The Dallas Morning News
Stars opted for playoff push over deadline sales
Candidates for trades were kept on roster in hopes of contention
The trade deadline came and went without any action in Dallas. The Stars now know they will be without Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov the rest of the season. And the team is still in the middle of a playoff chase trying to catch Nashville in the Central Division.
So how can we review the team’s trade deadline strategy?
The Stars organization doesn’t wholly believe in Stanley Cup windows. Management feels that if the Stars can qualify for the postseason, they are contenders thanks to the variance inherent with the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s part of the reason they’ve structured contracts to end at certain times to avoid rebuilding periods, and probably why the Stars have been tough outs in recent postseasons.
It’s why Dallas held onto players at the deadline to try to make the playoffs and not throw away a shot at the postseason.
It’s true, hockey is a random sport and the playoffs can be even more random. The last seven Presidents’ Trophy winners have not won the Stanley Cup. Only one of the last 12 Presidents’ Trophy winners
won the Cup. Two years ago, all four division winners lost in the first round. The NHL’S postseason is unpredictable, so it’s understandable why the Stars feel that a playoff berth can be a shot at the Cup.
The results are tough to argue with: No NHL team has more postseason wins than Dallas the last two seasons, and the Stars’ defense and goaltending fits a playoff style of play.
As much as the playoffs are unpredictable, though, it’s not a complete crapshoot, and that’s what recent champions can show us about windows.
There’s luck involved, absolutely. But it’s less about a middling team getting lucky and riding its way to the Cup, and more about an elite team getting unlucky and suffering an early defeat. Recent years have been populated by Cup-winning teams that almost had to win a Cup at some point. They were so good for so long that a championship was inevitable.
With the exception of the Jonathan Quick-dragged Kings in 2012 and 2014, every champion in the last decade has been a top-10 team across the previous three seasons, and six have been top-five teams. These are good teams whose talent has been snuffed out thanks to the randomness of the postseason.
Could the Stars ride hot goaltending to a title? Sure, it’s possible. Bishop in 2019 and Anton Khudobin in 2020 tried their hardest. But many teams around the league hope to catch lightning in a bottle since there are so many good goaltenders across the league. The elite teams don’t worry about that, even if Colorado, Toronto and Washington would benefit from an improvement in the crease.
That said, with what we know about Cup winners and their championship windows, you could see that the Stars were not contenders this season. At the deadline, the Stars were still hoping Bishop would play this season. That is no longer the case. But even if Bishop did return for the end of the regular season, would he have been good enough to carry the Stars for two months in the postseason? Always possible with a goalie of Bishop’s caliber, but not likely.
With that premise, it would have made sense for the Stars to dump their unrestricted free agents such as Jamie Oleksiak, Blake Comeau and Andrew Cogliano. Oleksiak would have brought the biggest return, likely a first- or second-round pick, but the Stars made it clear they view Oleksiak as a part of the team’s future and not a trade chip to be shipped out of Dallas for a second time.
Cogliano and Comeau could have fetched mid- to lateround picks, but is that lottery ticket in the uncertain draft of 2021 worth more than the current lottery ticket of making the playoffs and making a run? Probably not, and that’s not even figuring how valuable playoff experience could be for players such as Jason Robertson or Jake Oettinger.
Should the Stars have tried to accumulate assets with the understanding that the Stars were not going to win the Cup? Sure. But let’s not act like failing to acquire a fourth-round draft pick was a massive failure in the organization.