I’d like to begin this article by apologizing profusely for reminding you that yes, this actually did happen, it wasn’t some twisted nightmare that you buried in the deepest parts of your brain never to be found. Coach Glen Gulutzan really did attempt to solve the calamity that was the Dallas Stars power play by putting the oft-scratched, fourth line forward Toby Petersen on the point, the most important position on the ice for a power play unit, a position usually reserved for a player with either a booming shot or the ability to be the entire team’s “quarterback”, running the power play unit. Toby Petersen was neither.
To be completely fair, the Stars were desperate. Alex Goligoski had just gone down with an injury, the team had dropped three straight games, and the power play simply was not working. But why Toby Petersen? Gulutzan tried to rationalize the decision by using Petersen’s past experience on the point with the Iowa Stars from 2005-2008, hoping he could succeed in the same role with the Dallas Stars. Petersen’s first game in his new role was November 18th versus Colorado. What followed was a nightmarish stretch of special teams play that cemented Dallas’ status of having one of the very worst power plays in the NHL, and one of the worst we’ve ever seen from a Stars team. In the nine games that saw Petersen given some sort of power play time, the Stars went 1/23 with the man advantage.
No, that’s not a typo. 1 for 23. Over nine games.
Now, this is not to say it’s all Toby Petersen’s fault and he is solely to blame for the tragedy that we as fans had to watch night in and night out, but he is the perfect representation of what went wrong. The Stars coaching staff’s inexperience shone brightly with this mind-boggling decision and it became clear that more than just the players have some growing up to do. The Stars limped through that nine-game stretch with a 4-4-1 record and despite maintaining the ability to pull out wins with a power play that ended up being successful just 13.7% of the time at season’s end, it wasn’t nearly enough to secure them a playoff spot.
Toby Petersen being given the responsibility of playing point on the power play was an absolute and unequivocal MISS. It proved that the Stars had serious work to do over summer. Fast forward to present day and the Stars haven’t made any notable upgrades at defense, they’ve only lost Sheldon Souray. However, the addition of an experienced assistant coach in Curt Fraser and a player like Derek Roy, who quarterbacked the Buffalo Sabres power play (take a look at the two power play goals he scored in this game from last season), could prove to be the element needed to bring the Dallas Stars power play out of the doldrums. Alex Goligoski taking a leap forward in his play would also be a boon for the Stars’ hopes to return to the playoffs. There are more “ifs” in the upcoming season that we can count, and many will need to go the right way to see this team be successful once again, chief among them is the power play.
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