You Talking to Me?
The other day while browsing through Facebook (avoiding as many political rants and pictures of food as humanly possible) I came across a dated link from my old Channel 8 Weather guru Troy Dungan. It connected to the American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. Rather than actually do something productive, I immediately clicked to see if I agreed with the countdown. The list is nearly ten years old but some of the quotes immediately struck me as being applicable to the Dallas Stars. This is a team that Hollywood could covet. The Stars are young, talented and have marquee worthy names. Throw in a bunch of vampires in love or Jennifer Lawrence archery scenes and we could be talking a long running brand with many sequels to come. But before we start thinking about Dallas Star Wars Episode 2014-15, let’s see where this list and this hockey team intersect:
#100: “I'm the king of the world!” (Titanic)
No one would have blamed General Manager Jim Nill if he ran down the hallway of the Stars office in Frisco screaming this line on July 1. Nearly every NHL team wanted Jason Spezza. Jim Nill got the job done. In two seasons the Stars have gone from having an out-of-position Jamie Benn and Derrick Roy as their top two pivots, to a tandem of Tyler Seguin and Spezza. To win in the West, you have to be strong up the middle and with Seguin, Spezza, Eakin and Fiddler, Dallas can match up with any team in the conference.
Not movie titles but after completing the UFA period by signing Ales Hemsky and getting Vernon Fiddler to return, Nill would have been easily justified if he wanted to sing “Happy” or “The Man” as well. But as we all know, it’s not Nill’s style. Respect, hard work and belief in your people are what sets him and his organization apart from the rest, so no dancing in public…..yet
#98 “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” (Dirty Dancing)
Actually this should read “Nobody puts the Baby Stars in a corner.” It was an impressive run to the AHL Calder Cup Championship for the Texas Stars. Not only was Patrik Nemeth’s Championship winning goal one for the ages but it was one for the future. Many felt the NHL club needed to make a move for defensemen but the run to the championship showed the kids are ready to take the next step. Nemeth, Oleksiak, Gaunce, Jokipakka and Klingberg will get their chance to prove they belong. Not content just to be put in a corner but to battle in the corner behind Kari Lehtonen.
#70 “Is it safe?” (Marathon Man)
In a word…NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’m talking to you Tyler Seguin. It was a remarkable year as Seguin answered all his critics and became the first Dallas Star to ever finish in the NHL top ten in goals and scoring in the same year. Heck, things went so well he even returned to Twitter. I even laughed out loud at the trick “tee shot” from his golf tournament. BUT...more than once we’ve seen people ground their driver at charity events. Dallas fans everywhere would be devastated if Seguin missed time because he became a human divot. Great trick, but please retire it until you do.
#61”Say 'hello' to my little friend!” (Scarface)
Not so long ago, Jordie Benn could have replaced the word friend with brother and no one would have thought twice. Heading into 2014-15, Jamie Benn is firmly established as team captain, locker room leader, gold medalist and considered by some to be one of the top five forwards in the NHL. Little (friend) brother is not only the face of the franchise but an emerging star in the DFW sports market just Mike Modano was two decades ago. Jamie Benn, no introduction needed.
#49 “It's alive! It's alive!” (Frankenstein)
There is another force in green (Victory Green) that has returned from the dead. It was just two years ago that a mention of the Stars in the offseason would be greeted by yawns and apathy. This time, it’s a much different feeling, a buzz about what is to come. From seeing billboards in places like Corsicana and Mesquite to taking a caravan on the road to boost social media awareness, the Stars are gaining notice throughout Texas. There is an optimism and excitement about 2014-15. It’s easy to say “There is a New Star Rising” but another thing completely to make it happen on and off the ice.
#11 “What we've got here is failure to communicate.” (Cool Hand Luke)
The reason for this line being here is not because it applies to the Stars but the exact opposite. Lindy Ruff and his staff make sure every player knows what is expected and how to play Dallas Stars’ style of hockey. Ruff had never coached in the West and had to indoctrinate a new organization into his system. Most of the teaching happened on the fly during the regular season. The fact that the Stars made the playoffs and played their best hockey of the year during the stretch run shows what experience and staying consistent means to a team. For next season, the Stars core knows how to play the Ruff style and new pieces will blend with more ease and quickness. It’s all about being on the same page. Failure is not an option because “Failure to Communicate” is not an issue.
Unfortunately none of AFI’s top quotes fit in specifically with the Stars. “I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse”, may have been uttered by Blackhawks fans toward Antoine Roussel. (Or maybe that’s how Jim Nill signed Antoine to a new four year deal) “May the Force be with you” could be telepathically sent to Kari Lehtonen from 18,000 fans as he stares down the opposition in the first round of a shoot out. But to sum up where this franchise is headed, a quote from a comic book turned mediocre movie franchise comes to mind:
“With great power comes great responsibility”
Technically, the offseason started on April 27, but with an AHL championship, more big moves in talent acquisition, preparing for the draft and then developmental camp, time off for hockey operations really began just a few days ago. As the days of summer become shorter and the countdown to Training Camp begins, there is a mutual feeling of anticipation and pressure to perform. For the first time in years the Stars head into a season with a heightened sense of optimism and expectation. In the recent past, just making the playoffs was the benchmark of a successful campaign. Going into to 2014-15, there is a feeling that playing an 83rd meaningful game is just the beginning. Anyone in the AAC for the playoffs felt the sensation of being part of something special. Ticket sales are up. Talk about the Stars is positive and constant. The roster on paper is as talented as we have seen in a decade. With momentum heading in the right direction, the organization is in position to take things to the next level on the ice and in the marketplace. Owner Tom Gaglardi vowed to make this organization a model franchise again. In 2014-15, it has the possibility to make that promise come true. Young players need to step up and talented cornerstones must continue their ascension. With great power comes great responsibility as fans and the DFW sports marketplace are expecting significant upward movement this season. To regain the Stars’ place in the local sports hierarchy and to be a Stanley Cup contender you accept that role and expect to succeed. After a long march through the wilderness this franchise now has the power and the responsibility to be something special. We do know one thing for sure about the upcoming season, if someone was to ask, “Are you not entertained?” The answer is certain to be “Yes!”
See you in September.