Eight games in to an 82 game season it may not yet be time to panic. But if the play of the Dallas Stars doesn’t change quickly, shaky hands and a nervous sweat are not too far off.
The Stars are 3-5. They have at times shown some flashes of good play, a few strong periods. But mostly they have looked confused, out worked and generally like a team that has been pieced together hastily and has yet to figure out who they are or what style their coach wants them to play.
Most of this is to be expected. Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff are veteran voices brought in to take over for Joe Niewendyuk and Glen Gulutzan. They have brought a new philosophy and plan of action that by all indications may take a while to learn. Very rarely, no matter what the sport, does a new management team take over a losing team fairly bereft of talent and have them win immediately.
Sometimes you will see a new coach take over an underperforming talented team and have immediate success but this is not the case. The moves that Jim Nill made over the offseason that were supposed to improve the team and seem to be hit or miss right now and definitely buy Lindy Ruff quite a bit of time before the fans and media start looking his way for someone to blame.
Nill’s move for Tyler Seguin seems like a sure fire home run right now. The 21 year old has 4 goals and six assists and is an even player on a team that is minus 1.1 goals per game. His pairing with Jamie Benn is the most exciting one-two punch in green and black since Modano and Lehtinen.
The rumor from practice this week is that first round pick Valeri Nichushkin will be joining the top line in what could be the foundation of one of the best young lines in the league for many years to come. “Nuke” has been progressing nicely since being a healthy scratch against Colorado last Tuesday and has earned this chance.
As promising as this line can be there is much work to been done elsewhere.
Starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been out with a lower body injury and Mike Ellis and Jack Campbell where valiant in trying to defend the pipes but the real weakness of this team that most fans and media really thought needed to be addresses hung them both out to dry.
The Stars defense is still absolutely atrocious and what’s most alarming about their play is the two worst contributors are their two most expensive and most recent major blue line acquisitions. Sergei Gonchar, signed a two year $10 Million contract this summer. The idea behind the deal was that he would bring a strong veteran presence and run the point on the powerplay.
Neither have happened. While the Powerplay has looked much better than last year, the Stars have been running it with 4 forwards and 1 dman and over the last few games Gonchar really being a non-factor.
Ruff split Gonchar and Goligoski, the Stars other overpaid defenseman early in the last game after they again gave up chance after chance and made poor, lazy, ill-advised passes out of their own zone. They are a combined -16. Extrapolated for an 82 games season they would be -164. They have one point between them. One.
That’s 41 points a -164 for $7.275 million a year. Enron had better returns.
The Stars top end forwards are doing everything and more you could expect but again their undersized, under talented and overrated defense is letting them down.
Hopefully this is just a blip in the radar. A wakeup call, just a few short games in long season. A bit of a learning curve. Growing pains. A path to the new Stars. Hey according to the PR department “A New Star is Rising.”
We can spin it however we want to but to be honest it’s just the same thing we have seen for the last five years only it’s wearing a brand new sweater. In fact it may be worse.
We might be staring at the proverbial shiny turd in a pretty box with a brand new bow tie.
The most frustrating aspect about the Dallas Stars play over the last 5 seasons has been its inconsistency. They have started fast and then faded late missing the playoffs by just a handful of games or less. In each season they showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately they could never sustain it long enough.
This season they may be much less frustrating but only because they might have already faded.