On the Radar: Everywhere You Look
The Dallas Stars slogan at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season was, "A New Star is Rising." It was a fitting slogan for this year's team. After all, with the redesigned logo, it literally was a different star. And there were a number of first-year members, from the players, to the coaches, and the front office. Undoubtedly, there could be am emphasis on new. But the slogan was meant to be more than any literal definition. It was symbolic of the fact that after a dark period of unsuccessful seasons, the team - in fact, every facet of the organization - was on the rise.
It has been just about a month since the Stars season came to an end. Almost everyone could immediately and unanimously agree that the NHL team was indeed on an upward path. The pieces seem in place for the Stars to continue to keep taking strides forward in the coming years. Tyler Seguin finished fourth in league scoring. Jamie Benn finished tied for eighth in NHL scoring, became a Canadian hockey hero in the Olympics, and was probably the best player on either side in the opening round playoff series with the Ducks. Kari Lehtonen led the NHL in games played by a goaltender, and came up with several huge wins down the stretch to lead the Stars to the postseason. He and Valeri Nichushkin, who showed flashes of brilliance as a teenager throughout his rookie season, also shined on the global stage in Sochi. Additionally, the Stars had breakout seasons from guys like Ryan Garbutt and Cody Eakin. Even veterans like Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski put together their best campaigns in years. The examples were plentiful, but the thesis was the same. These new Stars were definitely rising.
But now, four weeks after Dallas has stopped playing hockey for the summer, the Stars are still managing to turn heads. And once again, the hockey world is learning that this organization, and all of its parts, are still finding ways to make headlines.
Despite the NHL trimming down to its final four, there is hockey going on elsewhere are the Stars are well represented. The World Championships are entering their Quarterfinal stage this week, and one of the biggest storylines of the tournament is the emerging play of Stars forward Antoine Roussel. The feisty Dallas winger currently leads Team France, and is second in overall scoring in the tournament with 6 goals and 11 points in 7 games. His terrific play has led France to the Quarterfinals for the first time in 19 years. (Don't worry though, Stars fans. Roussel also has the second most penalty minutes of anyone in the top-30 in scoring, and he's tied for 15th most in the tournament, so the guy you know and love is still very much the same.)
Elsewhere, the biggest tournament in junior hockey is nearing its close, and the Stars have a man at the center of it all. Jason Dickinson, who the Stars selected with the 29th pick in the first round last summer, is currently the #2 center on the Guelph Storm. Guelph will play later this week in the championship game of the Memorial Cup, and Dickinson will be looked to as a key figure in the contest. So far this postseason, Dickinson has been outstanding. He finished with 24 points (8g, 16a) in 20 OHL Playoff games, helping Guelph to the league championship. He has added a goal and an assist in two games in the Memorial Cup. This all comes as a follow up to his career-high totals of 26 goals, 78 points, and a plus-42 rating in 68 regular season games for Guelph. The Stars claimed Dickinson with the pick they got in the deal that sent Jaromir Jagr to Boston last April. They are hoping it turns into a trade that keeps paying off for the Stars for years to come, and at 18 years old Dickinson's future looks extremely bright.
Stretching to minor league hockey, the Stars are on the map there as well. The American Hockey League - which is one step below the NHL in North American professional hockey - is also down to its Conference Finals. Dallas' minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars, just got finished eliminating last year's AHL champs in the second round, and will now be the higher seed in a semifinal series beginning Friday. In previous editions here, we've covered the connections between the AHL and NHL Stars, and it is highly probable that many of the guys in Cedar Park will make their way to Dallas in the not-too-distant future.
The Stars NHL season was a success. Now, if you look at international, junior, or minor league hockey, you see more of the same. Around the corner will come free agency, a trade market, and a draft, where once again the club will look for positive results. When the Stars talked about creating a new identity, this is what they meant. A successful organization. Top to bottom. In all forms. The 2013-2014 season is over. It has been for several weeks now. But the slogan lives on. Even in the summer, everywhere you look, the Stars are still rising. If the team can remain on the path they're building, this is what you can expect to see from the Stars for years to come.
Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for the Stars radio broadcasts. He can be heard 30 minutes before face-off and immediately after games all season long on SportsRadio 1310AM and 96.7FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.