As the Dallas Stars search for answers as to how to find some way stop this frustrating inconsistency (even if they deny it's an issue), it's becoming clear that this team cannot continue to rely upon a select few to carry the team. James Neal, Brad Richards and Marty Turco are playing as good as they have in a very long time, yet it hasn't been enough to pull the Stars out of this funk.
When you look at this team as whole, the full picture of what impact certain players are failing to make on each game becomes very clear. While you're not going to get every player on the ice contributing every game, there are disturbing trends building when you add up the season so far as a whole. Players that have historically been the backbone of the Stars are suddenly struggling mightily, and the team is struggling as a consequence.
Now the Stars have enough good players to make up for this lack of production from all of the key players, but not on a consistent basis. The up and down rollercoaster of this season can be attributed to the fact that certain players are just not playing at the level the team needs them to, and if the Stars are ever going to grab momentum and run with it they need to find a way to get back on the right track.
It's tough to think that this Stars team is incapable of winning two or three games in a row, but that's the feeling right now in Dallas. Just good enough to win every other game, not good enough to sustain that level of play. The Stars have the talent and personnel necessary to be a contending team in the West, but only if these certain players get back to their old ways.
After the jump, a look at three players the Dallas Stars desperately need to improve. Immediately.
#29 / Center / Dallas Stars
Aug 19, 1982
Last season Steve Ott arguably became the Dallas Stars' most valuable player. With Brenden Morrow out for the season and the Stars fighting to climb the standings, Ott stepped into a zone none thought he possessed. He was insanely physical and energetic without being stupid, and provided an offensive burst that ignited the Stars in December and January. 19 goals and 27 assists while playing on the top line, Ott was a force for the Stars when they needed help in the most desperate way.
This season, Ott has disappeared. He's had a few good games and really started to hit his stride a few weeks into the season. But he went too far against the Blues and was suspended for his transgressions with most likely a stern warning that any further issues would result in a much harsher penalty.
Since then Ott has become a shell of the player we loved last season. He is pointless in his last five games, and is a minus-3 in that span as well. We haven't seen the big hits either, the energy he can bring on the forecheck and along the boards and the way he sparks the team with his play. That hasn't been there at all this season, except in very limited spurts.
Without the offensive production and without the energy and physicality, Ott has become a lost player on the ice for the Stars. He's the worst on the team in BTN and Corsi ratings among regular forwards, and is struggling defensively and offensively. After spending so much time on the top line last season, he's been pushed to the third and fourth lines this year. Many believed that Ott was on the cusp of becoming a truly special player for the Stars and some questioned whether Dallas would be able to keep him after this season. But for now he's lost in a funk and the Stars desperately need him to come out of it.
#6 / Defenseman / Dallas Stars
Oct 09, 1983
With Marc Crawford coming on as a coach and Charlie Huddy taking over the defense, there was a sense of excitement about how we might finally see the Stars defensemen create offense off of the blue line. We also thought we'd see Trevor Daley finally start to realize his offensive potential, after supposedly being stifled by Dave Tippett and Rick Wilson for so long. Trevor Daley has openly expressed his love for this new system and how it's freed him up to become the offensive powerhouse we all knew he could be.
Except it hasn't happened yet. Three points in 19 games.
He's been passable defensively, but a player with Daley's potential is supposed to thrive in a system that asks for him to create chances on offense, to join the rush on the backside. We've certainly seen Daley become much more active offensively, but the results just haven't been there. On Saturday night, he basically played forward for a shift when he set up in front of the net and screened the goaltender while deflecting shots. He's dropping down low more, showing his speed in transition and creating chances; all things we need from him. But the production is nearly non-existant.
Playing hard and getting a lot of chances are great, but it's worth nothing if the actual points on the board never happen. Daley is a player with the talent and potential to be at least a 40 point defensemen in this offensive scheme, but he is far coming close to the production the Stars need from him.
Crawford's system requires the defensemen to have an active role on offense and to be productive on the scoreboard. If the defensemen can't step up, then his transition game becomes moot and the Stars are forced to try and switch to dump and chase; neither strategy has worked on a consistent basis. If Daley is able to step up and actually capitalize on the chances he's creating, then the Stars offense will open up drastically.
#10 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars
Jan 16, 1979
At one point when the season started, it appeared that Brenden Morrow was back to his old self and was on pace to being the best player for the Stars this season. He was leading the team in goals, was providing energy down low and was basically the old Brenden Morrow.
That's gone away now.
In the past six games, in which the Stars are averaging two goals a game and are 2-3-1 in that span, Brenden Morrow has just one point and is a minus-3. He's certainly trying, putting 14 shots on goal in two games and logging big ice time. Yet the production has disappeared and it's no coincidence that the Stars are struggling in the same span of games that Morrow has been unable to score.
Besides the quantifiable stats from goals and assists, we've yet to see Brenden Morrow truly take the reins back as the leader of the Dallas Stars. In the past there's been no doubt that he is one of the best leaders in the NHL, as he single handedly put the Stars on his back and nearly carried them to the Stanely Cup in 2008. He is a player that leads by example through his attitude, production and physicality. When those elements are gone from his game, the Stars become a headless entity with no clear direction on the type of team they are supposed to be.
During this stretch of frustrating games, the Stars have played like zombies. They've relied on opportunistic offense and outstanding goaltending to win the games they did, but they've to truly assert themselves on the ice. Attempting to be a skillful, sleek, run-and-gun team is great, but when the goals are being scored that approach becomes empty and meaningless. The Stars have no bite, no attitude; without a big scary defensemen to fall back on then the onus falls on Brenden Morrow to lead his team by example.
Whether it's his knee that is holding him back, a lack of overall strength or just a tentativeness that comes from not playing for nearly a year, Morrow is far from the captain that the Stars need him to be.