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Friday, November 14, 2008

STARS Not Stellar

Remember the rumors last year at the trade deadline about Marty for Marty (Turco for St. Louis)? Well, a Tampa Bay forward did come to Dallas and a Dallas goalie did go to Tampa. Brad Richards for Mike Smith, essentially.

Richards had a fantastic first game in Dallas with 4 assists, setting up departed Nik Hagman for a hat trick in the process. But he cooled down quickly, made some contribution during the playoffs and very much looked forward to playing an entire year in his current system and new teammates.

To add to the brewing excitement of the 08-09 NHL season, the Stars added controversial free agent, Sean Avery during the summer. I have read nobody in the organization was too excited about Avery other than Co-GM Brett Hull who sees similarities in the maturing Avery and Hull's own, younger self.

And Coach Dave Tippett is the leader among active coaches for most wins and in his first year of a recently extended contract.

So what dramatic change is this team waiting for before they submit and commit to the cause of winning? I hope they are not second-guessing themselves on the Richards acquisition, especially in light of current netminder issues.

It sounds to me like some identity issues need to be sorted out for this team.

Turco is and has been one of my favorite goalies for a while and I think he is revolutionary in the way he plays the game. But I read him complaining about all the D-Men trying to block shots, essentially trying to be extra goalies on the ice instead of committing to good defensive play. It is the type of play you see when a team is struggling with their confidence in their netminder.

Interestingly enough in view of Turco's thoughts, Marty has played like a defenseman most of his career (puck-handling, backhand plays, playing it along the boards, deking opposing defenders while handling, etc.). Most of the time, historically, it has helped Dallas having a 3rd DMan in the back, especially when facing an opponent using DumpNChase offense.

But more and more, Turco seems to make mistakes more than glorious plays with his style. Not to mention his uncanny ability the last couple seasons to either:

a) let in the first shot of a game (sometimes the second if the first one bounced off him) and

b)let in a goal within the last minute (mostly last seconds) of ANY of the three periods. Marty, Marty, Marty....

So Marty has been frustrated by the defensemen playing goalie and the goalie likes to play the third defensemen. Big problem in the fundamentals of hockey.

It's time for Turco to remind us all of what an incredible goalie he is and bring his A-game back front and center.

The Stars began the season acting like playing the regular season is a burden. They just wanted another go at the Conference Finals game. Bummer about those 82 games that give a team the right to be invited to the party.

I think they have already addressed this, though and have been trying to re-tool and re-focus. But how do you do that when hockey fundamentals are not right and in place?

Remember the start of last season? They were losing most games and then the Doug Armstrong firing and co-GM deal shook it all up. The players responded and started to win. Are the Stars effectively waiting for the shakeup now before they will start to play? One has to wonder seeing the talent on this team and the bottom feeding of the standings they do each night now.

I don't think a shakeup is in order...yet. With a breakdown of team identity and fundamentals, it is time for Leadership. In other words, the man I called perhaps one of the league's best young Captains needs to take it to a different level. He needs to shake it up in the room, outside of the rink and on the ice. I think basic training would do the trick w/ Drill Sergeant Morrow whipping his own butt in shape as well as his teammates'. Brenden Morrow has a work ethic to be admired and it's time to infect this team with it.

And don't be surprised when it happens. The Dallas Stars have faced a few identity issues since the team on the ice hoisted the Cup in 99 and have overcome. Remember, most did not expect them to make the playoffs last season, much less be one of the last 4 teams skating.

But this season is not quite new at this point as the league closes in on the 20Game mark. It's time to get going in Dallas. Otherwise, the other 66 games that are definitely on the schedule will feel like a real burden, indeed.

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