I can only assume there’s smoke billowing from the Stars camp today. After all, I’m steaming after last night’s defecation in Colorado and I haven’t put in countless hours skating or lift weights. I’ve not once laced up skates with the intention of making a “physical statement.” Despite my ability to make it seem like I know what I’m talking about, I’ve never stared a winger down on a breakaway. No, I’m just a guy who likes to write about a sport I love (or as it has been recently pointed out…I’m an amateur).
But if the Stars locker room doesn’t have a fraction of the frustration I’m feeling (and every fan I interacted with last night), then there’s a bigger issue at hand. After dominating the Avalanche for 50 minutes last night and enjoying a 2-goal lead, the Stars resorted back to turnovers and the inability to clear the puck out of their own zone. As it was pointed out on several occasions, Colorado was on a 4-game skid of their own, so I don’t want to take anything away from them. They played desperation hockey and by doing so, “stole” two points out of Dallas’ back pocket.
The most frustrating when it comes down to it is over the past several years, the Stars have missed the playoffs by no more than five points, so, when you give two points away (and the teams that surround you like San Jose and Edmonton play for 3 points), you absolutely must look in the mirror. Before, Stars fans could point to the fact that “there was no owner” or the “team is in bankruptcy” and were unable to go get that “marquee” player to tip the talent scales enough to warrant better results.
That’s not the case anymore. We have an owner now. We have an owner who knows the difference between a hockey puck and an oil rig. We have an owner who is passionate and is hands on and most importantly wants to win because he has pride. We have that “marquee” player now. Hell, we have TWO of them. One is a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame and the other one should be. We have an elite goaltender that warrants national attention every time he takes the ice. Often, he doesn’t disappoint, especially when he’s called upon to make a spinning, behind the back save that is totally blind.
So, we have the owner…we have the players (who if you make the case is in large part to the general manager), so who’s left?
Oh, I almost forgot the head coach. He’s so quiet, I forgot he was even there. Craig Ludwig made the point last night that the leadership needs to come from the veterans. I don’t care who you are, if you have less than 2 national titles, 1200 NHL games played and 2 Stanley Cups, Craig Ludwig knows more about hockey than you, so I yield accurate assessment to him. However, if the head coach is laid back and doesn’t appear to have a sense of urgency, neither will your veterans.
“We played well enough to win the game, but we invented ways to lose it.”
That was Glen Gulutzan’s assessment from last night’s game. “We couldn’t make a pass in the 3rd period.” With 1:47 remaining in the game and down by one goal, the Stars had a defensive end draw. Win the faceoff and control the puck and Kari makes it to the bench with at worse 1:20 left on the clock to set up an extra attacker tying attempt. The faceoff was won by the Avalanche. It was pulled back to the blue line and finally deposited behind Kari’s net. Colorado’s forecheck forced a clearing attempt back and once the puck was finally brought out of the zone, an errant pass was deflected by Colorado back into the zone. When it was all said, the Stars finally got set up in the offensive zone with 21 seconds remaining, and Dallas lost the game, complete with their unused timeout in their back pocket.
We all know what they say about hindsight. The Stars could have taken the time out with 1:47, won the draw and taken the puck into the Colorado zone only to see Varlamov freeze the puck with 1:10 which would have been an ideal time to use the timeout. However, Gulutzan chose to hold on to his timeout instead of drawing up a play, stressing the urgency for a defensive zone faceoff win and put his five best players out on the ice.
I was just posed the question on my twitter page as to what happened to Jamie Benn’s scoring. I suppose some of it could be the wrist injury that kept him out for 2 games. I attribute it to the fact that since his last goal, he has two different wingers. When they were together on the top line, Morrow, Benn and Jagr were on fire. The team was averaging 4 goals a game and even when they were losing games, they seemed to play their most complete games when that line was on the ice. It seems that even though when Ray Whitney returned from his broken foot, that line of Morrow-Benn-Jagr could have remained together.
Glen Gulutzan was brought in here because of his success with young, talented players. The Stars organization has failed him by bringing in dominate veterans. In order for Gully to excel, the team needed to go “all-in” with their youth infusion and brought up Matt Fraser, Patrik Nemeth and Colton Sceviour along with Dillon, Jordie Benn (though I’m ok if he were to go back down) and Roussel. Instead, we bring in Jagr and Whitney and Roy (who people forget has been in the league for 8 seasons).
This team has no identity outside of its own crease. We hit like we’re a physical team. We make passes like we’re a skilled, scoring team. We have a 41-year old leader and a 20-year old potential future captain in Jamie Oleksiak. If not for Kari Lehtonen, there would not be one player in the Stars line-up that commands the moniker of “go-to.” When the Stars were winning in the late-90s to early-2000s, the team was made-up solely with “go-to” guys. The coach required it of his players. If you were going to play for Ken Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars, you had better want that puck on your stick with 0.9 seconds left and down by one. Now, no one wants to be “that” guy. Perhaps it’s because the coach doesn’t want to be “that” guy either.