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Title track: 31
Fan relations: 19
Stadium experience: 38
Bang for the buck: 13
Change from last year: +2
The Stars' mix of affordability, player access and anticipated success on the ice has bumped Dallas into the Top 10 of all franchises for the first time since our rankings began in 2003. Now, coming off a season in which they took a step back in the standings, the Stars hope that the addition of Stanley Cup winners Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya will improve not only their Ultimate Standings finish but also their division chances.
After emerging from bankruptcy in 2011, the Stars had an identity problem. The players whom fans in the Dallas area knew best, such as longtime stars Mike Modano and Marty Turco, were moving on. Through fan surveys, the franchise got a clear message that fans wanted personal exposure to the next generation of Stars. "We were in an era where people didn't know our players," says Brad Alberts, the team's executive vice president and chief revenue officer. "We needed to give them access to our guys." One solution was a private meet and greet between players and season-ticket holders on a special day at Six Flags Over Texas. Events like that made a difference. Only six NHL teams now rank higher than the Stars in fans' access to players, and Dallas' scores in fan relations (19th) and players (25th) have improved.
The Stars might have finished even higher in our standings if not for decreases in fan relations and stadium experience and a 20-place drop in coaching to 43rd. That's no huge surprise, given that Dallas went home early last year after a playoff appearance in 2013-14 -- even though the Stars actually won one more game than the season before. If the early playoff exits continue, fan scrutiny of coach Lindy Ruff will only heighten. In two years with the Stars, Ruff has a solid record of 81-62-21 but only two playoff wins.
A 22-place jump in bang for the buck, improving from No. 35 overall to No. 13, was the Stars' biggest improvement this year. With an average ticket price of $37.28 -- the second lowest in the NHL (and a third of what it costs to see the crosstown Cowboys) -- a trip to a Stars game remains a relatively cheap outing. For a team that put up 92 points last season and is expected to be a Western Conference contender this year, that's a huge perk -- and a big reason this team cracked the top 10. With a few more playoff appearances, the Stars might just stay there.