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FAMILIAR FOES SIT ATOP THE WEST
Posted By Travis Currie On Nov 1 2011 @ 2:55 pm In Dallas Stars | 4 Comments
You would have to go back to 2003 to find the last playoff battle between the Dallas Stars and the Edmonton Oilers, in what seemed like a match-up that would go on forever. It seemed no matter the circumstances , fate would pin the two teams against each other in the playoffs whether in round one, or round two as in 1998. They’d collide six out of seven seasons from 1997 through to that last battle in 2003, with the Stars winning each except ’97. The only time they didn’t meet was when both teams missed the playoffs in 2002. Again, proof that fate would pin them together in some shape or form, as if to say, “If both of you aren’t making it then neither of you are making it.”, and no doubt that both fan bases took solace in if nothing else, knowing that the other was on the outs as well. Misery truly loves company.
From the first year the Stars held court in the deep south in 1993-94, they have owned the Oilers as much as Jerry Jones owns the Dallas Cowboys. Boasting a 68-24-3 record if you include the playoffs, with a 3-2 record in the shootout. If you add those shootout games as wins and losses then that’s a record of 71-26-3, exactly 100 games and a winning percentage of .710. That’s good enough for 58 wins and 116 points in a full 82 game schedule. Pretty dominating.
There aren’t many players leftover from that heated rivalry though. From that last playoff meeting in 2003, only Brenden Morrow remains on the Stars while Shawn Horcoff and a now returned Ryan Smyth are on the Oiler roster. Though most fans probably still have a little extra hate for the other side as compared to most other teams, the ones that remember anyways, it’s just not the same. Players move on, and teams go in different directions.
It’s been a slow fall from grace for the Dallas Stars, though they’ve remained a very competitive team for the most part. Recently ownership issues have kept them from competing as much as they’ve been use to since moving to Dallas and it’s played a major hand in keeping them from the playoffs the last three seasons. Players like Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, Jere Lehtinen, and Sergei Zubov have all retired from the game and there’s no replacing those guys. Other than choosing Scott Glennie 8th overall in 2009, you would have to go all the way back to 1996 to find the Stars next top 10 draft pick when they drafted defenseman Richard Jackman 5th overall. Since then they’ve had four years without even having a first round pick. They’ve had to rely on late first rounders like Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, and Mark Fistric, as well as later picks like Trevor Daley, Nik Grossman, Loui Eriksson, James Neal ( since traded of course ), Tom Wandell,and Jamie Benn when it comes to home grown players. The rest of the roster has been via trade or free agency. They’ve managed to keep their heads above water while doing some re-tooling on the fly. Key moves by GM Joe Nieuwendyk, like dealing prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy for Kari Lehtonen and finding bargain free agents this year like Sheldon Souray and Vernon Fiddler, have proved to be successful so far and are big reasons why the Stars are proving the doubters wrong. Once a new owner is in place which will be soon, the Stars will have more free range to make the type of moves that could push them to that next level and have them atop the league as one of the more successful franchises once again.
Way up north there’s the Edmonton Oilers, who have suffered quite a bit not just in the last few seasons but compared to their glory days of the 1980s , you could go back 20 years to find their last real stint of consistent success. They were a competitive team in the late 1990s and early 2000s while making the playoffs most years and even winning a couple rounds. For the most part, they were a mid-range team and before long things went south with the team unable to survive in a competitive market for free agents and many high draft picks going to waste. The only playoff appearance they’ve managed since their last meeting with the Stars in 2003 was in 2006 when they were boosted heavily by Chris Pronger, as well as other key veterans like Dwayne Roloson and Mike Peca. That playoff run was an anomaly though and things rapidly fell apart with Pronger demanding a trade and free agents being handed large contracts in lieu of their playoff heroics. Through five straight years of missing the playoffs since that 2006 run and currently holding the distinction of two straight last place finishes, they’re slowly managing to clean up the mess and two first overall picks in Taylor Hall and rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are proving to be blessings, as well as youngsters Jordan Eberle and Devan Dubnyk.
Both teams have broken up, gone in their different directions, and now find themselves sitting face-to-face atop the Western conference standings with 16 points each in 11 games. Though it’s still very early and the season is sure to bring low points as well as the current high ones, the teams are exceeding expectations and things seem to be moving in the right direction for both. And who knows, maybe the two teams are on a collision course once again so they can rekindle that old playoff flame ?
The two teams meet up November 21 and January 7 in Dallas, and March 2 and March 28 in Edmonton.
Next game for the Stars: Friday at home vs Colorado.
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