Brad Richards and the Dallas Stars have quietly put together an outstanding start to the 2010-11 season, as they currently sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings after beating that team in overtime on Sunday.
The problem is that a precious few people seem to notice Richards’ individual achievements and the Stars team success, judging from preliminary MVP voting (as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out) and poor attendance numbers for Dallas home games (which Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News discussed today).
First, let’s discuss Richards’ tremendous contract year efforts. While his 38 points “only” ties him for sixth best in the NHL with Daniel Sedin and Alex Ovechkin, the Stars are a team that leans heavily on the playmaking forward’s production. He helped create or score 38 of the Stars’ 95 goals this season, which means he accounts for a staggering 40 percent of the team’s offense.
Does that mean he deserves to be win the Hart Trophy? Not necessarily, but he definitely is worthy of being a part of the discussion. If the team didn’t have Richards and Kari Lehtonen, they might not be competitive right now.
But the Stars are competitive, earning a 20-10-3 record for 43 points in 33 games played. They sit atop the ultra-competitive Pacific Division to the surprise of many, but their normally loyal DFW market is barely batting an eye at the team’s success.
Heika writes that the team is falling victim to the “wheel of fame.”
Bottom line, the wheel of fame is a tough thing. When you are on it, people crave attention about you, they get information about you and that feeds the fame. When you’re not on it, they don’t, and it’s tough to get people excited about your product. The Stars are not on the wheel right now, so they have to fight extra hard to get back on. This home stand will be a good test to see how things are working. The Stars play five of the next six at home, and they are playing at a time when families have time and might want to enjoy an entertainment event like a hockey game.
If the Stars win and the crowds come, the media coverage will follow. While hockey does fight some special battles for coverage in the Sunbelt, the Stars aren’t that much different than the Mavericks or Rangers. The more they win, the more people care, the more coverage they get. The Cowboys are different, and every single marketing number will tell you that, but the Stars are right in there with the rest of the pack.
Just ask FC Dallas or TCU how they feel about the coverage on a lot of days. This is not about hockey alone.
Hopefully people will start showing up for Stars games once the playoffs draw closer, because the region certainly got excited about the Texas Rangers when they made a similar Cinderella run. Otherwise, many pundits might wonder if the inevitable loss of Mike Modano also meant the inevitable loss of fan interest.