“Who’s the Stars biggest rival?” I hear that one a lot and never have a very good answer for it. Some argue playoffs make rivalries, the NHL asserts that it’s geography that can do it, while others say the best rivalries are long standing, competitive and built over time. Yankees/Red Sox hits all of the above.
And while rivalries like that are as rare as the albatross, there are plenty of sturdy and burgeoning ongoing conflicts worth a look. Let’s first look at some Stars history.
In Minnesota, the North Stars and the Chicago Blackhawks played in the Norris Division together during most the 80’s and early 90’s. Between 1982 and 1992 the teams met over 50 times in the regular season and 6 times in the playoffs. The Hawks won 4 of those 6 playoff series, which were must-watch TV. Old Chicago Stadium bucked and heaved, and Met Center rattled and hummed, and playoff fights were regular happenings and series changing events. Al Secord and Willie Plett went hard and often with each other.
The move to Dallas took a lot out of that rivalry. The geographic turf war instantly dissipated, frequency of meeting dissolved, and the teams have yet to meet in the playoffs as Dallas/Chicago. Poof. Gone.
Oddly – the Edmonton Oilers have played the Dallas Stars more than any other team in the playoffs – but – does anybody mark their calendars? Nope. The Stars met the Avalanche in back to back Conference finals in 1999 and 2000. But – that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…
The franchises biggest win came over the Buffalo Sabres – – – anyone – anyone – Buehler? Nope.
How about all those years in the Pacific? Phoenix, I’m sorry, Arizona do anything for ya? Even LA? Heck (as my friend Mike Heika would say…) they’ve won 2 of the last 3 cups but have never faced the Dallas Stars in the playoffs and never seem to be on the schedule when we need them on the schedule.
Let’s skip forward before returning to our default rivals then. The new Central Division! Created to incite natural geographic rivalries! Like you know – Dallas and…. Winnipeg! Wait… not really. St. Louis, Nashville, even Chicago do anything to fire up your Texas pride? Probably not to the extent of the Houston Texans but I digress…
That leaves, to my way of thinking, 3 rivals;
1) Minnesota – with franchise roots there, and venom still from the Twin Cities over the move still in play, and a chance now for frequency of play within the division, and add in the fact that the two teams are hurling upward on the same curve – keep an eye on it.
2) San Jose – as their former coach (and current LA bench boss) Daryl Sutter used to say – “it’s only a rivalry if both teams win games.” Agreed. And Stars/Sharks, despite meeting in the playoffs only once since 2000, have waged memorable battles, and generally both teams have shown up in the other’s building. Division rival or not – they stay on the list.
3) Anaheim – probably our best rivalry. In 3 of Dallas’ last 7 trips to the post-season, they’ve played the Ducks. They’ve won just one of those series – but the games were tight – and of the 18 playoff games played – Anaheim has just the slight edge of 10-8. The Stars have also not had a losing regular season series against Anaheim in 11 years. And those games are always, every single time, games worth keeping an eye on.
Rivalries are fun for fans, and the great ones can permeate all levels of an organization. I still think there’s an opponent out there in our new era that has “rival in waiting” status. And with a loaded Western Conference and Central Division and a Stars team on the rise – keep watching – geography or no – something should pop pretty soon.