DALLAS–Oh, what a year it has been.
I'm not talking about the hockey season. I mean all of 2019. It was certainly an interesting one if you're a Stars fan.
January 2019 featured a four-game losing streak that had a rock-bottom feel for a team basically entering the league's All-Star Break. However, they immediately followed that up with a five-game winning streak. That break, and that winning streak, was the proverbial "reset button."
The Stars went 20-11-3 after the All-Star Break to secure a return to the playoffs as a wild-card underdog against the Nashville Predators in April.
That was a fun series wasn't it? From P.K. Subban's antics to overtime wins to setting the table for the Winter Classic on Wednesday, and that was only part of the month.
The other April playoff series was memorable for all the wrong reasons: The St. Louis heartbreak.
Jordan Binnington's mental breakdown, punching Jamie Benn and slashing Ben Bishop in Game 4. A 3-2 series lead coming home for Game 6 against the Blues. Game 7, double-overtime, a perfect script written for St. Louis native Ben Bishop to carry the Stars to the Conference Finals in his hometown – then Pat Maroon happened.
Gut-wrenching. What a roller-coaster of a playoff ride we all experienced. But, maybe the quieter summer months would bring some relaxation.
The NHL Draft in June was enjoyable. The Stars top pick, Thomas Harley, later became a fun story to follow in training camp for this season. Instead, fireworks happened on July 1.
Enter Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry.
One was an elite, proven 30-goal scorer. The other would be left on the side of the road by just about every hockey fan in the Metroplex for his "slashing" penalty on Benn back in 2014 (I'd have gone two minutes for cup-checking, frankly …). Both were joining the Dallas Stars.
After an admirable playoff run, stability on the roster and behind the bench, now adding two savvy veteran free agents, all of a sudden people were using the words "Stanley Cup" and "Dallas Stars" in the same sentence.
Well this could be fun to watch.
Fast-forward to opening night, Oct. 3 against the Boston Bruins. Close game, but a tough 2-1 loss to begin this new campaign blossoming with hope. The problem is, Dallas lost the next one.
Then the next one.
Then five more in the following six games.
What's happening?! The panic was starting to show. Would Dallas ever win another game? Should we tear down everything and rebuild? The front office, the roster… the arena. How could this be?
The Stars rattled off three straight wins to stop the bleeding, but against some lowly competition. Then they had a third-period meltdown against the Pittsburgh Penguins at American Airlines Center. They followed that by falling into a 3-0 hole against the Minnesota Wild two nights later. Obituaries for this team were already being drafted.
Then Alexander Radulov happened.
A last-minute goal in the second period put Dallas on the board. They added five more in the third and steamrolled the Wild out of the building. Finally! An emotional win! Maybe all is not lost!
Dallas won the next game.
Then the next game.
Then eight more in the nine games after that.
A 14-1-1 stretch that was one of the NHL's best at the time. The calendar turned to November during all of this. Now, we wonder if Dallas will ever lose a game again. Thanksgiving turkey plans were more enjoyable for us all.
The Stars cooled off, but planted themselves in a position to compete for more than just a wild card spot as the season carries on. It is now December 2019. The holiday decorations are up. After dealing with rocky waters and riding some very high waves, our ship had finally settled. It was time to get ready for the grind and get ready to celebrate the Winter Classic to bring in the new year.
Hold on, just one more thing.
December 10, 2019. We wake up to find Jim Montgomery has been removed as the team's head coach. Rick Bowness is the interim head coach moving forward.
Huh? Just when we thought we were out, 2019 pulled us right back in.
It was, and still is in some ways, a shock for the organization. In-season changes like that can be unpredictable how they will affect things.
But what we know is this: The Stars just played their last game of the calendar year, and under their new head coach, they're currently 5-3-1. They hold third place in the Central Division, just two points back of the Colorado Avalanche. Where they finish is what 2020 will tell us. How they get to that finish could be an enjoyable ride – or some sick prank that 2020 chooses to play on us.
Probably a little of both.
2019 was nuts when you look at it, but it was eventful, too. The Stars lived the highest of the highs, the lowest of the lows, and the craziest of crazy, but they're in a playoff spot in the NHL's toughest division. If anyone is breaking out into a cold sweat wondering what 2020 will bring the Stars, don't worry. I am, too.
But first, let's break out a cold beverage and welcome in 2020 with a Winter Classic spectacle the hockey world has never seen.
Happy New Year. Go Stars.