Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Dallas Stars are done.

So, as I write, the Dallas Stars are 3 points out of a playoff spot with 10 games left to play. A year ago, the Stars were limping into the playoffs where they put on an incredible run, but that will not happen this year. They are toast and here is why. Let's start with the obvious.
1. Injuries. This team has been decimated with injuries this year, and while some people may say that isn't an excuse, I doubt any of them follow a team that has lost it's best puck-moving defensemen/power play quarterback (Sergei Zubov), It's best forward/Captain (Brenden Morrow), and for the last couple months, one of it's top two remaining forwards (Brad Richards). Those losses for extended amount of time, plus lengthy absences from others (Jere Lehtinen and Steve Ott), have contributed to the Stars let down.

2. Lost Personnel - In the off season, the Stars lost players such as Antti Miettinen Stu Barnes and Mattias Norstrom. Miettinen wasn't a huge loss, but combined with Stu's retirement, left them without a checking center they could rely on for a lot of the season. Norstrom's absence means that forwards aren't as wary of going into the crease as they would have been.

3. Turco's play. To say it has been unsteady would be an understatement. Unfortunately, the coach couldn't even put in a backup for any amount of time to give Turco a few games to re-focus because this team has no battle-tested goaltender in it's system. Any game I saw another goalie in net, I penciled in as a loss.

So, the bright side.
1. The off-season will be good for the Stars. Since they will not make the playoffs, there will be plenty of time to heal and for key personnel to decide their futures. This could be the year that both Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov decide to retire. Each could be effective for another year, but it depends a lot on health. My bet would be that Zubov retires for health reasons, and Modano plays his final year. Either way, the health of Morrow, Lehtinen, and Richards for a whole season would do wonders.

2. Next, there is the emergence of both Loui Eriksson and James Neal. These are young players who should only get better with another year. Add in that Ribiero, Richards, and Morrow are all still very young, and you've got a great nucleus to build around.

3. Finally, Turco should rebound from a very odd year. This reminds me of when Modano had an off year a few years back and came back very focused and looking like the Modano of old. I anticipate a return to form for Marty.

So, I hope that is the case because after a disappointing year, it's never too early to get excited about the next one.

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