Well, well, well. Look who just won the Stanley Cup! Let’s take a look at the journey that brought us here.
In 2003, Trevor Daley played his first NHL season after having been drafted by the Dallas Stars. He stayed with the Stars for 12 seasons, always giving his best while growing into a defensive leader. In the summer of 2015, the Stars decided that they needed more offense and traded Daley to… another team (we don’t talk about that). After a few rocky months with… that other team, they traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he flourished, ultimately hoisting the coveted Cup last night.
According to Yahoo Sports, General Manager of the Penguins Jim Rutherford said that Daley helped reshape the way the Penguins played. As of December 12th, the Penguins were looking at a season that wouldn’t even see the playoffs. Daley’s entry into the Penguins’ roster on December 14th arguably changed that.
Exactly eleven months ago, when the Stars announced that they were trading Daley, I was devastated. How could they trade such a promising and loyal player? Especially when he was finally under a coaching style that fit his play style? And to… that team?!
Alas, I realized that, not actually being a part of the Stars organization, I had no say in the decision. They had their reasons, and a lot of people would say that it was a good move. I waited to see how the new offense would work out before I made my judgment. In some ways, it did help Dallas achieve their goals of being a more high-scoring threat (We now hold the regular season record for empty-net goals! Woo frickin’ hoo!). But ultimately, I don’t think it helped because, well, they didn’t win the Cup.
Many “fans” said that Daley couldn’t play; that he needed to learn how to defend; that he shouldn’t play so forward. But it was that aggressive style that always drew my attention (and his skating ability that allowed him to get back into the defensive position when necessary).
I’d always defend him in the forums, on Facebook, and (more recently) on Twitter. The comments were usually about how he needed to be traded, or (the more constructive and thought-provoking) “he sucks.” Sadly, there was also plenty of racial hate toward him. I never understood that.
When the schedule for the 2015-2016 season was released, I found the first Stars/that-other-team game and bought lower-bowl tickets: 10 rows up, dead even with the face off dot to the opposing goalie’s left; a perfect seat. I wanted to see my boy return to Dallas. I had it all planned out. I’d cheer for the Stars, and I’d cheer for Daley. I’d wear the jersey that he signed three years before (one of the last with the old logo). The game was set for December 12th, and I was excited.
Then, a week before the game, that other team announced that they traded Daley to the Penguins. WHAT?!!! A week before Daley comes home, and you trade him?! How dare you?! And what’s more, Dallas had already played their two games against the Penguins this year! He wouldn’t be playing the Stars at all during the regular season. The only hope I had of that match-up would be the Stanley Cup, and just the idea of that scared me.
I still had the tickets, though, so I went. And the Stars shut out that other team 4-0! Good! A proper beat down for depriving me of seeing my player. Also, my streak continues! I haven’t attended a Stars game that they lost!
As the season progressed, the Penguins did better, and the Stars stayed on top. The Stars would win the Western Conference (regular season) title, but ultimately fall in the second round of the playoffs due to some stupid refereeing (bad calls, non-calls, etc.) and their inability to skate while being pummeled into the boards by the other team. (The Blues play a very physical game, and it’s the only style that seems to be able to beat the Stars’ speed and skill game.) Sad as I was about the Stars, I was still happy that I could cheer for my favorite player.
The playoffs continued. Daley had his ankle broken by a collision between the end boards and an opposing player. He was out of the playoffs this season. He wouldn’t play in the Finals.
The Penguins won the conference round. And then, in an exciting Stanley Cup Finals series, the Penguins won in six games! I watched my boy hoist the Stanley Cup, pausing the TV and advancing it frame by frame to try to get the best photo of my TV. (He even dressed in his gear so that he could join his team on the ice to celebrate!) I could only be prouder if he was my own son.
After hearing about his broken ankle, and that he wouldn’t play in the Cup, I continually thought that if the Penguins won it would be a hollow victory for Daley. Sure, he’d get his name on the trophy and he’d get a ring, but would not playing in the games reduce the impact of the achievement? Watching him hoist that beautiful Cup, though, all doubts were erased. He knew that he was a major factor in the Penguins even being in contention. He was thrilled to be there, supporting his team, winning with his team.
So, Dallas Stars, are you still happy with your trade? I think I made it clear that I wasn’t when it happened, and I’m still not happy that I can’t watch my favorite player in Victory Green.
I now wonder if the Stars would have beaten the Blues if Daley were still part of our team. If they had emerged victorious in that series, I’m sure they would have made it through and won the Cup.
But they don’t have him anymore. They don’t have him because they made a stupid panic trade at the end of last season to bring in a little more offense and some Stanley Cup experience. A lot of good that experience did.
And after the Penguins won, all of the Stars players, alumni, broadcasters, and “fans” were quick to offer their congratulations via Facebook and Twitter to the former Star. However I can’t help but think that the reaction would have been the same for Brendon Dillon (also formerly a Star, now a Shark) had the other team won.
In the end, I’m happy about two things:
I didn’t have to watch a Stanley Cup Finals series between the Stars and the Penguins. Had that happened, and the Stars won, I’d be crushed that Daley wasn’t part of the team anymore to win the Cup. If the Penguins won, I’d be happy that Daley won, but sad that the Stars lost. I now know that I can’t choose between my favorite team and my favorite player.
Trevor Daley gets his name on the most coveted Cup in professional sports. It’ll be there forever. That doesn’t go away, and no one can take it from him.
Trevor, if you find this, big congratulations on the championship! I will continue to watch and always cheer for you.