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Dallas Stars fan survey results show confidence in youth and growing expectations

Thank you to everybody who participated in our offseason Stars fan survey! We got more than 1,000 responses and most participants answered every primary question.

Conducting this survey had multiple purposes. Hopefully, this survey even helped you develop a better understanding of your own Stars fandom. The sample size will also provide you with an understanding of where that stands with your fellow Stars fans. Finally, it gives me many valuable data points that I can use moving forward to enhance the Stars coverage at The Athletic.

We wanted to wait for a relatively neutral time on the NHL calendar. Pressure points often skew perceptions. For example, your view on Jim Nill may have been different on the first night of free agency than what it is holistically. By no means was this a scientific process, and there were some clear limitations, some of which I’ll outline as we go along in examining the results, but it was still valuable.

For questions you voted on a scale of one-to-five, one is the low end of the spectrum (success, confidence, frustration, etc.), and five is the most. This was included in the survey, but it doesn’t show in the graphs below as part of the results.


When did you become a Dallas Stars fan?

ResponseVoting

Inception (1993-1997)

39%

Stanley Cup window (1997-2000)

23%

Jim Nill era (2013-present)

20.60%

Playoff appearances (2000-2008)

9.60%

The Dark Ages (2008-2013)

7.80%

This checks out for a few reasons. Two of the biggest waves in sports fandom usually tend to come when a team is the shiny new toy and when the team is winning. The 1990s, leading up to the turn of the century, provided both for Stars fans. Judging strictly on my own vibe check in years covering the team, not to mention growing up in Dallas-Ft. Worth since I was a toddler, I’ve found that regardless of what the total number of Stars fans may be, this is a fanbase that is very passionate. It helps when there is a large contingent of the fan base that has been there from the beginning and has seen the mountaintop.

That the last decade also brought in a good chunk of Stars fans is also not surprising. The team was basically being reborn out of a run of on-ice misery and bankruptcy. Dallas was also sporting an exciting, fast-paced brand of hockey in the earlier years that had some level of winning and superstar players to get behind. While these results aren’t a direct indicator of age, the Stars’ fan base appears to have a pretty decent mix across the board.

How many regular season Stars games did you watch in the 2021-22 season?

ResponseVoting

0-10

11%

11-41

19.80%

42-62

19.40%

63-82

49.80%

Approximately 70 percent of voters watched at least half of the Stars’ games last season and half of the voters watched more than 62 games. Those are solid numbers considering the team was pretty bad for the first half of the season and could have lost some fans to apathy during that stretch.

Of course, arguably the biggest issue here is the local television viewing situation being a mess with Sinclair and Bally Sports. It’s an even bigger issue for fan bases like Dallas, where the team isn’t on national TV as often as in some other traditional hockey markets. The TV situation has been a source of frustration for a few years now, not just for the fans but the teams themselves too, who don’t have much control in how they’re able to help fans through the broadcasting battles to get eyeballs on the product.

There does appear to be an option on the horizon. Next month, fans will have the option for Bally Sports+, a direct-to-consumer streaming service. It will launch for Bally Sports Southwest on September 26, a few weeks in advance of the Stars’ regular season. Consumers will have the option of a seven-day free trial to see if it’s a satisfactory product. The service will cost $19.99 per month or $189.99 per year and will give access to the local NBA and NHL (Mavericks and Stars for Dallas) teams.

How many regular season Stars games did you attend in the 2021-22 season?

ResponseVoting

0-10

78.80%

11-41

18.10%

42-62

2.30%

63-82

0.80%

This was a bit surprising. As somebody who has covered all of the pro teams in Dallas of the four major professional leagues, I’ve felt that the Stars’ in-person game experience ranks right near the top, for the casual fan, the diehard and everybody in between. I’m curious as to what has kept fans from attending more games last season. I’m assuming factors may include the team’s performance, the cost of the experience going up, easing back into social gatherings following the pandemic or maybe something else.

Where does hockey rank among your favorite sports?

ResponseVoting

No. 1

68.60%

No. 2 or No. 3

27.10%

No. 4 or later

4.40%

I’m sure there are voters and Stars fans who don’t reside in Dallas but even for those who are right in the middle of Cowboys country and with the rise of Luka Doncic, hockey is clearly a priority.

Who is your favorite current Stars player?

ResponseVoting

Miro Heiskanen

29.30%

Jason Robertson

21.80%

Roope Hintz

16.10%

Jake Oettinger

8.80%

Joe Pavelski

8.80%

Jamie Benn

8.20%

Tyler Seguin

2.60%

Esa Lindell

1.20%

Other

3.20%

The Stars have transitioned from one core to the next, and the fans clearly have as well. Miro Heiskanen, Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger are each just 23 years old and they account for more than half of the votes for favorite player. Roope Hintz is a little older but still a young talent and he factors in at the top as well. Even most of the write-in options were proclaiming some sort of a tie between those four players.

Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn were among the older guard who got some love. Denis Gurianov got a few write-ins as well. Some fans also clearly haven’t made peace with John Klingberg’s departure yet, which was slightly entertaining.

How successful was the Stars’ 2021-22 season?

This is actually a loaded question because the way you voted was also indicative of the expectations you had for the team. For example, if the Colorado Avalanche had lost in the first round and this question was posed to Avs fans, I’m sure it would be overwhelmingly voted on as a complete failure. Based on what I saw from Stars fans throughout last season, the expectation for most did appear to be sneaking into the playoffs. Even pushing Calgary to overtime in Game 7 on the road was viewed as an overachievement. In the coming weeks, we’ll get into more evaluating expectations for the franchise in the coming years.

How successful has the Stars’ 2022 offseason been so far?

This seems like a pretty fair assessment of the Stars’ offseason so far. Aside from a coaching jolt, it’s hard to make a case that the team got much better this summer. At best, they’ve remained a similar caliber to last season but there’s a good case to be made that they got worse.

Adding Mason Marchment was a solid move but losing John Klingberg and doing nothing to replace him offset a lot of the positive vibes. There’s also the still-lingering contract situations of Robertson and Oettinger, which haven’t reached panic levels yet but aren’t in an ideal spot. There was also a lack of proactiveness that could have come from trading away some declining players to create cap space and making other moves to upgrade the roster. Instead, any lineup boosts appear to hinge on internal hopes of player improvement.


Anton Khudobin (Jerome Miron / USA TODAY)

Do you value the goaltender depth Anton Khudobin provides the Stars or would you rather see the Stars part ways with him to utilize his cap figure?

ResponseVoting

Part ways with him, in some fashion

91%

Keep him for goaltending depth

9%

Khudobin had a nice ride in Dallas and his 2020 playoff run will have a place in franchise history. But fans clearly view him as a piece of the past than anything in the present.

How frustrated are you that the Stars lost John Klingberg and got nothing in return?

It’s an interesting question because of the layers to it. What if trading Klingberg, who had a subpar season, at the deadline brought in a middling prospect or two or some mid-round draft picks but caused the Stars to miss the playoffs? Would it have been worth it to have those extra assets or was there more value in the younger players like Robertson and Oettinger to get the experience they got against Calgary?

There are understandable points on both sides of the argument. The Stars were open to trading Klingberg but it had to be an offer they couldn’t resist, especially given the timing of Miro Heiskanen’s extended absence due to mononucleosis. Clearly, they didn’t get any such offer. A first-round pick on the table would have almost certainly sent Klingberg packing in March. Ownership and front office prioritized making the playoffs, which the Stars did. Whether that was worth hanging on to Klingberg will remain a what-if for now as things unfold in the next few years.

Prior to the offseason, would you have signed John Klingberg to an eight-year deal at $6 million to $7 million AAV?

ResponseVoting

No

65%

Yes

35%

In recent history, the Stars have shown a tendency to cater to the player when it comes to contract negotiations, arguably to a fault. As Klingberg mentioned after signing in Anaheim, the open market did not develop in a way that he nor his former agent, Peter Wallen, expected. It’s why Klingberg ended up signing a one-year deal and why Wallen is now his former agent.

There will be so many things to keep an eye on moving forward — how Marchment pans out in Dallas, Heiskanen’s development, Pete DeBoer’s system succeeding in Dallas, Klingberg’s play outside of Rick Bowness’ system. All of these things were attached to the Klingberg decision and how they shape up will determine whether the Stars and/or Klingberg botched a good thing or if Dallas dodged a bullet in Klingberg’s reluctance to re-sign.

Elaborate on why you would or wouldn’t have signed Klingberg to that deal, and/or why you’re frustrated or not frustrated that he left for nothing.

Here were some of the common themes voters shared for not wanting to re-sign Klingberg:

• Too much term
• Defensive liabilities outweigh the offensive brilliance
• Belief that his decline is more a product of his age than of system limitations
• Being scarred by the Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin deals
• Too many turnovers
• Opening the door for Heiskanen to live up to his full potential, especially on the power play

Here were some of the common themes voters shared for wanting to re-sign Klingberg:

• No organizational depth on the right side
• Giving him a chance in DeBoer’s system, which appears to cater to his strengths
• Wanting to see him paired with Heiskanen
• Because of the cap situation, there was no way to immediately replace him, which the Stars didn’t

Again, all of the points are valid. An eight-year deal wasn’t the only option on the table for Klingberg from the Stars but term was a big sticking point for him so it was one given serious consideration. It didn’t materialize though and both sides, in the short term, are worse off for it.

Which non-Miro Heiskanen skater will be the most important player to the Stars’ success this season?

ResponseVoting

Jason Robertson

34.40%

Tyler Seguin

26%

Roope Hintz

23.10%

Joe Pavelski

4.40%

Denis Gurianov

4.10%

Mason Marchment

3.60%

Jamie Benn

1.90%

Other

2.50%

Goalies are crucial, so Oettinger’s play in net will be important and Heiskanen is the team’s top talent who will be taking on a larger role in Klingberg’s absence. Those two options felt pretty obvious so I wanted to gauge beyond that.

In a way, it’s basically a three-way tie between Robertson, Hintz and Seguin. Robertson and Hintz will both be critical to the Stars’ success next season but their track record over the past couple of seasons probably lent a lot more confidence in them. Seguin, ironically being the more proven, veteran talent, is a bit of a wild card. There’s no reason to believe Hintz won’t be the player he has been in recent years, as long as he stays healthy. But if Seguin plays like a No. 1 center talent, it could make a huge difference for the Stars.

How much confidence do you have in Tom Gaglardi’s ownership of the Stars?

How has your confidence level in Gaglardi’s ownership changed over the past decade?

ResponseVoting

No change

49.50%

Less confident

32%

More confident

12.20%

Much less confident

5.80%

Much more confident

0.60%

It’s always interesting to see how Stars fans feel about Gaglardi’s ownership because of how it’s judged relative to the hockey world and then relative to the Dallas pro sports arena. As we discussed off the top, many fans have been around for a while, meaning they remember how things were right before Gaglardi took over. At some point, the conversation does have to go from “at least things aren’t that bad” to concern over untapped potential. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Stars have been postseason regulars and have seen some major hockey events come through town, highlighted by the Winter Classic. Feeling somewhere in the middle about things feels appropriate.

How much confidence do you have in Jim Nill?

Plenty of ink has been spilled on here evaluating Jim Nill, and plenty more will come in the future so I won’t dive into all of it now. Like every general manager, Nill has had his hits and misses but between the drafting that has already materialized and the excitement in the pipeline, it’s easy to see where the confidence in Nill comes from. Hitting on a free agency signing like Pavelski is a cherry on top that needs to happen more often. The same goes for trades, which Nill was much more aggressive about earlier in his tenure than as of late. Then again, the excellent drafting has offset some of that need.

How much confidence do you have in Pete DeBoer’s coaching?

Were you satisfied with the hiring of Pete DeBoer as the head coach?

If not, please name who your desired coach was to be hired this summer.

ResponseVoting

Yes

63.40%

No

36.60%

Given how much fans had seemingly grown tired of Bowness, measuring DeBoer relatively is probably where the spike of optimism comes from. For the most part, it seems like a wait-and-see approach, which is very fair given the franchise’s circumstances and DeBoer’s own history.

For those that filled out an alternative desired coach, Marc Savard was a heavy presence, as were calls for a European coach.

What do the Stars need to do next season for it to be considered a success for you?

ResponseVoting

A decent playoff run

75.20%

Make the playoffs

9.40%

Stanley Cup Final appearence

6.90%

Win the Stanley Cup

3.80%

Other

4.70%

This is a question worth its own piece or two, which we will get into soon. Simply making the playoffs clearly is not viewed as good enough but there also isn’t an emotional call for a Stanley Cup-or-bust approach. Given the state of the roster and a new coaching staff, a decent playoff run seems like a more than fair ask.

How confident are you that the Stars will win a championship in the next five seasons?

It doesn’t appear that Stars fans are clearing their calendar for a June hockey parade, and it’s understandable why there isn’t too much confidence right now. However, within this five-year window, there will be some major impact points, including the continued progression of young talent, the rise of promising prospects and some anchor contracts coming off the books. There is a path to change in the near future.

What are you most looking forward to for the 2022-23 season?

A good dose of sarcastic responses here, which were amusing. Of the serious responses, these were the themes that stood out:

• Watching Heiskanen take a significant step forward

• How DeBoer’s system materializes

• Scoring more goals with regularity

• Seeing how much better Robertson can get

• Getting a firm answer on Seguin’s abilities

If you could only own one Stars sweater of a player currently on the roster, which player would you want?

ResponseVoting

Miro Heiskanen

36.80%

Jason Robertson

18.60%

Jake Oettinger

13%

Roope Hintz

12.40%

Jamie Benn

8.90%

Joe Pavelski

5.10%

Tyler Seguin

2.10%

Other

3.10%

Easy to see the logic here. Heiskanen is a superstar talent, likeable and the team has already locked him in for the long term. Robertson, Oettinger and Hintz fill in the spots behind him.

Please provide some feedback of Stars coverage at The Athletic. What would you like to be continued? What would you like to see more of? Less of? Etc.

Thank you so much to everybody who provided feedback! I sincerely appreciate the encouragement, support and constructive criticism. Being more actively involved in the comments section is something I’m aiming for but I do read them all so you can always continue to provide feedback there or direct message me on Twitter. Always appreciate those things, as long as it’s done respectfully. Seeing some of the answers here reminded me again of how diverse the Stars subscriber base is here in what kind of content is desired.

The one thing I will say: Locker rooms were open during development camp and signs point to that (hopefully) being the case for the season as well. If so, it will be my first season as a beat writer with locker room access and I’m excited for the stories I’ll be able to implement and bring to you because of it!

(Top photo: Jerome Miron / USA TODAY)

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