The locker rooms have barely been cleared out. The Zambonis have been barely been turned off. It seems like yesterday Dustin Brown lifted the Cup, again. The season ended yesterday, or so it feels at least, yet it is already time that we look to next season. One of the first steps took place Sunday with the NHL’s schedule release.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Dallas Stars will look to build off the momentum of an exciting 2013-2014 season that jump-started a new era in the team’s history. Last season was a step in the right direction, a leap to a promising future. Now, the Stars have expectations, not just hopes and dreams.
As much as preparation, skills, will and luck can determine the fate of a team, the schedule plays a big role in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Here’s a closer look at the Stars’ schedule for the 2014-2015 season.
A Grand Opening
The Stars kick off next season against Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks. For one, the exposure of the game, and playing against one of the league’s top teams (both on the ice and in viewing ratings) is huge for the rising Stars. Last season, the two teams developed some hatred and might have established a budding rivalry. The Stars are still not on Chicago’s level, but the games were more competitive and fiery than in recent history.
Instead of easing into the season and working their way into intensity, the Stars kick off the season against a team on the verge of a dynasty, two Eastern Conference powers, a young team on the rise and a revamped division rival. There is no time to waste. The season starts with measuring sticks that will force the Stars to hit the ground running.
The Toughest and the Easiest
December looks to be the easiest month for the Stars. It’s their second-slowest month (not counting two weeks of games in April). Twelve games in 31 days provide the Stars with three separate three-day breaks between games. December is the only month in which the Stars do not play on back-to-back nights. The month is split evenly with six games at home and six on the road. Only four of the 12 games are against last season’s playoff teams.
On the other hand, February should be the most difficult month for the Stars. In 28 days, they will play 13 games, seven of which will be on the road. Ten games will be against teams that made the playoffs last season, including the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. February will also provide the Stars with the most back-to-back games of their season, and all three of the sets will include travelling to road games for the second night.
The #Stars will play a total of 29 games against their division foes, with 14 games taking place at home and 15 on the road.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) June 22, 2014
A tough opening to the season is balanced with an easier ending. Seven of the Stars’ final 10 opponents are teams that failed to make the playoffs last season, including four games against three of the worst teams in the league. The Stars will play in seven home stands lasting three games or more and seven road trips of at least three games. The longest of both stretches will be five games each.
With just a quick glance over the schedule, it seems like there are many more off days this season. After two seasons, well, one and a half, of packed schedules thanks to a lockout and the Olympics, the league finally gets back to a normal schedule. There are plenty of two and three day breaks between games which might take some getting used to for fans.
Those who follow the Stars know the trouble the team has had with back-to-backs the past few seasons. The good news is they will play in fewer back-to-backs this season, but the bad news is that they will travel more. In fact, only the Arizona Coyotes will travel more than the Stars in 2014-2015. Of the 24 back-to-back games this season, the Stars will play 16 games on the road, and all 12 of the sets will end on the road.
As with every team, there are several soft and tough spots in the schedule, but no matter how deep the analysis goes, it all comes down to the play on the ice. Led by Lindy Ruff and his staff, the Stars were much less embarrassing in back-to-backs last season and were generally better prepared all season. With a year of seasoning and chemistry under their belts and another full training camp, Ruff and the Stars will look to continue the rise of the franchise.