In a shortened hockey season, wins are a precious commodity, even for the best teams. So when the Dallas Stars beat the Edmonton Oilers on the road Tuesday night, it was an effort that two months from now could determine whether the Stars make the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The win was also significant for the Stars in another way: history. The victory was the 759th for the Stars since they moved to Dallas before the 1993-94 season from Minneapolis. As the Minnesota North Stars, the franchise won 758 games.
The Stars and the North Stars will always be intertwined to some degree, but with more wins in Dallas than in Minneapolis, it puts the success of the NHL’s model Sun Belt team in perspective.
It took the Stars 18-plus seasons to win more regular season games than the North Stars did in their 26 seasons in Minnesota.
It took the Stars 18-plus seasons to win more regular season games than the North Stars did in their 26 seasons in Minnesota. Sure, the North Stars played seasons ranging from 74 to 80 games, with one 84-game season in 1992-93. The Stars have always played 82-game seasons. So Dallas did consistently play more games than Minnesota each season.
But if you look at total games, it’s not even close. The North Stars played 2,062 games to reach their win total. The Stars have played 1,457 games and counting. That doesn’t take into account that the Stars played a shortened season in 1994-95, which was just 48 games. And the 2004-05 season was completely erased.
Theoretically, this should have happened a year or two ago. There are more ways to measure this. Those North Stars averaged 29.1 wins per season. The Stars, taking into account full seasons, averaged 43.2 wins.
The North Stars never won more than 40 games in a season, and only won 40 games once. The Stars won 40 or more games 13 times, and won 50 games three times.
Although it’s true the North Stars have more playoff appearances (17 to Dallas’ 12), and both franchises went to two Stanley Cup Finals, it should be pointed out that Dallas has the only Cup, secured in 1998-99. The Stars also have the edge in conference finals appearances, 4-3.
Would this have happened had the Stars remained up north? It’s hard to say, though the people that made it happen in Dallas were in place when the franchise moved, such as coach Bob Gainey and center Mike Modano.
What is clear, as the Stars celebrate their 20th anniversary, is the team's success paved the way for the league’s expansion into the Sun Belt of the United States.
The Dallas Stars proved the NHL could work in the South. The Stars proved it could have success in the South, both on the ice and at the turnstiles.
Tuesday’s win in hockey country was the affirmation of that success.