There is always a level of sadness when a playoff series ends. How do you reflect on it? Do you analyze everything that went wrong? Maybe you run to CapFriendly — desperate to create a Dallas Stars team that can win.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. Looking at the statistics, the salary cap, and the numerical expectations is valuable. But put that aside, take a step back, and just feel for a moment.
With this Dallas Stars team and the battle against the Calgary Flames there is sadness, but the writing was on the wall. When the Flames leapt in celebration and the Stars embraced Jake Oettinger in comfort, the result wasn’t shocking. The team played just as expected and as they had all season — a glimmer of hope before loss.
The record-setting efforts of Oettinger were not enough. Joe Pavelski defying age, as usual, was not enough. The American Airlines Center bursting with playoffs energy for the first time since 2019 was not enough. This team wasn’t enough.
We had seen this film 82 times before. The only consistent thing about this season was the inconsistency. The trials and defeats, the extreme highs and lows of Stars hockey became a familiar rhythm. A winning streak was approached with bated breath as the string of losses was sure to follow.
Nearly every game lineup released caused some degree of uproar, and usually because young talent was being shackled or hidden. This was the case in the playoffs too. Thomas Harley did not play despite a lackluster power play and the same old scoring struggles. Jacob Peterson played three games with typical limited ice time. Despite certain veterans looking visibly tired, the youth continued to be held back.
Then there are stories like Jake Oettinger. We witnessed growth from his rookie season in overtime and shootouts. The Dallas team that gave up a three-goal lead to the Arizona Coyotes and lost was still able to clinch due to Oettinger’s shootout win against Vegas the prior game. He took these game saving moments from the regular season and supercharged them. And we witnessed literal history in the playoffs.
Oh, and that Vegas game? The only goals were scored by Jason Robertson with a Miro Heiskanen shootout winner. They continued these efforts into the playoffs. These younger stars were a shining part of the season. Going forward, this young core will drive the Stars’ success.
Nostalgia has its place too. We may have witnessed the last time several players will wear the Victory Green, most notably Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg. With injuries and age, the once dominant line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Radulov found themselves separated. Radulov was healthy scratched during both the regular season and playoffs.
Klingberg found some fire after a disappointing season filled with contract noise and became public enemy no.1 for the Calgary Flames. That was fun. Very strange, but fun. If he stays in Dallas maybe that was the start of him finding his groove again.
All of these stories point to something. They show that what happened in this first round series had already been experienced in the regular season. This was nothing new, everything is just more heightened because, well, it’s for the cup.
So there is sadness, but there is hope. There is resignation, but then comes excitement. A new coaching staff will be behind the bench next season. The kids are thriving in juniors. And even after the losses, this team still has heart.
Those pesky petty Dallas Stars. They never go down without a fight, they wait till the last minute to try and win, and they’ll induce the most stress possible with the least goals scored. Incredibly infuriating to watch at times, but when their play bothers others all we do is laugh and crave more. And that’s because the pesky mentality isn’t just for the team. That’s ours too.