Not what I had hope to be discussing with a couple of weeks left in the season, but the Dallas Stars are about done. They start off the 6-game streak of home game by dropping games to the Kings and Avalanche and only pick up one point. They looked good at times in both games, but like a lot of other times this year, they could not put the whole package together and get a win in two games they had a chance to. Not how you want to make a push for the playoffs at all. The players and coaching staff keep saying they are working and trying to improve and feel like they can still do it, but it is getting more and more unbelievable as the days pass. The boys in black & gold have now gone 1-5-1 in their 7 games since the Olympic break, only picking up 3 out of 14 points. Sure with 14 games left they are still in a position that making the cut is possible, but they wake up today 7 points out of the playoffs and would need to pick up probably at least 23-24 of a possible 28 points to be able to work their way in. And even then they would be the 7th or 8th seed and do not look like they could win a 7 game series against any of the top 6 West teams, much less number 1 or 2. (Sidenote: Segal has been a good addition to the Stars roster. No he is not a top guy, but he can be a good 3rd line winger and has shown he can play tough and chip in sometimes in the points coumn.)
Sure we could see the signs pointing towards this at times all throughout the season: the inability to win multiple games in a row, the seemingly half-there efforts on the road, the inconsistency in goal and from the defense. This team is not meant to be a playoff team this year, which hurts considering for many years that is what the Stars were. For over a decade, the Stars were a contender for a playoff spot and at least a winning record in the West. We may have only won one Cup, but the team was successful almost every season and was adding banners to the rafters here in Dallas. But now the Stars will miss the playoffs for the second straight season, and I will get an earlier start on putting more time and heart into the Rangers and Mavericks (both who I think can contend this year).
This is what happens, growing pains with a team bringing in sexy looking young talent, but having to try and figure out a new system they are not built for and bridge the gap between the few true veteran leaders they have. Sure they have Modano, Richards and Morrow who have seen some success and have the right qualities. But some of the guys that the team wishes would be leaders have not fully stepped forward this year. Would the real Brenden Morrow please stand up? He has points-wise had a decent numbers, but 35 points in 63 games is not what you hope for from the team captain and some-one who is capable of 60-70 poinst up in 75-80 games a season. We know this was his first full year back from the injury and being supposedly healthy. What has had some fans upset though is how he played for Canada at the Olympics, where he looked like the Morrow of 06,07,08. In a few of the Olympic games he looked better then any of the games he has played here this season. Brad Richards has been on top of his game for most of the season and his mix of top-level talent, being in the prime of his career, and growing leadership makes him easily on of the faces for this franchise. Brad has 73 points and is on pace for 88 in 80 games, the type of production that the Stars hoped for when they traded for him a couple deadlines ago. It has taken a little time, but even while getting adjusted to being here we saw that he can play. It was just a question of can he live up to his paycheck. While I hate paying someone that much money when we need so much help, he is not a problem at all for this team. He has built chemistry with growing talents Eriksson and Neal, and we have seen the fruit of that with both of the wingers continuing to show they will be something special for this team. Richards also plays point in the power-play, at times helps on the penalty kill and is trying to buy into the new system and bring some of the young guys along with him. Mike Modano may be getting up their in mileage, but he still can skate and is one of the Stars better face-off guys still. This year has to have been crazy for him, as at times he has played with the #2 line on the wing, on the #3 line as center or wing, and at times center a checking line with the likes of Barch, Peterson, Wandell and Brunnstrom. Despite seemingly changing roles every other week, and at times playing with guys with very little long term NHL talent, he has 13 goals and 13 assists in 54 games after being injured at the start of the season. I love Mo and hope he comes back one more year, but only time will tell and this may be his last year if he thinks they are still 2-3 years away from being serious Cup contenders again.
On the other hand, Robidas has been a solid defense-man for this team, but is in most people’s eyes a #2 or #3 D-man. It is known that although he leads with his play, he is not a real vocal guy and would be better he was not having to try to be a #1 on a weak/young D core. Although guys the team hopes will be solid players long-term like Grossman and Fistric have looked great at times, the young mistakes and at times down right horrible play of Niskanen have hurt this team a lot. Skrastins has at times stepped up a little and was a hopeful to help this defense, but the aging vet also has stretches of games where he looks his age and is beat easily to the puck or net.
Turco & Morrow too often are on this end of the scoring. (Source:Yardbarker.com)
Leadership from the net would be great too, but that has been missing and still is. Turco has been too inconsistent and unreliable for this team to lean on him when they need him to still a game or two during road-trip or a rough week. He has shown periods of solid play, but then also has all season long let in weak goals and seems to let one or two bad goals destroy his composure and next thing we know it is 5 or 6 goals in the net.
More to come this week, for unless things change this week then we can already start looking forward to the off-season and I will start dreaming of baseball and the summer time. Maybe losing a few more and getting a top 10 pick again will help this team in the long run more then winning a few more and finishing 9th in the west. Any thoughts?