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Stars Players Remain in Shock after Missing Playoffs

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Of course, the big news on Tuesday was that the Stars relieved Marc Crawford of his head coaching duties. But before that announcement became official, it was the day players in every professional sport dread, bag day.

Player End Of Season Interviews
That is the day after the season has come to an end where the team assembles one last time to gather their belongings, say their goodbyes to one another before the off-season and also possibly talk to the media before heading out.

Well, Tuesday was bag day for the Stars and since they were not even two full days removed from their season-ending 5-3 loss at Minnesota, a defeat which kept them out of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, one expected disappointment to still be prevalent in the room, which it most certainly was.

Almost fittingly, the first player to address the media was Dallas captain Brenden Morrow.

“We had a chance with one game. We didn’t win that one and now it’s a long summer of what ifs,” Morrow said. “That’s just the position we put ourselves in. Right up until the All-Star break, we’re sitting pretty. Then we started laying some eggs and that doesn’t make it easier. There are lots of games we can look back and think we could have found a couple of points there and been in Vancouver playing right now.”

Starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen was arguably the Stars’ team MVP this season but even the Finnish netminder couldn’t hide his disappointment. In fact, his response indicated that he’s still in something of a state of shock that his club isn’t in the postseason.

“It was tough [losing on Sunday],” Lehtonen said. “I don’t think I still realize the season’s over. It’s going to take a little time. That’s how it ends. We just couldn’t win when it counted the most.”

That sentiment is definitely echoed by Stars winger Mike Ribeiro.

“I don’t know what to think. I’m kind of in shock that it just happened,” Ribeiro said.

“I’m disappointed too what we had that chance to make it and didn’t. Knowing that your summer is going to be that long, it’s been a few years in a row now. It’s never fun.”

While the sting of missing the postseason for a third straight season has yet to hit some Stars players, it will be especially evident for one fan favorite on Wednesday night.

“This is the worst possible time. Wednesday night, the playoffs start,” center Steve Ott said. “When you’re watching ‘em as fan or whatever, it really sinks in how much we love hockey and want to be in that playoff atmosphere. It really sinks in how disappointing it is when you’re not being able to contribute or play in the time you dream of.”

Depending on whether or not the Stars are able to re-sign All-Star center Brad Richards, who could become a free agent this off-season, he could have played his final game in a Dallas uniform.

But seeing Richards’ time in Big D end in a losing effort to the Wild would truly be a sad final note to a successful three-year stay with the club.

“It never really crossed my mind [that we’d lose],” he said. “When we saw Chicago lose, I kind of thought it was fate and we’d get in. But that’s sports. That’s why you have to play the games. Those are the days where it’s not fun-when you lose.”

While Richards may or may not be a Star next season, one player who will return is top defenseman Stephane Robidas. And being the veteran that he is, he realizes there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the heartbreaking conclusion he and his teammates just experienced in what had all the makings of being a very special year of Dallas Stars hockey.

“It’s a good reminder for all of us that points are important every night. You can’t take nights off. Points early in the season are just as important at the end,” Robidas said. “If we would have won a game earlier in the year, maybe we didn’t have to win that last game there. We have to make sure next year that we’re ready to get a good training camp and a strong start to the season next year.”

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