A dramatically shortened season is the only chance for NHL hockey this year. What it would mean for the Stars?
The NHL lockout enters month number five of no hockey and the possibility of any games being played is on its last legs. A cut-off date has been set at Jan. 19, the last possible date that a feasible shortened schedule could be played (in this case, 48 games).
Once again, there are talks of how both sides are getting closer, but the agonizingly painful negotiation process is still ongoing. Instead of those same ole details over and over again, we're here to talk about something else today. What would a 48 game schedule look like for the Stars?
We'll start with the main problem a shortened schedule would be for Dallas, the hellish travel. Dallas is still in the Pacific Division so they would once again enter the season with the worst travel schedule in the league. Winnipeg might also have something to gripe about but the league is talking about moving them to the Western Conference and Columbus to the east to alleviate their travel concerns. The Stars would get no such gift.
As many as half of the 48 games would be played against those division foes. 24 games played back and forth between Dallas and the West Coast teams can really wear on a person, especially in a four month span. There's already complain enough about the grueling travel with a full season so imagine how tough it would be with even less rest in-between games and flights. Every other team in the league would have a huge advantage on the Stars in terms of travel and scheduling, especially without inter-conference games.
However, aside from those travel concerns, the shortened schedule would actually be quite beneficial to Dallas.
This team signed a couple of players during the offseason, Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney (remember them?), that are in their 40's (as Mike Gundy might say, they're now men) and a long season plus the travel could have really done a number to their body. A shortened schedule keeps them fresher, even with Jagr playing overseas at the moment and Whitney doing uhhhh... whatever he's up to with all his free time (seriously, anyone know?). They can go all-out each and every night if need be and that can only help.
Another guy that the Stars acquired, Derek Roy, is now fully recovered from his shoulder surgery and ready to anchor the Stars' second line. Dallas would have been without him for three or more months if there was a full season but now they would have the full complement of players to roll out there.
Missing Roy would have left a huge whole at the center position that Tom Wandell has no chance of filling. This would be a fantastic boost to their team to be able to roll out a top-six that's actually worthy.
He might have some conditioning issues, but that can be easily solved with some time with the Texas Stars before the short training camp or the season starts. The two teams run similar systems so he could learn on the fly down in Austin and have some grasp on how this team runs its offense when he's called up.
Another bright spot might be Brenden Morrow finally being fully healthy. He's been beat up for the past three years and has never been 100%. With the extended rest, Stars fans might finally see some resemblance of the player that became the captain of the team.
Another positive that could come out of this shortened season would be the end of season issues that Dallas has been plagued with lately. For the past four seasons, the Stars have entered the final two months of the season firmly in a playoff spot and each and every time they've collapsed down the stretch.
Who knows what the reason is for the late season troubles. They might just have run out of gas, or caved to the pressure or just flat out didn't have enough talent. With a shortened season, the Stars shouldn't collapse at the end of the season due to the simple fact that there are fewer games. While those games might be more intense, it still shouldn't be as grueling as a full 82, even with the travel.
The added players in the forward position should shore up the talent issue and Whitney and Jagr should help the mental aspect of things as they've been there and done that. Both guys have won the Cup before and Jagr has done it all with MVP's and World Championships and Olympic gold medals. When it's the critical junction of the schedule, guys like that are invaluable. It doesn't take long for guys like those two to get used to the team and they can help ease the burden on Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson better by leaps and bounds.
There's been a lot of pessimism about the NHL because of the lockout but Dallas Stars fans should be optimistic about the team's playoff chances if a deal is reached and a 48-game schedule is on the docket. With the way sports teams are going at the moment in the Metroplex, we could all use some cheering up.