What was most frustrating about last season was how the one part of the Dallas Stars' struggles that always angered me the most was exactly what made the first half of the season so exciting. On their way to the top of the Pacific division and the conference standings, the Stars were winning big games in incredible fashion with multiple come-from-behind victories. The way they were winning games covered up a number of the shortcomings of the team and ultimately it's what made the season go so terribly wrong.
There were most likely a multitude of reasons that it would happen but the Dallas Stars seemed almost incapable of starting a hockey game with energy and fire. It started in the very first game of the season against New Jersey, going down by two goals just seven minutes into the game before roaring back for a 4-3 overtime win. That was a common occurrence throughout the season for the Stars and while it was always fun to see the Stars come alive and dominate the second and third periods, the way the team would constantly come out flat was downright maddening.
In the end, this was the beginning of what led to the Dallas Stars' downfall last season. It was apparent this team -- for whatever reason -- was incapable of motivation leading up to a game and needed adversity within it in order to show any sort of emotion. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the season, the Stars lacked the firepower to pull off such victories and teams were kicking their game into another gear entirely -- and the Stars were unable to keep up. It all culminated in the final game of the season when the Stars were dominated by a team filled with AHL and rookie players.
This is perhaps going to see where we see Glen Gulutzan's influence the most.
Who knows exactly what happened between the coaches and the players last season. There are reports that Marc Crawford chose to let the players motivate themselves and that he stayed out of that sort of preparation, but it was obvious that the coaching itself was not doing anything close to actually preparing the team to play the game.
For Glen Gulutzan, one of the first things he mentioned when he was hired was how he's going to work on getting this team ready to play and to enjoy that preparation. Throughout the season, we thought that it appeared the players were operating independently of the coach and that held true all the way through that last fateful game in Minnesota. This season, Gulutzan is going to have to connect with his team and not only get them to understand the important of starting games strong -- but actually preparing for the games they are playing in.
When Crawford was hired, we expected to see a much different team take the ice than what played for Dave Tippett. Yet it was obvious that the Stars were struggling with the new system he was asking the players to operate in, which hampered any sort of emotional boost the team could have going into games.
With Gulutzan, we're hoping that the Stars finally have a coach that will mold his style to fit the players on the team and so far -- from what we're hearing -- this is what he plans to do. He wants the team to be strong on both ends of the ice and to embrace playing defensively while still being aggressive on offense. More importantly, he wants this team to have fun and enjoy the preparation needed to get ready for games.
Watching the Stars come back from a one or two goal deficit may have been exciting and fun at times but over the course of a season it's a recipe for disaster. There's just no way a team can be consistently successful with that sort of approach, no matter how many intangibles may exist in that locker room. Last season, the Stars proved this theory true as they lost all motivation and their sense as a team after being absolutely dominated by Vancouver and Boston.
I would much rather have a team that is proactive instead of reactive within a game, one that takes the ice and dictates the sort of game that is going to be played. This is the sort of hockey that was so successful for the Stars during the glory years and we've seen time and time again that this is what is successful in today's NHL as well.
Being able to overcome adversity within a game is a very important and we've seen that this Stars team is capable of that. What I want to see is a Stars team that forces the other team to have to overcome adversity from time to time, as they take a big lead in games in the first period, then build upon that lead time and time again.
That's what I'd like to see.