Dallas Stars: Early Season Growing Pains Must Be Expected, Endured

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 19: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars gets a word of encouragement from his coach Jim Montgomery after he scores a goal against the Minnesota Wild at the American Airlines Center on October 19, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 19: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars gets a word of encouragement from his coach Jim Montgomery after he scores a goal against the Minnesota Wild at the American Airlines Center on October 19, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Dallas Stars started their 2018-19 campaign on a hot streak but have since hit a pretty sizable wall. But as they try and work their way around it, it’s important to remember that this is all a part of the process.

It’s always intriguing watching the Dallas Stars face adversity.

Maybe it’s because of how often they face it or maybe it’s because of how they handle it each time. Either way, they always make their fight interesting to observe.

The thing about adversity is that it can either be beneficial or detrimental to sports teams, depending on how they endure and battle through it.

Throughout the past few seasons, the Stars have met adversity on a relatively frequent basis. It’s come in many shapes and sizes and presented many unique challenges to the franchise with each passing year. And through it all, Dallas has turned in mixed results.

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For instance, think back to game five of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars lost to the St. Louis Blues on home ice and fell into a 3-2 series deficit. Not only was that a problem for the Central division champions, but they would also have to face game six on the road in front of a sold out crowd in St. Louis.

But Dallas found a way to fight through. They entered St. Louis, claimed a gritty 3-2 win, and forced a game seven back on their own ice at the American Airlines Center. And though they didn’t get the job done in the final game, that’s not the point. The point is that the Stars found a way with their backs against the wall.

There are, however, cases where the Stars haven’t answered to adversity. The most recent of those cases likely still provides a small sting whenever you think about it.

March 2018 might very well be one of the worst months in Dallas Stars franchise history. On March 3, 2018, the Stars defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime to lay sole claim to the third place spot in the Central division. They were on a bit of a hot streak, claiming points in 10 of their past 14 games, and were in good standing with a little over 30 days left in the season.

But then, it all came crashing down. Dallas went on a six-game road trip in the middle of the month and posted a horrific 0-4-2 record. The skid was enough to drag the Stars from the playoff picture and put them in the fight for a wild card spot. But upon returning home, it got worse. Dallas dropped its first two games back on home ice in regulation to go to an 0-6-2 slump. Their playoff hopes were all but stumped from there as the Stars closed the year on a 4-2-0 note and finished with a 41-31-10 record.

No matter what the Dallas Stars tried or didn’t try during that stretch, they couldn’t get the job done. That’s facing adversity the wrong way. And when adversity is faced in such a catastrophically incorrect way, the need for change becomes imminent.

That’s why the Stars made changes in the 2018 offseason. They brought in a new head coach in Jim Montgomery that preaches a different style, a new coaching staff to complement that style, and a handful of new players to hopefully round out the team’s rough edges. All of the moves looked as though they would be enough to at least keep the Stars in the fight for a playoff spot throughout the year.

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  • Through the first four games of the year, Dallas looked to have done everything right. Their offense and power play were electric, the defense and penalty kill played with purpose and structure, and the goaltending did a solid job at keeping the team in each game. On top of that, Montgomery’s style was creating a newfound buzz and energy in the lineup’s execution.

    Those positives led the Dallas Stars to a 3-1-0 record, including a win in the division and a comeback victory. To put it plainly, everything seemed to be going right.

    But then, all of a sudden, it didn’t. Following a big win over Anaheim, the Stars went on their first road trip of the season. They dropped two consecutive games with a 4-1 loss to Ottawa and a 3-0 loss to New Jersey. Their offense looked to be non-existent, the defense was leaky, and the goaltending wasn’t playing up to the previous standard they had set.

    The disappointment continued as Dallas returned home on Friday night to face the Minnesota Wild in a Central division showdown. The Stars once again looked sloppy for a portion of the game, but found a 1-0 lead early in the third period thanks to a Jason Spezza goal. Following that, the Stars shifted into neutral as the Wild retaliated and scored three goals to claim a 3-1 win.

    And just like that, the Dallas Stars are 3-4-0 on the year.

    Now, that’s a small sampling size. There are still 75 games left in the season and being one game below .500 isn’t a real reason to panic. But the fact that things went from good to bad so quickly for the team is definitely a cause for concern.

    But that’s how this is supposed to go, surprisingly enough.

    When the Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery in May of 2018, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They knew that he likely wasn’t going to win a deep and stocked Central division in his first season behind the bench. They also accepted that Montgomery taking the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year was also a long shot. But at the time, the change needed to be made, and Montgomery was the right choice.

    That’s because the Dallas Stars gave way to a process. It’s one that every hockey team has to face at some point in their franchise history. It’a time for bringing in new ideas and letting them fully settle and marinate before the team can reach true success.

    And that’s what is happening right now. The Stars brought in a new coach with new ideas and his own “process,” and now they are letting those ideas take effect. It’s not an overnight ordeal. Instead, it takes time, just like all other things. And until the new style is fully assimilated into the team’s play, there will be some kinks and bumps.

    Back in 2016, Jim Montgomery did an interview with TheCoachesSite.com about his process and how he incorporates it into coaching. He pointed out in the interview that his teams are always remarkably better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning. That’s because it takes time for the process to sink in and take effect.

    "“I find that the teams I coach are always better at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year because it takes a while for people to believe and trust the process. But when they do, the results speak for themselves.” -Jim Montgomery, April 2016"

    In that scenario, he was coaching a different team every year due to the college setting and players both joining and leaving after each year. But with the NHL, he has a chance to do something special with a similar team every season.

    Right now, the Dallas Stars are facing adversity. They have lost four of their past five games and cannot seem to reignite the magic they were carrying through the first week of the season. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov haven’t scored a goal in nine days, the depth scoring is lacking, the defense is averaging 3.33 goals against per game over the past three contests, and Ben Bishop is on a two-game losing skid for the first time this year.

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    But that’s okay. This adversity is what challenges a team to be better, focus more, and get back into the fight. And, as we saw last season, it’s better to face the adversity in the first ten games than the last ten games.

    Montgomery believes in his process and he believes in his current team. On top of that, they believe in him and his style. And when there’s belief, there’s always hope.

    The Dallas Stars have hit their first pothole of the 2018-19 season. It certainly won’t be the only hole they face, but it also won’t keep them down for too long. This team is built on belief and persistence, two traits that can carry any team a far distance.

    These are simply the early growing pains of a new era of Stars hockey. They come with every changing of the guard and bring about doubt and anxiety. But through it all, you have to remember that this is a day-by-day and step-by-step process. And that’s where endurance comes into play. Can Dallas bounce past these struggles and become better from them? We’ll see as they close out the month of October.

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    But the belief is there and so is the motivation to readjust and gain their hype back. There’s nothing like a little early season adversity to make things all the more interesting.