Falling Stars: Dallas in a Tailspin

After starting the season 11-3, the Dallas Stars have fallen off a precipice. The Stars have lost five straight and no longer look like the dominating force they were in the season’s opening weeks. Ironically, the Stars continue to mirror last season in more ways than one.

During their five game losing streak, the Stars have been outscored 21-4, signaling poor play on both sides of the puck. After the team dominated the Washington Capitals in Washington on November, 8, many analysts were chiming about how solid and robust the Stars look this season, but not even two weeks later the Stars appear to have numerous holes and sinking fast. Consider Rookie Coach Glen Gulutzan’s reaction before and after the Stars recent slide. Just 11 days ago, Gulutzan appeared confident about his team after its 5-2 victor over Washington.

“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” Gulutzan said. “We’re trying to gauge ourselves against the league, coming into Washington and then heading to Pittsburgh and Detroit. Tonight we liked our game. It just gives us confidence moving forward.”

Dallas can't seem to to find any answers to their recent slide. (HermanVonPetri/flickr)

After the team’s 4-1 home loss to San Jose on November 20th (and fifth-straight loss), Gulutzan sounds like he is coaching a different team.

“We’re in a hole. There’s no question about it, and you can’t just jump out of a hole this deep. You have to kind of dig your way up and dig your way out, and I thought we were moving in that direction,” Gulutzan said.

It’s not just that the Stars have lost five straight games, it’s the manner in which it has occurred. Dallas has lost by at least three goals in each of its last four games, showing the team hasn’t been able to stay competitive with opposing teams in the past week. Reminiscent to last season, the Stars defense looks particular disoriented in recent games, giving up point blank opportunities that were not allowed in the early stages of the season. Also redolent to last season is the fact that injuries once again seem to be the Achilles’ heel of the Stars. Defenseman Alex Goligoski has been for the entirety of the losing streak. Forward Adam Burish has also been out multiple games, and, although he returned for the team’s last game, center Steve Ott had been out for an extended period. Goligoski and Ott represent important players for the Stars. Goligoski is probably the Stars number one D-man, while Ott has played consistently as the No. 2 center for the team. Without such players, the foundation began to crack and the new line pairings (especially on D) has proven untenable against opposing offenses. Of course, any team suffers injuries during the course of a season. That’s the nature of hockey, and, in order to win make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup, a team must be able to overcome injuries and have other players step up and fill in those key roles.

The Stars started off last season flying high and holding the Pacific Division to the time of the All-Star Break in January. After that time, Dallas met the injury bug and went cascading down the standings and ultimately missed the playoffs when they lost their final game. With the increased depth the Stars have this season (and the lessons learned from last season), the team should be able to rebound. Every team goes through ups and downs during the course of a season, but implementing damage control is crucial to minimizing lost points.

Captain Brenden Morrow summed up the recent slide: “Right now, you look back, it’s probably been about nine periods where we’ve been outworked. Some periods in there, 5 to 10 minutes in those games where we’ve done things well, but it’s pretty simple, we got outworked these last few games.”