You didn't think it would be easy, did you?
For a team that was coming off an extremely disappointing season, one wrought with injuries and inconsistent play, nothing was going to come easy just a few months later. Just because Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow were returning didn't change the fact that the Stars lost some key pieces while failing to add any significant upgrades in free agency. Combine that with the fact the the Stars now have a brand new head coach who is struggling to implement a new offensive system with only a few games in which his NHL roster will actually play together. One of those games is an exhibition match against the Texas Stars, the other was last night against the Blues.
There's no doubt that the Stars still have a long, long way to go before we can even begin to get a bead on how this season will go, but there's a sinking feeling in Stars fans that this is a story we've seen before. The Stars struggle with special teams and untimely penalties, are unable to take advantage of extra-man opportunities and the goaltending is unable to bail out the shoddy play in front.
The Stars have been struggling most of the preseason, and their one convincing win came with mostly AHL players on the roster. The other win came behind a masterful performance by Alex Auld, who stole a game the Avalanche were nearly dominating. The rest of the preseason has seen the Stars take the ice with an anemic offense and inconsistent goaltending. We've tried to blame the poor play on the fact that the Stars were playing a different lineup each night that was mostly made up of AHL-bound players, while also trying to learn a new system while being worked harder than the Stars ever have been in training camp.
Yet after last night's poor showing against the Blues it's tough not to start reaching for that panic button. One thing we must remember is that this team has only really had one game together, and Morrow has only played in one game in the preseason. As much as we'd like things to be sailing smoothly headed into the season, the Stars and Marc Crawford need some sort of grace period before the pressure starts to really mount. Let's wait until this team has at least 15-20 games under its belt before we decide to declare the offseason changes a success or failure. Even then, if the Stars are struggling but not in the basement in the West, we have to remember that a lot of things can change over the course of a season.
One thing to keep an eye on. As you'll read below, it's obvious that the players are frustrated with their own play and with their struggles with the new system. Crawford and his coaches must find a way to get things fixed quickly, or risk losing their control and power over these players.
Are you worried, or are you willing to give Marc Crawford and Joe Nieuwendyk the benefit of the doubt?
After the jump a rundown of what others are saying about the start to the Marc Crawford era, as well as quotes from the coaches and players.
That said, the team still has to fix its problems with the defensemen and overall team coverage on defense. Not to mention the fact we don't know what kind of Marty Turco will show up to start the season. He really is working as hard as I have ever seen. He really seems to want to fix whatever problems he had last year. But he is under a lot of pressure here and he's going to have to make some huge saves in this system and let the kids on defense get comfortable. There are a lot of holes out there. We'll see if they can patch them one way or another.
I hate to say this, because it is way too early to panic, but I guess I leave this game by saying that I have now acknowledged that this really could blow up in their face if they don't stay on top of it. A new coach with a young defense trying to play a skating game and allowing key chances against...There is the potential for a real mess here.
But they also could fix it. I don't think you're a stupid fan or a homer journalist if you want to wait a while longer before rushing to judgment.
He also has his proposed lines for the season opener:
That wasn't a pretty way to end the preseason, at the least NHL portion of it. Obviously, there's a lot of work to do. I am still not one to hit the panic button over preseason games, even with what happened last season. I just don't see the situations as the same. I think there was complacency and overconfidence in play last season. There is none of that this season. Missing the playoffs will do that to you.
I think there is a lot of adjustment still going on with players getting used to what the new systems Crawford is implementing. That was part of Saturday night's sloppiness. Some of it was just sloppy play. There's still a week for them to get things hammered out and it's still a work in progress. It may still be a work in progress early in the regular season. They just can't hit an on switch to make it all work at once.
Marty Turco gave up five goals on 19 shots, but I don't think you can put those numbers all on him. The play in front of him was not good. Still, it wasn't Marty's best game
Player and coach quotes:
"Today we were working on the forecheck and stuff, and there is still a lot of stuff on our brains, but there is no excuse. We all play with great instincts, we all know the game. You change the system a little bit, but it's still Hockey 101 and that's why were here in this league. We had a lot of blown assignments, missed checks and it leads to ugly goals."
"There's a lot of stuff missing, obviously. And it's obviously really, really disappointing for us to come out flat like that. To lose a game like that _ that's not how we wanted to finish the preseason. But, hopefully, it's a good lesson for us that we need to work as a team if we want to win hockey games. We've got to pull everybody in the same direction, everybody's got to be on the same page. We are playing a little bit of a new system, we've got a different coaching staff, but bottom line I think we've got to come together as a group and play for one-another. I think that's the main thing.''
"Absolutely they understand what they're doing. There was one structural mistake tonight, costing us; it was kind of a fortunate break for [St. Louis]. That was on the fourth goal of the game, but apart from that, it was just battle issues for us tonight. With the number of battles we didn't win tonight, you're not going to win many games.''
Joe Nieuwendyk, on this year's start being compared to last season's:
"I'm trying not to compare ourselves to that team. We have our own identity and our own issues, and we're dealing with them. We have some great practice time in Cedar Park coming this week and we're aware of what needs to be done. So let's go out and do it.'