Pull the sheet over. The viewing is Saturday.
And with that we prep for the impending autopsy during which we should quickly cut away the decay and rot that was too much for the body of work to fend off, and instead focus on the parts that can be harvested for future implementation.
1.) Benn - 23 and getting better every year. All-Star. Accuracy winner at ASG. Should (needs) to take a more prominent role on Special Teams.
2.) Eriksson - That should about do it for the "Most Underrated Player" patronizing
3.) Lehtonen - THE reason they remained in the hunt. His fault is one I can live with; for a second straight season he tried too hard in stretch games, wanting so badly to get this team into the playoffs he appeared over-eager and surrendered too many goals. The team had two runs and during them he was twice Player of the Week and was named the league's 2nd Star in October
4.) Ryder - His presence was like adding a 35-40 goal scorer out of thin air. Poof! Presto! Shazam! And, when he shot the puck, Ka-Pow!
5.) Fiddler - Character, spirit and determination. He was one of the few players who was consistently good in the disastrous 2nd games of back to backs.
6.) Gulutzan - A full year behind an NHL bench behind him with all the lessons learned, the successes and the failures, will mean a much better coach in October 2012.
7.) Larsen - The pixieish Dane made major strides. He"ll never be confused with Derian Hatcher (or Sergei Zubov for that matter) but he seemed to learn a few hard knocks lessons - most importantly, if something isn't severed, get up.
8.) Garbutt - Swift, physical and competitive, he came out of nowhere to earn a spot on the roster.
9.) PK - It faltered a little in the final weeks but it was better than average. Something to build on.
These aren't at all the only positives from the season (Nystrom, overtime success, Souray...etc.), just the first nine that popped into my head.
Want a little levity? Look at it this way; the Sabres solved their ownership issues last year, spent a wack of money on players in the summer, have the most senior coach in the league - and still missed the playoffs.
Tom Gaglardi took control of the franchise midstream this season. His first order of business was just that, business. He lowered ticket prices to get fans more easily exposed to the team and has hired extremely well atop the structure of the franchise off the ice. The results have been easy to see. Stars games at AAC have come out of their dormant state.
Next up would be making prudent improvements on the ice but with the cautionary quotation "Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt" written in bold print.
To that end, I read someone rip the Sabres brass for their moves. It went something like, "next time spend elite-level money on elite-level players". Ouch. (Have to applaud them for trying though)
So avoiding that trap and trusting that management here can do as well with an expanded wallet as they did this past summer on a shoe-string will surely see a jump to the next level in Big D.
Remember also, external expectations of this team were minimal at the outset of the season. Bankrupt, inexperienced, and hovering just above the salary cap floor doesn't instill a lot of belief.
Ultimately they fell just shy of an unlikely playoff birth. And in the end - despite two wonderful, belief-inducing runs - they were no better than a .500 team, just average.
Sure another non-playoff year stings. It stalls the rejuvenation of this proud club, and it robs us of beard growing season. (Fact: men's beards grow faster in the Spring)
Good times are on the horizon for the Dallas Stars - I believe that with every fibre of my being. But it's going to take patience and smarts and sweat, and yes, money.
There is a promising crop of prospects coming into the organization out of Junior and US college ranks. Their development is going to be crucial to the big club's success in the coming years.
Austin has to become a prime incubator.
Dallas has to again become; a prime landing spot for quality free agents, an uncomfortable place for opponents to play and blast for fans to ' be a part of'.
This franchise got ground to a pulp the past three years. It will likely take that long for it to re-establish itself as the jewel it once was. I know we all want it to get there yesterday but it never works that way.
Oh it's going to get there, trust me, and it's so going to be worth all of our emotional and financial investment.
As for 2011-12...Cue 'Dust in the Wind'
"You're my boy Lou!"