This morning's standings tell you all you need to know about where this season sits:
8. Detroit 80
9. Calgary 79
10. St Louis 75
11. Minnesota 74
12. Dallas 73
13. Anaheim 72
With a dozen games to go, the Stars are in a spot where they need to leap 4 teams, make up 7 points, and take a gigantic leap in our imaginations that suggest they could possibly string together somewhere in the range of 5 consecutive wins, in a season where they have yet to win 3 straight. All the while, this needs to happen at the same moment that Detroit and Calgary go on prolonged losing skids.
I think you know where I am going with this.
The main reason why I tried to keep the excitement of a 8-2 spanking of the San Jose Sharks contained is that in the course of 82 games, there are simply statistical anomalies. All good teams will have a few games where they look horrid, and all horrid teams will have a few games where they look good.
To prove the win versus Washington last week or the win versus San Jose actually had bigger meaning, the Stars would have to follow up those efforts with similar showings that we could then suggest constitute a trend.
No such luck.
After Washington, the Stars lost to Buffalo, Los Angeles (In OT), and Colorado. And after the San Jose win, the Stars played reasonably well against Philadelphia, but in the end they were on the short end of a 3-2 result.
Disappointing and maddening altogether. It sure doesn't appear to be effort or desire. But, in the end, I keep coming back to the same conclusion.
This team is just not good enough.
There are a dozen reasons why they aren't good enough - some of which I have written about extensively, others I will write about extensively - but, the only thing that really matters is the bottom line; close to being in the playoff mix, but for the 2nd year in a row, it looks like they will both miss the playoffs and pick in the Top 10 of the upcoming NHL draft.
On the positive side, I do want to point out a few more reasons why I think the Stars have a reasonable future waiting for them. Nik Grossman has returned and played very well. I think his assist to Steve Ott could very well be the finest assist of his career, but we all know any offense from #2 is a strict bonus. The reason I love him is that I think on his best nights, he is extremely solid in his own end. Just composed and steady, seldom making a horrible mistake, and generally worthy of a proper +/- as bad things don't seem to happen too much when he is on the ice.
Jamie Benn has looked better and better as the post-Olympic portion of the season rolls on. There have been several games where the Stars youngest player looks like their best. He has not hit that rookie wall (perhaps that 2 week break is to credit) and he looks like his transition to center is going pretty well. Whether he stays there will be determined, but to make that transition on top of a transition to NHL hockey and look like he is not facing struggles that are too big for him is a real positive sign. I can't wait to see what he develops into.
And finally, Kari Lehtonen. I surely must temper my enthusiasm as we cannot judge a goaltender on a few starts, but I really like what I see so far. He is big, he seems confident, and he is surprisingly nimble with what are impressive toe saves on both nights during this stretch where #32 has been between the pipes. He cuts down the angle with a confident push, he seems to generally find the puck, he gets back to his feet, and he has not allowed the softie. Again, the true goalie is not proven in March of a season when you miss the playoffs, but we now see what the Stars saw when they thought his trade was worth the price. A young, talented goalie who might be your next #1 and is just entering his prime. Let's hope.
These 3 players are not enough to put the Stars over the top, but when you add them to Neal, Loui, and some of the other kids, mix in the veterans who we already know - you can project that the Stars are not too far away with some shrewd off-season moves.
But, there is work to be done.