by April Marble
Two months ago, the Dallas Stars went through what can be described as nothing less than a temporary meltdown when CEO Jim Lites comments on the state of the Dallas Stars – specifically that of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin – turned the hockey world upside down.
Moving in to the final stretch of the regular season, can it be said that those comments were justified? Can it be said that following these comments the team pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and became the team the Lites had wanted them to be?
These questions can best be answered by the numbers. While it’s not entirely accurate as there are things in hockey that are simply unmeasurable, Lites’ comments and concerns can be answered entirely by numbers, timeline, and trades.
December 28, 2018: CEO Jim Lites fires shots at Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin
Whoever said that all press was good press was probably a liar. Although these comments put all eyes on the Stars, it was clear that there was a level of tension that was brought to the locker room for a short while.
But what exactly did the now infamous CEO say about the team’s top guys?
“We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. It’s embarrassing, and no one writes it. Write it”.
His tirade would not end there as he would describe them as horse [expletive deleted].
To somewhat side with Lites, it really seemed like both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were in a bit of a slump at the time of the comments. However, when looking at the numbers of the first 38 games of this season (which was the amount of games played at the time), and the first 38 of the previous season, they were both relatively on par.
In the first 38 games of the 2017-2018 season, Tyler Seguin had 18 goals, 16 assists, and 34 points. Compared to the 2018-2019 season, Seguin had 32 points in the first 38 games, just two points shy of his previous season. The only difference is that instead of having relatively equal numbers of goals and assists in the 2017-18 season, Seguin had 21 assists and only 11 goals. Maybe he wasn’t producing as many goals, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t producing anything at all.
For Stars’ Captain Jamie Benn, in the first 38 games of the 2018-19 season, he was split even at 15 goals and 15 assists. The season prior, he had almost the exact same amount with 15 goals and 18 assists, and finished the season with 36 goals and 43 assists.
Benn currently sits at 21 goals and 20 assists, and it’s unlikely he’ll reach the same numbers as last season, but keep in mind that he has dealt with a couple of small injuries and missed a few games throughout the season.
So, were Lites’ comments exactly justified? Not really, and the numbers don’t seem to disagree. There is a clear difference in having a bad night or even a couple of games which is what has been happening.
Perhaps, Seguin and Benn aren’t producing the same number of goals, but they have both done a lot to ensure the team finds success as they are leading the team in points.
January 14, 2019: The Stars trade Devin Shore for Anaheim Ducks’s Andrew Cogliano
Out of the three trades that we will talk about, this is the one that hurt the most.
At the time of the trade, Devin Shore was having a less than spectacular season and the Stars were lackluster in their performance. While Andrew Cogliano was lower on the scoring in, he did bring a sense of grit to the team and he pushes through every game. Perhaps this wasn’t the exact trade the Stars needed on the surface, but given time, Cogliano will become a valuable asset.
January 28, 2019: The Stars trade 2019 4th Round Draft Pick for Jamie Oleksiak
This is the first of two defensemen that the Stars have acquired in 2019 thus far – and it was a strange trade, as the Stars traded Jamie Oleksiak away only a year prior.
February 23, 2019: The Stars trade Connor Carrick for NJ Devil’s Ben Lovejoy and acquire Mats Zuccarello in exchange for conditional picks
In the span of a month, the Stars acquired a second defensemen with the Feb. 25 deadline in sight. Like Cogliano, Star’s GM Jim Nill said that Ben Lovejoy would bring a level of experience to the team. Lovejoy is a great defenseman, and the Stars love their defense too.
Lovejoy wouldn’t be the only player to jump ship and dawn a Stars jersey as the team acquired Mats Zuccarello for only two conditional picks. In all honesty, this is an absolute steal and a job well done for Nill.
February 24, 2019: Zuccarello scores first Stars goal, suffers upper body injury
Zuccarello gained one goal and one assist in his first game as a Star, and then the worst happened: an upper body injury that requires surgery and will take him out of the game for a while.
It’s unfortunate to quickly lose a guy who seemed to fit so perfectly with the Stars without much time, but that’s the game. This was of no fault of any external factor, and all we can say is “ugh, that sucks” and wonder what could have been.
February 25, 2019: Trade deadline day
Although it was said that the Stars were looking to make some moves, it was an otherwise uneventful day as no trades were made which would essentially solidify the roster for the remainder of the season.
While some were upset that the Stars did not make any moves, there was nothing they could give up that would have been worthwhile (except, maybe, Gustav Nyquist but let’s not talk about what the Stars would have to sacrifice for him).
People are upset at Nill, but there was very little the Stars could give up at that point, and no one was going to bite on a Julius Honka or Val Nichushkin deal.
It’s at this point, it feels like Nill has resigned this season to not get through the playoffs and really start working on next season as he professed that he was happy at where they are right now.
So, where are we now?
Since the dreaded incident, the Stars haven’t exactly gotten worse or better and have clearly seen good and bad days.
In the situation they’re in right now, it’s clear that the Stars are not a Stanley Cup team and everyone knows it – but within the next five years, the Stars will, at least, be performing at that caliber.
Demanding a Stanley Cup doesn’t mean you will get one, and that’s what upper management and fans alike should understand. You can’t have two players who win the Cup – you need to build a team and for the Stars, we can see that that’s going to take time.
Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal