Something significant happened during last night's overtime loss in Edmonton. It was neither the ringing of the post in back to back games by James Neal, nor the significant playing time handed to Tom Wandell.
It was that for the first time, no member of the 1999 Stanley Cup winning team was represented on the ice or bench.
Although many Stars fans may cite this change as a bad thing, it isn't. If anything, I take pride that this Stars team has an identity without long time Stars superstar, Mike Modano. Do I love Mike? Hell yeah! However, to be realistic, if this team is going to get back to the Stanley Cup, it must adopt a new image and not try to fit the mold set in 1999.
The transformation began a couple years ago. However, last year's disappointment made clear how far the team needs to go and how difficult the process will be. Now, finally, the Stars have an abundance of young talent.
The Dallas Stars of the glory days were hardened veterans. They had grown up (in minor league play) elsewhere and were either signed or traded in.
In today's NHL, gaining talent that way can be like looking for a golden goose. Furthermore, as the Stars found out, even if you sign a stellar name to a solid deal it can still blow up in your face. So where does this leave a team looking to build a champion?
First, many Stars fans have to order straight Jack Daniel’s or pop pills to cope with the realism of last year. It was likely one of the most disappointing years to Lone Star State hockey fans since the move from the frozen north of Minnesota.
While it was a terrible year don’t get caught up in referring to it as “bad". Last year had a bad record, but only good things will come from it. Already the team has been retrofitted with staff who bring in a new concept. GM Joe Nieuwendyk and new coach, Marc Crawford, have given the Stars a new identity off the ice, but for their concepts to work, the on-ice product must change as well.
Returning to a previous point, no '99 Stars on the ice last night is a sign of the team moving in the right direction. Recognizable names on the roster now include Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Niklas Grossman and rookie Jamie Benn. Guess where they came from... not trades, but minor league development.
While most of these Stars knew Iowa as their AHL home, the new group of young talent still learning life in the pros will thrive in the heart of Texas, only 3 hours from downtown Dallas.
This commitment to young talent and depth is a sign of good things to come, and helps give fans in both Austin/Cedar Park and Dallas a chance to see the beginning and finished product on the ice.
Not only have the Stars lost the personnel of the 1999 team, but also the concepts. That being said, if the world didn’t embrace new ways of thinking we’d still believe the world was flat and the booming hockey market of Texas would be refused a team due to climate.
So next time Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano sit out of a game, don’t frown at the loss of beloved, long-time Stars, and don’t pout when those legends eventually leave the team for retirement or the front office.
Instead, smile at the progress of the team, the transformation of a successful franchise to a new, equally successful program, and know that your children may come to know Loui Eriksson or James Neal in the way you regard Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen.
Maybe that’s why the game-opening video at American Airlines Center this season features a clip of the song from Transformers. The question is, who will show himself this season as our Optimus Prime?
Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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