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With 'ultimate goal' of Stanley Cup, Stars take pursuit one day at time

Winning hockey's biggest prize is a league-wide dream at the dawn of every season, but getting there is a long process

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stanley Cup has always been a vexing mistress.

Superstition holds that if you touch the silver chalice before you win it, you'll be jinxed for life and never take hockey's highest award. And that thought process sort of bleeds over to the mental imagery of chasing the Cup.

While players know exactly what they are shooting for every time they start a season, they say they don't really talk about winning the Stanley Cup.

"The Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal -- it's what you dream of, it's what every year is about," said center Tyler Seguin, who along with Corey Perry are the only Stars players who have their names on the Stanley Cup. "But what's talked about is that there are a lot of steps in the process, and you can't get ahead of yourself."


[READ MORE: Get to know the 2019-20 Stars with our complete opening night roster breakdown]


Seguin won in 2011 as a 19-year-old with the Boston Bruins and went back in 2013 and lost, so he has as much experience with the "process" of winning as anyone on the Stars. Perry won in 2007 with Anaheim, while Ben Bishop lost in the Final in 2015 with Tampa Bay and Joe Pavelski lost in the Final with San Jose in 2016.

Video: Stars ready to battle Bruins in regular season opener

"We all have the same goal in mind, and we all know it, so there's not much talk about it," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "I think everybody has a pretty good mindset of what they want to accomplish, and each player thinks about that in his own way. I definitely think we remember how last year ended, and we have all used that as motivation throughout the summer."

The Stars made the playoffs last spring, beat Nashville in the first round, and had St. Louis on the ropes in the second round. But the Blues won Game 6 in Dallas and then battled to a 2-1 double-overtime victory in Game 7. Benn had a wraparound that just missed going over the goal line, a potential goal that would have given the Stars the victory and allowed them to move to the Western Conference Final.

The Blues moved on instead and ended up winning the Cup.

It was an experience that definitely was eye-opening for a lot of the players.

"It was disappointing because I imagined what it could be like them to win the Stanley Cup," center Radek Faksa said. "I remember watching Game 7 on vacation and thinking, 'I would do anything to be like them.' It was disappointing. We have to learn from the mistakes we made and be better for this season."

Video: Stars gear up for new season with big goals in mind

Several players echoed Faksa's feeling of frustration, and that certainly conveys that they think about winning the Stanley Cup a lot. But all of that thinking can actually be detrimental to the actual doing that needs to get done.

"You can't sit here and think about what could have happened last year," Bishop said. "It doesn't matter now."

The veteran goalie has been close in the past, and said the only way to react is to start over each season. Every team is new, every slate is fresh. It's a similar philosophy to what he has in each game -- just concentrate on making the next save.

"You can't say you want to win the Stanley Cup without taking care of the first game," Bishop said. "A good goal to have is you want to make the playoffs, and the way to get into the playoffs is taking care of things one step at a time. Right now, we play two of the best teams in the league the first two games (Boston on Thursday and St. Louis on Saturday), so that's a good measuring stick and that's where our focus has to be."

Many motivational experts believe goal setting is a huge part of achieving your dreams, and Pavelski said he understands that point of view.

"You have to be aware of what you want and what your group aspires to be. I think with higher expectations, you understand that you have to be prepared and you have to work very hard," said Pavelski, who made the playoffs in 12 of 13 seasons with the Sharks before signing as a free agent with the Stars in the summer.

"There is a process, though. I think when you get to the playoffs and win a round or win two rounds, then you start to feel it. But when you're playing every night, you have to focus on that. You can't look too far ahead. It's there, you're aware of it, but you have to put the work in."

Pavelski is also part of a Stars' group that has some playing experience. At 35, the chances to win the Cup are naturally dwindling. The same goes for Perry, 34, and Alexander Radulov, 33. Benn turned 30 this year and has played 745 games.

"Your career goes by fast, and some players are fortunate enough to make the playoffs every year, so then I think things become a little more routine. You just feel it's going to happen," Benn said. "For others, that's not the case. It's hard to make the playoffs, it's hard to win the Stanley Cup, and that's why you have to take advantage of the good teams and the opportunities you get."

That's actually the reason the Stanley Cup discussion is relevant this season. Outside experts believe the Stars have a chance to contend for a championship in 2020, and that puts the topic front and center.

Video: Bishop 'excited' entering Stars' opener vs. Bruins

"We made some big moves in the offseason, we had a good team already, we had a good experience in the playoffs last year. So, we've got all of the tools there," Seguin said. "But you really do have to take it step by step. I mean, we're concentrating right now on doing what we need to be doing in the preseason and then getting ready for opening night. Then, after that, you've got 81 more games, and you have to concentrate on each one of those if you want to have the best chance to win.

"There's a process to it, there's a building point to it, and right now we're just at the very beginning."

And that's probably the reason you don't want to touch the Stanley Cup ... or even talk about it. Tampa Bay was the best regular season team in the NHL last season and lost in the first round. St. Louis was in last place in January, and won it all. That's a fairly broad spectrum of possible scenarios to digest, so it really might be best to just focus on each step.

"It obviously drives you, but you really do have to live in the moment," Bishop said, emphasizing that keeping daily focus is one the toughest jobs an athlete has.

"You're thinking a lot, so it's easier said than done. But you can't realistically look ahead seven months, that's just not how it works."

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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