Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dimming Stars?

Attended my first Stars game of their 15th Anniversary season here in Dallas, and from a fan standpoint, it was a wildly entertaining game. But the vibe from Stars fans outside the AAC after the 6-5 OT loss gave off the impression the team was in shambles.

"We shoulda traded Turco last season when we had the chance!"

"Brendan Morrow is soft!"

"Brad Richards gives us nothing and we gave up our goalie of the future for a guy to take up half our cap space!"

Negative much? Yes, the Stars have not played up to the hype early in the 2008-09 season, but let's at least remember it is of course early in the season. Through nine (yes, nine, out of 82) games, Dallas is 3-4-2, and their 8 points puts them in a five-way tie for eighth place in the Western Conference. Again, it's NINE games into the season. Calm down and give this team a chance to gel.

After going 2-1 on their NYC-area road trip, this home-ice loss wasn't exactly a big confidence booster, but the team did show flashes of what propelled them to the Conference Finals last season.

There's no denying this team has something special in Fabian Brunnstrom. A nifty pass from a behind-the-net Avery to Brunnstrom became a behind-the-goalie puck. Leads rookies in goals with five. Avery made a big night of it as well, notching his first goal with the Stars. New players making an impact? Check.

Offensively, the team came through. Five goals in the NHL should be enough to win. Immediately blame will fall on Marty Turco. Some of that is deservedly so. The fourth goal he gave up tonight was a direct result of a careless Turco turnover. At other times, he continued to bail out a defense that has been sloppier than Reunion Arena ice. Turco is also not corralling some of his saves, allowing for plenty of second-chance goals off of easy rebounds.

With the game tied, 4-4, in the third period, Turco stopped a hard shot from his right only to see the puck trickle off him right across the crease to a capitalizing Capital in Tyler Sloan.

And yet with the game having swung so quickly back in Washington's favor, Dallas' leaders Brenden Morrow and Mike Modano came through to team up on the game-tying goal with 56 seconds left in the third period to force overtime. Late-game goal to save a point from this game? Check.

Take 'em any way you can get 'em. The Stars won't sneak up on anyone this season like they did in the 2008 playoffs. Frankly, they wouldn't have had to if they hadn't stubbed their collective toe in several late-season games. But despite the No. 5 seeding, the team still made it all the way to hockey's final four. So while the early season happenings of the Stars have been subpar, don't consider a season with 89% still to be played already over.

Amen to these comments left on the DMN Stars blog by my good friend Taylor...

Posted by Taylor @ 10:14 PM Sat, Oct 25, 2008

I can't figure out who drives me more nuts: this team or this team's so-called "fans".

Are they playing well right now? No they're not. A team shouldn't have to score five a night to win. You really can't expect to win if you're giving up 30+ shots a night (unless you're facing the Islanders, who reeled of 60 tonight and lost).

I still think a lot of the issues have to do with defense. The young guys are having some issues (Niskanen is -6 and Fistric -2) and the forwards are not playing as defensive as they could (Bruunstom is a good example of this. His goal scoring prowess is obvious, but he's not defending as well as he could). We've got young players who are still learning the game and having "sophmore slumps" (even Ovechkin had one, if you count 42 goals a "slump"). And we have others (Ribeiro, Morrow, Richards, Avery) who are startin to come around and play better.

Has Turco been part of the problem? He has and I think he'll be the first to tell you that. He's had two puck handling issues that have led to goals for the opposition and hasn't stopped shots he probably should have. But he'll be the first to tell you that. If anything, Marty admits he's responsible for his actions and says the right things. He does need to start "doing" instead of just "talking". Which I think he will and the good ship Dallas Stars will turn around. Am I against Tobias Stephen playing a full game? Not at all (I don't want Marty playing 65 this year) and we need to see what he has.

I still think he's taking too much blame here. The entire team isn't playing as well as they could and I think they know that. Are Lehtinen and Zubov the answer? Maybe. Zubov's a good tutor and Lehtinen is, well, Lehtinen.

Guys and gals just a reminder: it's JUST. TEN. GAMES. It's an 82 game season. So can we wait a month in before calling this a disaster?


The Stars may not be shining brightly, but they certainly haven't burned out. Plenty of hockey to play. Plenty.

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