player to watch in the NHL, and rooting for the B’s means rooting for Marchand; count me out.

Former Stars: None. Definitely not Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow, or Matt Fraser.

Toronto Maple Leafs (#3 – Atlantic)

Pros: There ain’t a team in the National Hockey League that can mix grit-and-grind hockey with blazing speed like the Leafs can. Young leaders like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner join forces with useful veterans Patrick Marleau and James van Riemsdyk to create a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. Plus, Nazem Kadri is one of my favorite players in the sport.

Cons: Do y’all know how funny it is to say that a Canadian NHL team hasn’t won the Cup since 1994? If you answered yes, then yeah, that’s exactly why the Leafs cannot win.

Former Stars: None.


Nashville Predators (#1 – Central)

Pros: The Nashville Predators have the most loaded roster in the league. The defending Western Conference champs boast four number-one defensemen (P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm) and a bounty of speedy young forwards like Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. The NHL would be a better place – a way better place – if every team built their club like the Preds.

Cons: Nashville made us look stupid this season, going 3-1-0 against the Stars while outscoring Dallas 14-7. They’re the team we should be: ruling the Central Division and making quick work of the postseason. It’s completely understandable if you’re too bitter to pull for this team in their Cup run.

Former Stars: none.

Colorado Avalanche (Wild Card #2)

Pros: Nathan MacKinnon is Nathan MacKinnon, and he’s basically the whole reason as to why the Avalanche are playing playoff hockey. This team is far more likable than the Patrick Roy-led Avs; an underdog looking to play ultimate spoiler against a team that did likewise last season. Also, former AHL Rookie of the Year Mikko Rantanen can ball.

Cons: The Avalanche traded All-Star and Olympian Matt Duchene earlier this season and just stormed to a postseason spot. If Colorado makes a serious run, it’s not great for the NHL to think that you can trade one of your top players and take a swing at the Cup regardless. That screams parity and an absurd lack of super talent at the top, and few casual fans like that.

Former Stars: defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

Winnipeg Jets (#2 – Central)

Pros: The Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise has never won a playoff game – 0-8 in eight tries. This team, led by Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Mark Scheifele, scores at will (277 regular season tallies, second-best in NHL) and can play smash-mouth, defensively sound hockey that can help them win in the playoffs. This city deserves it.

Cons: The Jets are set up for the future with their youth at all positions. 2018 will not be the last year they compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup, not at all. A team with more rugged, old veterans with no Cups, in a way, deserves it a little more. Also, Laine is trying to steal my neck beard crown, and I will not have it.

Former Stars: defenseman Joseph Morrow.

Minnesota Wild (#3 – Central)

Pros: As soon as NHL experts wrote off Eric Staal, the All-Star forward came roaring back with a 42-goal season that is sure to garner the 33-year-old Hart Trophy votes for the first time since 2012-13. Staal is just the beginning of a team with some unique personalities and skilled players, as the Wild look to ride Staal, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Ryan Suter to Cup immortality.

Cons: They call themselves “The State of Hockey” and never, EVER, stop whining about losing their previous NHL team to Dallas, Texas. They have a banner up at Xcel Energy Center that honors “Wild fans,” and retires the #1, never to be used by the franchise. They are the most self important franchise in professional sports, and rooting for them is to root for a group with a grossly exaggerated estimation of their own value.

Former Stars: None.

EDMONTON, AB – APRIL 5: Oscar Lindberg

Vegas Golden Knights (#1 – Pacific)

Pros: The greatest expansion team in the history of North American sports, and it isn’t particularly close. The Golden Knights, behind heroic seasons from Jon Marchessault and William Karlsson, have proved almost all of us wrong by winning the Pacific Division and look to be the only first-year team to ever win the Stanley Cup. Also, Gerard Gallant is a top-five coach in hockey.

Cons: How many un-climbable mountains remain in sports? We had a #16 seed beating a #1 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, we had the Miracle on Ice, or the Wild Card New York Giants besting the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl. If we have an expansion team running away with the Stanley Cup in their first year in existence, we lose that special, uncertain chase in sports. To pull for the Golden Knights would mean wishing for the peaceful variability of sports to perish.

Former Stars: forwards Cody Eakin, James Neal, and Reilly Smith, and goaltender Maxime Lagace.

Los Angeles Kings (Wild Card #1)

Pros: This L.A. Kings team is not the Darryl Sutter, bump-and-grind, run the cycle, win 2-1 team that bores the heck out of everyone. New head coach John Stevens has this team playing an energetic brand of hockey that has seemingly rejuvenated their star players; Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are back to their productive ways and Jonathan Quick is playing like an elite goalie again after taking home his second Jennings Trophy.

Cons: The Chicago Blackhawks came and went. The Detroit Red Wings came and went. The Pittsburgh Penguins will eventually follow suit. The Kings, however, will not die. We can’t seem to rid ourselves of the club with boring, gross black and silver jerseys playing meaningful hockey late into Spring – especially as the league attempts to shove noted pile of garbage Drew Doughty down our throats. The Kings are the team of yesterday, and I’m tired of them.

Former Stars: goaltender Jack Campbell.

Anaheim Ducks (#2 – Pacific)

Pros: I love how much the city of Anaheim – where two of the most electric players in MLB compete – embraces the NHL. They are a prototype for what a non-traditional hockey market should be, and the run of success with Ryan Getzlaf and that guy who wears #10 is admirable. Other than that, their combo of size and speed can be pretty entertaining to watch, and Rickard Rakell can really make it rip.

Cons: I know the Dallas Stars are no longer in the Pacific Division, but Ducks-Stars still feels like somewhat of a rivalry, and we shouldn’t be rooting for our rivals. On an unrelated note, Corey Perry exists and plays for the Anaheim Ducks. One last thing (I could go on), the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, the year after they shortened their name from “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim,” and that still upsets me. Screw this team.

Former Stars: forward Patrick Eaves.

San Jose Sharks (#3 – Pacific)

Pros: The Sharks are neat, and alongside the Ducks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, create an instant California rivalry to keep an eye on. Logan Couture is perhaps the most underappreciated forward in hockey and can drive offense at will, in addition to fellow puck-moving wizards Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski. They’re a heavy, old-school team when they need to be, but kick it up a notch with speed and scoring in the postseason.

Cons: Burns stole a Norris Trophy from Erik Karlsson, and he needs to soon be repaid, in the form of another early playoff elimination. That and the thought of supporting Evander Kane in his try to capture the Stanley Cup really turns me off of the Sharks.

Former Stars: defenseman Brenden Dillon.

All in all, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a factory of sadness and despair for Dallas Stars fans for a long time. We are so accustomed to having to pick new teams for the months of Spring that sometimes it gets a little difficult to. Hopefully this helps, and that next year I don’t have to write this again.