Stars Are Running Out of Time to Turn Season Around

All season long, the narrative for the Dallas Stars has been something along the lines of “we are getting there.” The team has struggled out of the gates, holding a 4-6-2 record and nearing the bottom of the league in many statistical categories. While it is good to see improvement, the NHL is a tough league that will eat you up if you fall too far behind. For the Stars and their fans, they know the time is now to turn their season around. 

Stars Remain Consistently Inconsistent 

Dallas has struggled to find their team game all season long. Whether it is lack of focus, sloppy puck work, poor decision making, or a combination of each, the Stars have not consistently played well. Within each game, they have shown pockets of hope but always find a way to fade back into the fog

“The inconsistency has to stop. That’s just not in one area, that’s in all the areas.”

Stars head coach Rick Bowness 

The Stars look like a team that has no confidence on the ice. They overpass, they overthink, and they overplay on both sides of the puck. The result is six losses in their last seven games and seventh place in the Western Conference wild card race. 

Stars’ Surprising Defensive Struggles 

Nobody expected the Stars to be an offensive juggernaut this season. They have been near the bottom of the league in goal scoring over the past few seasons and have structured themselves as a defensive team. That structure has kept them in the top five in goals against and allowed them to win many low-scoring games in the past. However, that structure has also faded this season. After 12 games, Dallas sits 24th in goals-against average at 3.17 and 23rd in save percentage at .907. That is a huge red flag for a team that is built around defense. 

“I don’t like being 23rd [now 24th] in goals against. That’s a team thing. You try to win 4-3 in this league every night, you’re out of the playoffs. It’s as simple as that. We have to tighten it up. We’ve got to be able to win 3-2, and it’s a combination of everything — it’s the penalty kill, it’s the D, it’s the goalies, it’s the forwards, it’s everything. We’ve got to tighten this thing up.”

Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Dallas Stars Rick Bowness-Stars Are Running Out Of Time To Turn Season Around
Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Bowness is correct in saying this is a team issue, not on any individual. However, the Stars absolutely need more from their goaltending if they have any chance of turning their season around. 

Changes Made In Stars Lineup 

Following the 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators Wednesday, the Stars held a 30-minute players-only meeting before addressing the media. It was obvious that the urgency to turn the tide was there and the team needed to make some changes. 

“We had a talk with the group there,” Roope Hintz said following the game. “And that stays there with the boys.”

Once the players finished their meeting and spoke to the media, Bowness stepped into the room and delivered a very brief and direct statement before walking out. 

“I know exactly what’s wrong with this team and we’re going to fix it.”

Stars head coach Rick Bowness

While it is hard to believe this team has a simple fix to all of its problems, the urgency is a good sign for a team that has floated its way through the first 12 games. Over the next two days, Dallas backed up their words by making some changes within the lineup. First, Blake Comeau and Tanner Kero were placed on waivers. Comeau has been an alternate captain and a huge part of this team, so the seriousness of the situation was clear. Both players cleared waivers and will report to the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League (AHL). 

The Stars then followed that up by recalling forwards Riley Tufte and Jacob Peterson from the AHL. Peterson began the season in the NHL before being sent down to improve his game while Tufte is set to make his NHL debut on Saturday night. 

Riley Tufte of the Fargo Force-Stars Are Running Out Of Time To Turn Season Around
Stars forward Riley Tufte in junior (courtesy Fargo Force)

“I think the biggest thing for me was coming in with a good mindset and having a confident mindset. I think that played a big role in why I’m here today. You kind of have to walk around with a little swagger if you want to be up here. I was down there, I played well, and I deserve a chance up here.”

Stars forward Riley Tufte 

The changes continued during practice on Friday as lines were shuffled on both ends of the ice. Perhaps the biggest changes were made on defense as John Klingberg and Esa Lindell were reunited as the top pairing while Ryan Suter and Miro Heiskanen played together for the first time. 

So, what does this all mean? It means that Dallas believes they need more young offensive talent on the roster. It means that their experiments with new defensive pairings did not work out as planned. But most importantly, it means that they are aware of their current position and are doing what they can to fix it. Yes, it is a long 82-game season, but the Central Division seems to be moving along without the Stars at this point who cannot afford to fall too far behind. For the players, they remain confident that they can turn things around and start playing the game they are capable of. 

“At the end of the day, the spirit is still good. It’s still early in the season and we can turn this around. It’s nothing new to us. I feel like that’s something we’ve been doing for a lot of years. If there’s any team that can turn this around, I think it’s us.”

Stars defenseman John Klingberg 

Dallas will try to take the first step with a win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. The Flyers are coming off a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, so the Stars will look to take advantage of that after having two full days of rest leading up to tonight’s game. All of the talk about getting better and improving is over. This team needs to start winning games on a consistent basis or the season will end as yet another disappointment. Their urgency was shown with the players-only meeting, coach’s comments, and changes within the lineup. Now, it is time to put the pieces together on the ice.