Puck the Media’s Top Ten Hockey Stories of the Year, #9: The Rise and Fall (Especially Fall) of the Dallas Stars

Welcome to Puck the Media’s “Top Ten Hockey Stories of the Year”, which will run over the next couple weeks, counting down each of the big headlines that defined 2008 in hockey.

Believe me, we will talk a lot more about Sean Avery as we move through this countdown, but now let’s talk about the team he signed with over the Summer.  This was an absolutely fascinating year for the Stars.  The Dallas franchise, since it’s 2000 near Cup-defense, has been seemingly dormant, suffering through a string of first-round playoff defeats, with stalwart goaltender Marty Turco almost always taking the blame for the poor performance.  That way of thinking started to diminish after Turco’s stunningly good performance against Vancouver in their seven-game Western Quarterfinal series in 2007.  But he would shatter it this year.

The Stars had an inauspicious start to the 07-08 season, causing GM Doug Armstrong to lose his job, in favor of a two-headed monster of Les Jackson and Brett Hull.  Which seemed to work at the start, as the two men were able to pull off a trade for Brad Richards, while only giving up a backup goalie and a shootout specialist in return.  The Stars pulled off a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference, rolled over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Ducks in round one, and defeated the Sharks in an exciting six-gamer that ended with Brendan Morrow’s winner in the 4th OT of Game Six.

The Stars would go on to lose to the Red Wings in six games in the Western Conference Finals, but they had really re-energized their fanbase for the first time since their Cup runs.  The hockey community in Dallas was jazzed to support the Stars in full force once more.  The Stars were so happy with their roster, that they looked to not do too much to their club in the off-season.  But then, well, Brett Hull decided to sign his old roomate to a contract and well… things went downhill from there.

Dallas had a terrible start to 08-09.  Turco was atrocious for the first two months of the season, after leading his team to the final four of hockey last year, he seemed to have lost it all early on.  “Sloppy Seconds”-gate happened, and this losing club was put under a spotlight that it did not need at all.  Everyone not only disliked the Stars for their poor play, but for the idea that a team with Brendan Morrow and Mike Modano on were no longer considered the “model citizens” long considered a refuge from the craziness of that other Dallas sports team.

But, well, Avery is gone now, the attention on the Stars has died down, and they appear to be back on track – as much as they possibly can be.  32 games in, they’re only four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot out West.  If they can fight their way to at least that – a certainly manageable feat – it will complete maybe the most bizarre 18 month upswing-downswing-upswing in any team’s history.

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