Normally, I begin Spare Change by recapping each of the games of the week and looking forward to what's coming up next week, but I'll spare you from it this time. I'll just keep it simple. It's not good. We lost every game we played this week, and haven't won a game since the 12th when we beat the Kings, and we still managed to give them a loser-point in the process.
We currently sit in 11th place, with the same number of points as the Phoenix Coyotes. Four points away from the 8th place Colorado Avalanche, which is bigger number than it sounds given the nature of the Western Conference today. Should this article be nothing but doom and gloom? It would probably be easy to write if it was.
I've decided to look for the silver lining, instead. Sadly, the best silver lining I can find right now is that the Dallas Stars seem to be self-aware of their shortcomings. I can't say enough good things about Glen Gulutzan's remarks after the loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"How do you deal with the problem? You have to make them aware that they are not good enough – with or without Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro in the lineup – to not be a hardworking team. That’s the message. They are just not good enough." -- Glen Gulutzan
The Stars are missing two of their most dynamic assets right now, and it shows. This Dallas Stars team has a lot of lovable characters, some great chemistry in the locker room, and not much else. We're not the highest payroll team. We put this team together on a budget, and it shows. That's okay. The light at the end of the tunnel is visable.
Will it be enough to save this season? I don't think so, but it's possible. Everyone seemingly expected Tom Gaglardi to come in, write checks, and watch the All-Stars walk in the front door immediately, but money is just one aspect to what it takes to improve your team.
It takes assets to trade for assets, and Toby Petersen isn't going to land us Zach Parise. Adam Pardy and a mid-round pick doesn't equal Shea Weber. We're not getting Steven Stamkos for Scott Glennie and a puck autographed by Brett Hull. Unless you want to shop Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, it's not exactly easy to add key pieces to this roster mid-season... and then you're short a Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, so you can't really be all that improved, can you?
I think the men running this franchise right now have their plan, and I trust in them to see it through. Gulutzan has shown he has the ability to relate to players, but also tell it like it is. Nieuwendyk has shown the ability to snag Kari Lehtonens for Ivan Vishnevskiys, while also realizing when it's time to let guys like Marty Turco and Mike Modano ride into the sunset.
Things are going to get more interesting for Joe Nieuwendyk if this slide out of playoff contention continues. As I said earlier, you have to have tradeable assets in order to improve this team. If it looks like we're going to miss the playoffs for a forth straight season, you have to start asking what the trade market is for your Brenden Morrows, Stephane Robidas, and Sheldon Sourays.
Veteran experience is invaluable to teams looking to make a run to the Stanley Cup, and it's one of the few assets we have. Joe Nieuwendyk has shown that he can make those tough decisions and get this franchise back on track, but it can't happen over night simply because we have an owner again. Patience is key.
It takes time to build a winner, and we've just now taken off the shackles and allowed this team's management to get to work. It's too early to give up on them. There is still time to turn this thing around this season, but it's going to take the players heeding the advice of Coach Gully. We have to display more mental toughness. We have to outwork every team we play. We have to play above expectations, like we did in the early stages of the season.
It's not going to be easy, but it can be done... and if it can't, we can always sit and wait for Joe to start pulling triggers. We aren't going to improve this team by sitting on our hands or waiting for Jamie Benn to save us again. We're better that, or at least we used to be... and I think we will be again, sooner than you think.