The running joke with the Dallas Stars is that this entire season is their version of “The Last Dance,” minus the championships, titles and victory parades.
When Tom Gaglardi bought the franchise and saved it from bankruptcy in November of 2011, he thought he had a nucleus similar to the Chicago Blackhawks when that franchise was in a run of winning three Stanley Cups in seven years.
Gaglardi has owned the franchise for 11 seasons, and it just has not quite lined up to win one Cup, much less three.
On Sunday night in Calgary, the Stars completed the historic back-to-back Game 7s for the primary tenants at the American Airlines Center.
Unlike the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Stars season is over.
Despite a historic performance from goalie Jake Oettinger, who stopped damn near everything but COVID, the Stars lost 3-2 in overtime against the Flames.
Oettinger stopped 61 shots but it was the one he barely allowed in at the 15:09 mark of overtime that ended it.
The Flames won the series, 4-3; given the putrid nature of the Stars offense, the club should consider throwing a parade for Oettinger.
Oettinger is the only reason this was a game, and a series.
On Sunday night, the Stars had 28 shots to the Flames’ 64.
Despite an entertaining regular season, and first round playoff series, Sunday’s result changes little about the state of the team.
One team executive said during the season they were in the worst place, right in the middle. They were good enough to be good. They were not good enough to be more than that.
In a salary-capped NHL, it’s a common problem.
Gaglardi must acknowledge what GM Jim Nill built needs major help. This team can’t score.
This team has one line that can score, and it’s not comprised of their highest paid players. This is a major problem.
Gaglardi will need to decide if Nill is the right man to proceed with the re-tool, and if coach Rick Bowness wants to keep doing this.
Nill has one year remaining on his contract. Bowness is 67, and his contract has expired.
There is some disagreement within the organization if Nill, who has been the club’s GM since 2013, is the right guy.
He has done some good.
He traded for Tyler Seguin. Nill signed veteran Joe Pavelsky, who had a lot more left than many observers thought when he left San Jose as a free agent.
Nill oversaw the 2017 draft where the Stars selected Miro Heiskanen, Oettinger and forward Jason Robertson.
Nill has his share of duds.
He spent too much on defenseman Sergei Gonchar. He spent too much on Jason Spezza. The gamble to draft Russian Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft was a whiff.
The monster contract Nill handed Seguin will bother this team for years.
In Nill’s nine seasons, the team has reached the playoffs five times, and the Stanley Cup Final once.
This is not a terrible resume.
That 2020 Cup final appearance was the best development for Nill, and the worst development for the Stars.
The Stars reaching the Stanley Cup Final, in the Edmonton bubble, filled the front office with a sense of false security.
It led everyone involved to believe the team was just a bit better than it is.
Both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are the Stars’ two highest paid players, and neither finished in the top three on the team in scoring even though both are “top six” forwards.
Benn doesn’t look finished, and he doesn’t look like Jamie Benn.
He played all 82 games, and scored a pedestrian 46 points. He’s going to be 33, and with 13 NHL seasons on his body he’s so no longer a dominant player.
He scored the Stars’ first goal on Sunday night. He had one other assist in the series, and he now looks like a third line player.
He has three years remaining on his contract.
Seguin will turn 31 this year, and he has five years remaining on his contract. Injuries have slowed him in the last three years.
The team’s leading scorer, Pavelski, is 37. He will not repeat another 80-plus point season.
The Stars elected not to trade defenseman John Klingberg earlier this season, and he will likely leave in free agency. There is no way the Stars will be able to afford him.
The Stars are a decent team, with some NHL stars in their lineup.
But until this team adds a few more scorers, they are not good enough to dance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.