In an 82-game season, one night shouldn’t do much to define a team’s year. But if a single dropped point has the power to crush a franchise, it showed in the Dallas Stars’ Wednesday night loss to the Maple Leafs.
Dallas first came back from an early 2-0 deficit in Toronto, then held both a 4-2 lead and a 5-4 lead. But a Patrick Marleau goal with 16 seconds remaining sent the game to overtime, and Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney stoned the Stars in a shootout. Even worse, the Stars followed it up on Friday night with another fall-from-ahead extra-time defeat, this time to the lowly Ottawa Senators. It was Dallas’s sixth loss in seven games, and this back-to-back stretch was symbolic of this entire current Stars era—a waste of a great opportunity.
Dallas now sits in a tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot, sharing their record of 84 points with three other teams. With ten games left, they’re in a precarious spot and trending towards a worse one.
Normally, that’s just tough luck, but this potential lost Stars season is particularly disappointing because it means another wasted prime year for one of the most dynamic duos in hockey—Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Together, Benn (25 goals) and Seguin (38) have scored 31 percent of their team’s goals. Throw in 25 more from Alexander Radulov—an older Russian transplant who’s having his best NHL year yet—and you have the only three guys worth worrying about when Dallas is down late in a game. The Stars are a stingy defensive team—allowing only 29.7 shots per game—but the forwards they most depend on are the pieces that make this team fun. For just one example, Seguin’s OT winner against Boston in January remains a top candidate for goal of the year:
The prevailing wisdom in today’s NHL, however, says that a top-heavy team isn’t the best path to success. Better to invest in building a solid all-around roster than spend a lot of money on just one or two superstars, goes the thinking. It’s a smart strategy, for sure, but it can also be just a little less fun. The fact that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl won’t feature in this year’s playoffs, just because the rest of the Edmonton roster is absolute butt, makes everything less compelling.
It’s the same with Seguin, a 26-year-old stud who’s only featured in one postseason game since 2015, and Benn, who’s on his eighth season in Dallas with still just one playoff series win to show for it. The playoffs are supposed to be when the best players in the NHL all go up against each other, but if Dallas can’t turn it around, the West is going to be a lot of solid teams with only a few must-see guys.