For a brief moment, it seemed that the Dallas Stars had gotten their act together for the first time in 2016. Kari Lehtonen was back to performing at a high level and the goaltending tandem was showing promise again. The team rattled off a streak of seven wins in eight games and the Stars’ commitment to a defensively responsible game showed up after a month-long hiatus.
What a brief moment it turned out to be.
Dallas has now lost four of its last five and has given up six or more goals in the last three of those defeats: a 6-3 loss in Arizona, a 7-3 loss to Boston on home ice and last night’s 6-3 embarrassment in Dallas in the second half of a home-and-home series with the Jets. Antti Niemi was run off the ice following the first period, and a brief sighting of a competitive Dallas team that tied the game at three, thanks to the power play, faded into oblivion as Winnipeg closed the door on one of the Stars’ worst performances of the season.
There weren’t many in Dallas willing to give the team any sort of break in the aftermath of the abysmal loss. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika called out the team’s “awful goaltending, leaky defense, and lack of poise” and Stars color man Daryl “Razor” Reaugh lambasted the club in his postgame wrap-up:
The goals against are coming, and they’re coming in spades. The Stars have given up multiple three-goal periods in three of the team’s last four outings. No matter how potent your offense, you won’t win very many games when you’re digging the puck out of your own net every six minutes or so in two out of three frames.
Supposed stalwarts of the Stars’ back end aren’t immune, either. It isn’t like head coach Lindy Ruff is rolling out young guys that are getting scored on over and over. There’s some of that, but the virus has infected the entire defensive corps. John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski, the Stars’ top pairing, are creating head-shakers at an alarming rate. The bottom pairing is a revolving door of uncertainty. Jason Demers has been heading to the box too often over this latest stretch and his partner Johnny Oduya hasn’t been himself in his own end (just ask Joel Armia).
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) February 26, 2016
It’s Time for Nill to Make a Move
During his time in Dallas, Jim Nill has carefully calculated his every move. His caution has resulted in the Stars coming out on top of arguably every trade the GM has made, and his additions prior to this year’s campaign looked to be ironclad in their usefulness. However, with goalies springing leaks and a defense corps that’s already moved into “busted dam” territory, the time for standing pat might have come and gone. When a rebuilding team starts to blossom into a contender, the value of prospects has to be weighed against the value of winning now.
While Nill isn’t one to bet the farm on a single piece, it’s time for him to aggressively pursue help on the defensive end. Dan Hamhuis is still out there, and he likely wouldn’t demand an exorbitant price that Nill would balk at. There will be other suitors and changing conditions surrounding all the names out there leading up to the deadline, but Nill has worked magic before, and Stars fans should be confident that he has the ability to pull the trigger on a deal that will improve the on-ice product immediately without mortgaging a critical piece of the future.
It’s time for him to put that ability into action and provide a tourniquet for the hemorrhaging Stars.
Raglin contributes to The Hockey Writers’ coverage of the Dallas Stars. He’s a senior journalism major at Stephen F. Austin State University and currently serves as the sports editor of SFASU’s The Pine Log. He has experience covering both news and sports at The Pine Log (http://thepinelog.com) and at Star Local Media (http://starlocalmedia.com).