I think one of the thing I find so frustrating as a fan of the Dallas Stars this season is the lack of a true identity. Granted, it’s very difficult to form that one particular style when you’re trying to learn a brand new system that a new head coach brings in, but with the exception of the loss of Brad Richards and the addition of the few key players on July 1st, the Stars do not have that one brand that stands out like an offensive/defensive team. One thing that they most certainly are is “pesky,” a phrase coined by the team’s leader in PIM, Steve Ott, who just so happens to be fourth in the league in that category.
But let’s start with the defense. Right now, there’s one player who is just hands down the defensive savior of this team, and that’s Kari Lehtonen. Since going down to a groin injury in late November, the Stars have gone 6-4, with rookie net minder, Richard Bachman posting a 4-2 record in his first six games. In what I feel is a shock, Bachman was named the starter tonight as the Stars face a Nashville Predator team that had an emotional come from behind win last night against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. But even upon Lehtonen’s return, who will stay and back him up? It appears as if the back up (based on the depth chart), Andrew Raycroft, is watching his last moments as a Dallas Star from the bench. The original starting six defensemen (Souray, Robidas, Daley, Fistric, Larsen and Goligoski) are a combined -2. That’s a more staggering statistic when you consider the number of penalties this team took at the start of the season. Sheldon Souray leads the defensive core with a plus-8 and fifteen points. Alex Goligoski is hands down considered the quarterback of the power play. My concern, and I’ve said this since day one, is why not have your quarterback with your most explosive point scorer out on the ice at the most opportune time? From my vantage point, and Goligoski/Souray power play, at least on paper, looks unstopable.
Offensively, the guys who should be scoring are finally finding that finishing touch (little alliteration for the scholars joining us today). Leading in total points are Jamie Benn, Loui Erikson, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and the captain, Brenden Morrow. However, Benn is just outside the top-30 in scoring in the league. It’s been said since the writing on the wall became clear that Richards would be leaving that the Stars had to go find a top-tier sniper. I believe that remains true, however, what is Stars GM, Joe Nieuwendyk, willing to give up to get a Rick Nash? Does he just show patience with the younger players and let them develop and allow this season of such low expectations pan out?
Again, this team without any doubt is pesky. Even when being out played by the special teams of the Philadelphia Flyers, they continued to fight, claw and scrap for every loose puck. To highlight their tenacity, the Stars have three players (including former Star, Krys Barch) in the top-30 of penalty minutes. The aforementioned, Steve Ott, is fourth with 74 minutes. Unfortunately, the team is relying on Otter to be a legitimate forward on this team and rack up some ice time, not box time. Nonetheless, the Stars sit tied with San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes for the top spot in the division. However, the Los Angeles Kings are only three points back and the Anaheim Ducks can catch fire at any moment and we all know what can happen when that occurs. So, just what does being tied for the Pacific division lead get a team? Tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. So, perhaps being pesky isn’t such a bad thing. Pesky will get you into the playoffs. But, a true identity will get you seeding and success.
Tags: Alex Goligoski Anaheim Ducks Andrew Raycroft Brad Richards Brenden Morrow Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Jamie Benn Joe Nieuwendyk Kari Lehtonen Los Angeles Kings Loui Eriksson Michael Ryder Mike Ribeiro NHL Philadelphia Flyers Phoenix Coyotes Richard Bachman San Jose Sharks Sheldon Souray Steve Ott