After missing the first seven games of the 2019-20 season with a fractured foot, Corey Perry made his Dallas Stars debut on Wednesday in Columbus. And in his time on the ice, he seemed to provide a handful of crucial elements that the Stars had been missing. Those elements will be all the more important going forward.
It’s been 15 days since the Dallas Stars opened their 2019-20 regular season slate. And so far, things have not gone according to plan.
Now, there’s no way of crafting an exact plan for a hockey team at any point during the regular season. Each game presents a new challenge and a variety of different scenarios, so it’s nearly impossible to perfectly project how a team will fare in a given stretch.
But with that being said, it’s safe to say that a 1-6-1 record, no wins in regulation, lacking performances from their star players, and a stagnant offense and power play through the first eight games were not in the cards.
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On Twitter and in various Stars fan circles, there’s panic and uncertainty. In the locker room, the focus is simply on being much better in the final 90 percent of the season and quickly and efficiently righting the ship.
Whichever side you may fall on through the first 15 days, one thing is certain: the Dallas Stars are in a hole and need an immediate response starting Friday in Pittsburgh if they hope to get back on track and reignite their lofty preseason hopes.
But how can they go about doing that? Well, it all starts with a single step.
There’s a lot within the Stars’ game that needs fixing and patching, from their 1-for-24 power play, to their offense that is averaging 1.88 goals per game (31st in NHL), to their slow starts and inability to string three periods of consistent effort and energy together.
Corey Perry should be able to help as well.
Rewind to June 30, 2019. It’s been less than two weeks since the Anaheim Ducks bought out the 34-year-old Perry’s contract in an attempt to get younger and shift to a new era. Perry is coming off of the worst season of his career in terms of points and production, though a majority of his struggles revolved around trying to recover from surgery on his MCL and meniscus and hop back into the lineup as quickly as possible.
Perry built a winning pedigree for himself in the first 14 years of his NHL career. That effort included a Rocket Richard Trophy, Hart Trophy, multiple All-Star appearances, and a Stanley Cup title in 2007. He’s known around the League for being a pesky opponent that thrives in the “bad guy” role while also providing an elite scoring boost and other important elements.
That’s exactly why the Dallas Stars signed him to a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1.5 million on July 1. He provides a certain set of variables that could greatly benefit the Stars in their game plan. The fact that he is coming off of knee surgery and a buyout simply adds to the fuel of a competitor like Perry.
“I think if I can go in, fit right in right away, and get off on the right foot, I think it’s going to be great,” Perry said on July 1. “For me personally, I’m going in there with the right attitude and motivation to prove people wrong. I’ve done that throughout my whole career and it’s worked so far. Hopefully it continues to do that.”
Now, it’s important to clarify what Perry is bringing to the table. He’s not going to be a 25-goal, 55-point player. He hasn’t hit either of those marks since the 2015-16 season and he’s on the back half of his career. It’s not fair to expect him to solve the Stars’ scoring issues.
But there’s plenty of reason to believe that Perry will be much more than just a veteran voice in the locker room that can provide insight and wisdom. As GM Jim Nill said on July 1, the winger has something left in the tank, and that’s exciting.
“It’s going to be a fresh start,” Perry said back in July. “Like I said, it’s motivation. Change can be a good thing and that’s how I’m approaching it. I’m excited to get to work.”
After missing the first seven games of the season while recovering from a fractured foot suffered just before training camp began, Perry made his Dallas Stars debut on Wednesday night in Columbus. And while the Stars still struggled to find consistency and eventually fell 3-2 to the Blue Jackets, Perry was both noticeable and good.
His fingerprints were all over the first half of the game. He applied consistent pressure on the forecheck, laid some big hits, and made an impact on the second power play unit. He created a point-blank chance for Denis Gurianov while on the man advantage, laid an impressive hit on Seth Jones in the Columbus zone, and also ringed a shot off of Joonas Korpisalo‘s mask early in the second period.
For a first game back in over six months with a new team, Perry looked good. He brought physicality, energy, and grit to a Dallas Stars lineup that desperately needed it. He generated chances, contributed on the power play, provided a gritty edge, and fit into the lineup nicely.
All in all, Perry skated 13:55 across 21 shifts, including 1:33 on the power play. He logged one shot on goal and one hit.
“I played him more than I envisioned. He was really going. He was making plays for us and that pass he made to Gurianov on the power play. His support play down low in the offensive zone was excellent.”
In his first game with Dallas, Perry seemed to provide a lot that the Stars needed. And while their effort still resulted in a loss, the team looked better as a whole.
It’s all about getting comfortable as a complete group. Perry brings necessary elements to the Stars’ game plan, but there must be time to gel. It’s the same thing with Joe Pavelski, Andrej Sekera, and other new additions.
But for Perry, there seems to be a good connection through one game.
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“I think they have a great group of players, both young and old,” Perry said about the Stars in July. “I know a lot of faces in that dressing room. I’ve talked to a bunch of guys already and they’re excited. They want to start tomorrow and get the season going. But we’ll take it one day at a time. You can’t win a championship in October. You have to progress and work your way to that ultimate goal.”
He’s right about not winning a championship in October. On the other hand, you can certainly lose any chance of winning a championship in October. Right now, the Dallas Stars are trending in that direction.
But that’s why they brought Perry into the fold. He can not only help the team bounce out of a slow start using his leadership and experience, but also assist in the on-ice effort using the specific intangibles that he is known for. And if they can start rolling in the right direction, there’s no telling how valuable Perry can be as the season progresses.
His next chance to do so comes on Friday in Pittsburgh as the Stars attempt to begin navigating their way out of this early rut against a high-flying Penguins team.
Corey Perry isn’t going to be the overarching savior that cures all of the Dallas Stars’ issues. But he showed on Wednesday night that he can at least be a sizable part of the answer.