This afternoon I tried to remember the last time the Dallas Stars lost five straight games at home. I went through the season results year by year but failed to find any when this team lost this many games on home ice. That's because it has never happened. The last time the Stars' franchise lost five in a row at home was the 1978 season, when the team was still in Minnesota and won just 18 games all year.
For the Dallas Stars, this has been a season of peaks and valleys. An atrocious start gave way to a heroic climb up the standings in December and January. The players played with the ultimate team mentality and found any and every way to at least get points out of the games they played. Their efforts culminated in a dominant five-game winning streak when all elements of the Stars' game came together. Marty Turco was exceptional in goal and the team had three legitimate scoring lines, led by Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Modano.
In a span of just two weeks, its all come crashing down around them.
Follow the jump for a lengthy look at the current state of the Dallas Stars, as well as player quotes on the Steve Ott incident.
The team was already doing it's best to overcome injuries to Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov. The loss of Zubov affected the team the most in the opening months of the season and eventually Daryl Sydor was acquired via trade to try and calm a struggling blue line. Brian Sutherby was brought in and fit in perfectly on a line with Brad Richards and helped solidify the Stars third scoring line. But there are only so many hits a team can take before it starts to crumble.
The Dallas Stars have never been a team to quit. They never make excuses or ask for pity, they just hit the ice night after night and do their best. The front office has always worked to to fill the lineup with hard working grinders that embrace the team's defensive philosophy and offset that approach with several offensive playmakers. It's been a system that has turned the Stars into on the most successful franchises of the past decade as well as one of the most consistent. So when things got bad, as the inevitably will during an 82 game season, you have faith the team can weather the storm and come out alive on the other side.
Yet it's become apparent that perhaps this latest rash of injuries has become a hurdle the Stars just cant overcome. The loss of Brad Richards and the subsequent injury to Toby Petersen has seemingly crippled this team beyond immediate repair. What was once a solid lineup of scoring wingers and defensive minded forwards has turned into a scattering of fringe players that should technically have a few more years in the minors.
The Brad Richards injury has been what hurts the most. Richards' playmaking prowess and defensive ability allowed the Stars to roll out three completely different lines. Without Richards, the Stars have struggled to score unless Mike Ribeiro is involved. Mike Modano, James Neal and Fabian Brunnstrom are all in a long scoring drought and are struggling to maintain consistent play. The Stars have now scored just six goals in thie last give games; its' no wonder they lost them all.
The poor play in the offensive zone has turned into sloppiness and carelessness in front of the net. The problems that plagued the defensemen for the first few months have returned to haunt the Stars, who are unable to maintain any sort of presence in the defensive zone. Marty Turco was able to hide these surfacing inconsistencies with some incredible play the past few weeks, yet he could only keep that level of play up for so long.
The team has lost the group mentality it gained a few months ago and that has never been more evident than the past two games. For one reason or another, the Stars have become increasingly unwilling to stick up for their teammates. Against Anaheim give players stood by and watched as Steve Ott was flat out attacked by several Ducks' players and today against Pittsburgh an Evgeny Malkin head shot to Daryl Sydor went completely unpunished.
I'm not asking for all out brawls or cheap retaliatory shots; what I want is an act of solidarity in a team that is skidding out of control in a hurry. Standing together as a team and fighting until the end as a team can help overcome any sort of bad run in the season. It's at times like these that the team misses Brenden Morrow the most.
So where do the Dallas Stars go from here?
It must be pointed out that this season is NOT over. The Stars are still very much still in the playoff hunt and with a few wins can be right back in the thick of things. Yet you have to think that this team's confidence, at the very least, has been shattered by what's happened the past past week.
The coaches and general managers have some important questions to ask themselves now:
Is this a team that is struggling only because of injury? With Morrow and Richards back how much of a difference would that make on this Dallas Stars team as currently constructed? Once Sydor and Sutherby had a few weeks to fit in this team really started to turn things around and that was after the Morrow injury. If Morrow had still been in the lineup this team could really have become a dominant force in the league. There is no minimizing the effect Morrow has on the team and you would have to think his presence alone would make a tremendous difference in dealing with the Richards injury.
So do we need to make a big move at the trade deadline to try and salvage this season and if so, would this be a move that helps out next year as well? Most of the players rumored to be on the trading block would just be rental players who are set to be UFA's this summer. Is this season worth giving up even more prospects and future draft picks for a temporary fix.
Most importantly, is this team only one player away from turning things around?
This season will turn out to be one of struggle and sheer willpower. The Stars must find a way to get things back on track with how this team is currently assembled. Sure, Les Jackson may decide another Steve Begin deal is needed but there's no way this team makes another Brad Richards size deal at the trade deadline.
Each and every player on this team must look themselves in the mirror and decide how they want to approach the final twenty games of the season. Because the mental mistakes, the frustration-style penalties and the lack of concentration for 60 straight minutes will end up having this team sitting at home when the playoffs start.
And I don't care how many injuries you have. That's a sad turnaround for a team that had so much promise just six months ago.
Richard Durrett has some player and coach quotes about the Steve Ott incident from Saturday:
"I would have liked to have seen our players who were on the ice engage a little more," Tippett said. "How hard Otter plays and guys knowing that he can't fight with a cast on his hand. We've got some poeple on there that are not known fighters, I understand that, I'm not asking people to jump in to fight. We're jumping in to protect."
Tippett was also disappointed in the linesmen, saying they "let it go too long."
"The linesmen, I think, are told that when there's a disadvantage, jump in," Tippet said. "That was a disadvantage right from the get-go.
"I should have probably stepped in and try and grab somebody," Stephane Robidas said. "I should have tried to fight more and get in there a little more.
"There's a lot of stuff going on right now. The last three games, we're down and there's 3 seconds left and it's frustrating. I don't know. I've got no explanation really. I should have probably stepped in there and done something. I know he would do something, if I were in trouble, he'd come and rescue me."
"We need to support," Sydor said. "That's not right, what happened there. If you're going to win as a team, you need to battle as a team, you need to care about each other as a team. Situations like that...I mean, we reacted the wrong way."