NHL Power Rankings: Have the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning Mailed It In?

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NHL Power Rankings: Have the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning Mailed It In?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Have the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning given up on making the playoffs already?

It seems absurd, given that the Stars are actually in the playoff picture in the Western Conference and the Lightning are only six points away from the threshold out East and play in the league’s weakest division, but Dallas has traded away its captain and Tampa has fired its coach this week.

The Stars traded Brenden Morrow, the heart and soul of their club, to Pittsburgh over the weekend. He is 34 years old and the Stars got a defensive prospect and fifth-round pick in return, meaning that the move should pay off in time, but that’s just the point: It appears that they’re already looking to the future.

I know that this team has been ravaged by a bankruptcy and is having trouble selling tickets, but it seems like it is too early to mail it in this season.

Even though the Stars are the eighth seed right now, there is a bubble of teams reaching down to No. 12 in the West that all have the same amount of points. San Jose, Nashville, Columbus and Phoenix are all in that mix. The Sharks are the most talented club of the bunch, and perhaps the Stars have come to the realization that they have to hedge their bets in case the team misses the playoffs…again.

As for the Lightning, this is a team that I felt should win the Southeast Division at the beginning of the season. They have some of the greatest players in the league: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Victor Hedman. Not only that, but they picked up Anders Lindback and Matt Carle in the offseason and have a budding star in Cory Conacher.

But this team could never figure things out this year—especially on defense.

Guy Boucher was considered a hockey mastermind when he took over the Lightning coaching job three years ago. His meteoric rise through the major junior and American league ranks was driven by his trap philosophy, which got figured out at the game’s highest level.

Tampa Bay went to the Eastern Conference Finals in the first year under his direction, but missed them last year and dropped to the league cellar this season.

There are two ways to look at each situation: Either these teams are making a move to shake things up and make a playoff push, or they have one eye on the future while keeping another one on the road ahead.

If I’m a fan of either the Stars or Lightning, I’m a bit worried about my team right now. Both Dallas and Tampa need to show their supporters that they are still interested in winning this year if they expect anyone to show up to games down the homestretch. The moves they’ve made this week indicate that they are focused on building toward a brighter future at the expense of winning right now.  

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