Pretty, Not Gritty, Stars Are Like Their City

A special synchronicity happens when the personality of a city’s sports team matches its own. The 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty personified the lunch-pail mentality of that town. And the Yankees of that same era reflected the chaos, conflict and bigger-than-life personalities of Ed Koch’s New York.

The Dallas Stars have only recently turned a page in club history, with Tyler Seguin and other newcomers lifting the team into respectability. And these revamped Stars match the style of their home town, for better and for worse.

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Ask North Americans for their impression of Dallas, and they might mention the football team, the TV show, or the political and religious climate that’s somewhere to the right of what passes for the right in most places. But more than anything else, Dallas is flashy. The skyline shines glassy by day and luminous at night. Wealth is displayed brazenly, maybe frantically. Long before postmodernism had a name, Dallas was a place where appearance determined reality.

Dallas at its best is a place that’s fun to watch. There’s energy, virtuosity, a can-do attitude. Ascent seems perpetual and the future trumps the past. The down side of Dallas can be found in its hollow center. It’s just a little prissy. Dallas doesn’t like getting dirt on its shirt. It’s not grounded in sweaty reality like towns in the Northeast or Midwest.

The Stars have some offensive flash. Through five games, Seguin ranks third in the NHL in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). Jamie Benn (three goals, three assists) and Jason Spezza (one goal, six assists) aren’t far behind. Dallas leads Central Division teams in goals scored with 15.

But the Stars’ puck-possession approach doesn’t translate well to shorthanded situations. In penalty-killing, Dallas is tied with Arizona for 28th in the 30-team league (71.4 percent). The Stars aren’t going to out-muscle many teams and need to give opponents a reason to avoid penalties.

There’s also been an inability to finish. Dallas has two overtime losses, including a frustrating home defeat by Philadelphia that included the Flyers coming back from two third-period deficits. The Stars have lost both of the games that they led going into the third period.

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Wide-open hockey makes for some exciting moments. And in a Sun Belt market, it’s a good product for creating interest with fans that have a modest knowledge of the game.

But to deliver more than high-scoring games, these Stars will have to develop their blue-collar side. Lacking a dominant defenseman, Dallas struggles with grind-it-out tasks. In order for the team to have a record as pretty as their top forward line’s stats, these Stars must learn to grind. Flashy might be good enough for the city around them, but that will only take you so far in hockey.


2 thoughts on “Pretty, Not Gritty, Stars Are Like Their City”

  1. For the most part I agree with your assessment, and the Stars’ style of play definitely plays better to what can best be described as a “non-traditional” hockey market. Two points though, the Stars are well on their way to giving “opponents a reason to avoid penalties” – they’re currently sixth in the league in power play conversions (although hopefully that goes up a bit tonight against Vancouver). I realize that we’re only five games into the season, but it is a definite showing of improvement from last year’s twenty-third place finish. Also, I agree with your assessment of the Philadelphia and Chicago games – it was maddening to watch those two get away and leave the points on the table. However, while I don’t really enjoy placing blame on the goaltender (it’s a team game after all) I think most folks paying attention around here would agree that Kari has let in a few already this season which would be completely unexpected in last year’s playoff run. If the defense/goaltending settles in a little as the season progresses (although that is an even stickier point with Nemeth’s injury) coupled with that offense, which so far is hitting on all cylinders, these Stars could turn a few heads this year; although in a deep Western Conference that may just be as a first wild card spot.

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