There’s a great documentary out there that details the making of the song, “We Are The World,” and it reminds me a lot of this year’s Stars.

Producer Quincy Jones and singer Lionel Richie were organizing the greatest American pop singers to get together and perform an epic song that would help feed the hungry in Africa. It was a dynamic venture in which some of the biggest artists and most challenging personalities would have to get together in one night and piece together a grandma’s quilt of lyrics that had to satisfy a world of expectations as well as each individual’s high standards.

Jones posted a note as the artists entered the studio that said “Check Your Egos At The Door.” It helped them remember why they were here, remember that the ‘we’ is much bigger than the ‘me’ . . . and it worked.

Pete DeBoer and the Stars’ management did a similar thing before this season started. They made a flag that reads, “A Little Less For A Lot More.” Every player signed it, and the DNA was imprinted on this team.

“If you look at the minutes our forwards play, it’s significantly lower than a lot of the top guys in the league, significantly more spread out and, in a lot of cases, significantly less than where some of these guys had been playing in different spots they’ve been in,” DeBoer said. “So, we’ve gotten great buy-in there.”

And that’s both rare and impressive. Sure, hockey is filled with good guys who want to win, but we’re also talking contracts and legacies and egos. Matt Duchene got bought out by the Nashville Predators last summer and signed a one-year deal with the Stars for $3 million. He is, in part, betting on himself for a bigger deal in the future, so numbers could help that. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have heard the jeers that they are overpaid for years. They would love to rack up numbers and shut up the critics. Jason Robertson set a high bar with 109 points last year. He didn’t want to be labeled as having a setback.

And yet, by committing to sacrifice, they each have gained an immense amount of praise from their teammates and peers. Duchene had 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) and is forging the best “team” season in his 15-year NHL career. Benn and Seguin are the model of veterans a contending team would like to have. Robertson has drawn praise as a smart, dedicated forward who has learned how to be tough in the playoffs.

Those are things that really do help your legacy in the long run.

What’s more, the shared responsibility has actually helped the individual. When Duchene or Wyatt Johnston or Joe Pavelski have been in a slump this year, they don’t have to panic. Somebody always picks up the slack. Dallas has no individuals posting career numbers or players up for any of the NHL’s individual awards. Yet they posted the second-best record in the NHL and never lost more than four games in a row during the regular season.

There was no team slump, so there were no serious nerves about any individual slumps.

“I mean, I think you just stayed with the plan and knew you just needed to do whatever you could to help the team,” said Robertson. “If the points didn’t come, you knew someone else would pick it up for you.”

That said, there also is the message that each individual has special talents, and the team needs to see that when the time is right. In the "We Are the World" video, Huey Lewis describes learning how he had to follow Michael Jackson in the song. “It was just one line, but my knees were shaking,” Lewis said. But then he went out and delivered a killer line that played off Jackson’s iconic voice. Ty Dellandrea did the same thing for the Stars. He has played in just four playoff games so far, but in Game 4 against Vegas, he scored the game-winner. In other games, he has been a significant contributor.

Alexander Petrovic has stepped in and played well in his first playoff appearance with Dallas. Evgenii Dadonov has proven effective on lines with Benn, Seguin, Duchene or Sam Steel. There’s a certain talent to that.

Meanwhile, players like Robertson, Johnston and Miro Heiskanen have helped create wins by doing what they do best. Cyndi Lauper has one of the more memorable lines in "We Are The World", and it’s because she trusts that what she does well is different from what anybody else does well – even the top singer in the world.

It’s an enthralling look into talent and compromise, and how the whole can indeed be better than the individual parts.

And that’s what the Stars were getting at back in September. Yes, they have a ton of special individuals, but can they form a special team?

So far, they have.

As part of the “side effects” of the flag, players have been taking fewer minutes and expending less energy. DeBoer believes it’s one of the reasons this team has been so healthy this season. But in the past two overtime games, Dallas has actually looked fresher in overtime than in the second period. That also could be a product of the shared load.

“It’s what this team is about,” said Pavelski. “It’s been the theme all year. We’ve got a ton of trust up and down the lineup. It definitely happened [in overtime] in the Colorado game and even last night at times.”

And the fact the players are seeing positive results while performing the plan makes it all the much more successful.

“I think the message is that it’s for the team,” said Johnston. “Whatever happens, whatever we’re doing, it’s for the team. So, I think we’ve really kind of bought into that.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

Related Content