Sports

The Dallas Stars are about to embark on a trip to hell

Saddle up for 40 in 70.
Illustration: AP

We’ve had our way with the Dallas Stars this year. They’ve made it so easy. Whether it was to be the first NHL team riven with COVID, or their unnecessary leap into the Mavericks-anthem debate with a “We Fuck The Flag” press release, or having to be dissuaded at the last minute from not playing while the entire state was without power and freezing, or the continued barbs about just how boring they are. Certainly they’ve provided fodder, and you might think we’d be of the opinion they’re about to get what they deserve.

But even we’re not that cold (most of the time). Starting tonight, the Stars will play 40 games in 70 days. It is simply a hellish slate, and one that should have never been asked of them. You could argue that some of the schedule crunch stems from their postponed games due to positive tests for COVID, and maybe they violated some rules or didn’t take precautions or something else. Or maybe they just live in Texas and there’s no way a roster of 30 players could have avoided it altogether. Either way, that line of thinking is harsh, and given the amount of teams that have had to deal with positive tests, it wouldn’t be neighborly to single one team out.

But some of this was out of the Stars’ hands, whatever their previous violations were. They had three games postponed due to the winter storm in Texas, and while that’s unusual in Texas, it’s hardly unheard of in the NHL. Most seasons, one or two teams see games pushed to later in the schedule thanks to a blizzard. It’s the kind of thing the league should be prepared for, even if it’s Texas.

But with no wiggle room in the schedule, and with that many delays, this is what the Stars are facing. Forty hockey games in 70 days is simply inhuman. The Stars already have injury problems. Both Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop have yet to suit up so far. Roope Hintz has been in and out of the lineup. Alex Radulov has missed time.

And they’ll have to deal with more. Likely a raft more. There’s simply no way anyone’s soft tissue is going to hold up with that kind of workload. The Stars will have to rotate guys out of the lineup on a nightly basis for too long just to get anyone some rest. They won’t be able to ice their best team on a nightly basis simply due to the schedule.

Yes, this is what everyone signed up for. Yes, everyone knew something like this was a possibility. But is this really fair? The Stars are at a clear disadvantage, and come the end of the season when it is likely they will need points to get into the playoffs, they’re going to be stepping on their tongues and gasping for water and air. They won’t have more than a day off between games the rest of the way. They will play every Saturday and Sunday until the middle of April, leaving an ungodly number of three-in-four-night stretches.

And those days off won’t always be days off. They have a home-heavy schedule in March but not so in April, when they’ll have to travel on seven of their days’ off.

You can easily see a scenario where only a handful of injuries occur, and the NHL would have to consider just not seeing the Stars get to 56 games. They have to play at a pace never seen in the league before. As fucked up as this season is, the hope was that every team would at least have in the same neighborhood of a chance. The Stars aren’t getting it.

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