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Playoff Disappointment Motivates Stars

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

As fans, the crushing disappointment of watching their favorite team, the Dallas Stars, scratch and claw their way back from a 3-1 series deficit in the 2007 playoffs’ first-round against the Vancouver Canucks only to ultimately lose a nail-biter in Game 7 has long since faded. 

After all, life goes on. While it may have been a bitter pill to swallow watching the Canucks in the next round (where they lost in five to eventual Stanley Cup winner Anaheim), gradually, the fan lets it go, enjoys the rest of the post-season and other concerns occupy their minds.

But that’s not exactly how it goes for the players involved. Many Stars, now back in the Metroplex skating with teammates again in preparation for the start of training camp, have not gotten over the disappointment of how last season ended for them.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to get over it,” said defenseman Trevor Daley. “When you come that close to moving on and seeing what could have happened, it’s obvious you never get over stuff like that. You definitely move on from it, but you always keep it in the back of your mind, that’s for sure.”

“I don’t really think you get over it, but at one point, you’ve got to say, ‘It’s over, it’s past,’ you’ve got to let it go,” added fellow defenseman Stephane Robidas. “That’s why I got away a little bit from it in the summer and try to get ready for this season and focusing on the future and not look at what’s in the past.”

Captain Brenden Morrow admitted that not only is he still not over the loss to the Canucks, but he also mentioned that the Stars’ six-game defeat to Anaheim in the second round of the 2003 playoffs also still gnaws at him, among others.

“I don’t think it ever completely goes away,” said Morrow, who made great strides as a leader in 2007, highlighted by his clutch overtime goal that won Game 5 and extended the series. “I think back, and I haven’t completely let all of them go yet. Those are still things that subconsciously or consciously might drive me a little bit. 

“I don’t even remember certain points of games,” he continued. “I just remember that was a great chance that we blew, how long your career is, how many opportunities like that you’re going to get, and with the team that we have here, we’ve got to capitalize.”

Once eliminated, most players need some time to grieve and make a point not to watch the continuing playoffs on TV, just because it’s too painful to see other teams still competing while they’re not. And while many Stars followed that practice in 2007, they’re also fans of the sport, so most tuned back in for the Stanley Cup Final to witness Pacific Division rival Anaheim defeating Ottawa in five games.

“I usually don’t watch right away,” forward Stu Barnes said. “I end up watching the Finals, but in-between our series and the Finals, there was nothing really. You’re fresh out of it, and you want to get away from it a little bit. As the time wears on and you’re out of it for a little bit, it’s always enjoyable to flip it back on and see what’s news and what’s going on.”

“I didn’t watch too much of it,” Daley said. “I definitely didn’t watch (Vancouver) play. I think I watched the Stanley Cup Finals a little bit.”

Robidas was the exception because he didn’t tune out at all, and as fans who love hockey in general, he and his teammates just can’t ignore the excitement of the Final series.

“ I watched the whole thing, I watched every game, pretty much,” Robidas reported. “Obviously, it was pretty disappointing to watch those games and not be involved in those, but I think you learn from your mistakes.” 

“As much as we play the game and it’s our job, we’re all fans of the game as well,” Barnes noted. “I think that time of year, especially the Finals, is an exciting time of year.  It’s as good a final series as any sport out there, and it’s always fun to watch.”

“For years, when you lose out, you tend to not watch the next round, but then when it gets to Conference Final and Final, it’s fun,” defenseman Mattias Norstrom admitted. “I love watching the game, I love playing it, so you sit there and watch the games with a little mixed emotions, being jealous of the guys who are out there.”

The fact that the Cup ended up in Anaheim with a team the Stars competed well against, fashioning a 4-3-1 mark against them last season, gave Dallas players a little solace. 

“You measured up well against that team all year,” Norstrom said. “It was pretty close, so you got to say that they did a lot of the right things and so did we here with this team. Everybody knows that it’s such a fine line, but it’s also encouraging to say that we played in that division against the very best team last year and played well against them and kept up with them.” 

The Stars won three of the last four meetings between the two clubs and battled with the Ducks for the Pacific Division lead right down to the wire before ending up just three points back in the final standings, which was the difference between the Western Conference’s second seed and the number six spot.

“We can compete with those guys and we played well against them,” Robidas said. “We had a little bit tougher at the beginning of the season, but I think if you look at the last four times we played them, we played them pretty good. I think we beat them three out of four, so we know we can do it, we know it’s in here.”

With the Cup now residing in their division and the fact that the Stars will face the Ducks another eight times this year provides maybe a little more motivation against them and plenty of opportunities for Dallas to gauge their success against the best. 

“We get to play them eight times,” Morrow noted with a smile. “There’s always teams, we’ve been a team in the past, successful teams, that teams kind of tested themselves against us. That’s what the defending Stanley Cup champions are going to have to face every night. We’ve had great series, good games against them, close games and I expect the same this year.”

“Obviously, you wish it was us, but I’m just happy that we get to play them a lot next year and get to beat them,” Daley said. “I’ll be looking forward to playing them, just like every other team in the league is going to be looking forward to playing them.”

With the 2007-08 season just around the corner, the Stars appear to be in the right frame of mind to embark on another successful season. The disappointment has been filed away and the excitement and optimism of a new year is prevalent.

“It’s disappointing, but we knew going away, we learned a lot from last season and we’re a better team for it,” Barnes said. “We’ll use that to build this year and be better and have better results, hopefully.” 

“It’s good to be back around and see the guys,” added Robidas. “We missed each other.  It’s been a long summer for us, obviously, so it’s good to be back at it and we’re ready to go for training camp.”
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