In watching Vancouver methodically take care of two pretty solid opponents in Chicago and Nashville (and in watching the Mavericks surprise the NBA), I started thinking about the Stars and whether or not it would have been a good thing if they would have made the playoffs.After all, they were one game away from making it. They pretty much should have been in the playoffs this season by beating Minnesota in that final game. So would that have benefitted the team in the long run to get some post-season experience?On one hand, you have to say it would have been a huge boost. You look at the buzz the Mavericks are feeling right now, and you ponder the amazing turnaround a team can experience in the playoffs. But even if that miracle didn’t take place for the Stars, could they have at least seen some of the same excitement that was felt in Anaheim or Phoenix or Nashville. Those cities are battling many of the same problems Dallas is facing, and even a quick playoff run seemed to at least create a small amount of hockey fever (and, in the case of Nashville, a large amount).With Dallas averaging 15,073 fans a game, any help has to push the needle a little higher, right?And, on the ice, there also is the thought this could have been a positive thing. First, Kari Lehtonen needs to get playoff experience. The man who is now the Stars’ No. 1 goalie has played two NHL playoff games. He went 0-2 with Atlanta in 2006-07 and posted a 5.59 GAA. He was so disappointing that twice the Thrashers went to backup goalie Johan Hedberg in the playoffs. And this came after he had a fantastic regular season at 34-24-9 with a 2.79 GAA, so it’s clear that a good regular season doesn’t mean much once you get to the playoffs.Lehtonen is in much better shape than he has ever been and is probably more mature, but it sure would have been nice to see how he responded to playoff pressure. He has a 16-10 record in the AHL playoffs and posted GAA’s of 2.08 in 2003 and 1.70 in 2004, so there is that…but…he needs time in the NHL playoffs.In addition, Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell have yet to play in the NHL playoffs, Mark Fistric has nine games, Nick Grossman has 18 and Loui Eriksson has 22. Experience is the best teacher for the younger players.And lastly, if you really are going to make a five-year (or more) investment in Brad Richards, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a fresh playoff memory to base the future on? I can tell you that several players in other NHL cities are being looked at in different ways after their recent playoff performances.Now, as for the other hand, you can argue that they probably are better off not making the playoffs. Do you really think they could have beat the Canucks or put up a good fight? They were swept by Vancouver 4-0-0 in the regular season and were outscored 20-5. That could have actually been an awful series that lowered the interest in the Stars even more. Plus, you could have had the ignominy of empty playoff seats at AAC. Phoenix and LA had a couple of hundred empty seats for their playoff games, and the Stars had an announced crowd of 15,105 for their final home game, so there is a real chance the building could have looked very bad in Game 3 or 4 of the playoffs.In addition, any extra money gained at the end of the season could have allowed the lenders to be a little more picky. As it was, the final flop spurred the lenders to get more serious about unloading the team. Since everything that involves this team seems to revolve around getting a new owner, any movement forward has to be seen as a positive.And lastly, it forced Joe Nieuwendyk to make the decision to fire Marc Crawford. Now, you can say a quick exit would not have changed this decision, but you just don’t know until you watch the team perform. How much has Rick Carlisle’s job status changed in the past month? How is Ron Washington looking these days?Of course, the coaching change will only be a positive if Joe Nieuwendyk picks the right coach, but at least you have the organization getting the time to study every aspect of operations and ask a lot of tough questions to prepare for the hiring.With all of that information, I still tend to lean toward the fact that it would have been better to win that last game in Minnesota and take your chances in the playoffs. I just think there are enough people who are going to be here for the foreseeable future who could have benefitted from even one series. Remember, Nieuwendyk has never gone through an NHL playoff as a GM. Willie Desjardins, Stu Barnes and Mike Valley have never been through an NHL playoff as coaches. There is a dynamic where people learn about themselves when placed under heavy pressure.There is a real possibility that the Stars needed to receive a hard message that more work is needed, and that message was delivered clearly this season, but I still think they could have taken plenty of energy into the off-season with maybe a more positive message.What say you?