What can we take from the first two Dallas Stars games of the 2013-2014 season?
That's the question posed by a slightly awkward (for the media and fans, anyway) five-day break after just 120 minutes of hockey.
We think the team probably still has problems defending. We think Alex Chiasson will be a consistent contributor. We're not yet sure about Sergei Gonchar, and we'd probably like to see some better chances out of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. It's an incomplete picture.
What's most important, while we wait for three more games in the next ...nine days? (Come on!) -Is that they do it right this time, and that it's OK if there are some struggles to earn their successes.
In October of 2010 the Stars began 5-1-0, were grossly out-shot nightly and Kari Lehtonen bailed them out. We were lambasted for opining that "it's not sustainable" and that "it won't last." It didn't.
In the fall of 2011 the Stars began 11-3-0, shocking the NHL. They gave up 32 shots or more 10 times in that stretch, were badly out-chanced and out-possessed while Kari Lehtonen stood on his head, and again we said it probably couldn't go on. It didn't.
Results in October are important. "You can't win a division title in April, but you can sure lose one," the baseball people say. Points from game two are the same as from game 82.
That being said, it's the process we should be most interested in now. The indicators. The underlying foundation, on which the details may often be botched in the early going. On the podcast last week Erin asked me what I was looking for on opening weekend - And I said I want the Stars to possess the puck and out-chance the opposition, even if they lose.
At least that would be a strong indication of where they're going. You may have a bad mile in a marathon but it's the overall performance for which you'll be judged. So too is it in a hockey season. A full one, anyway.
Those other Stars seasons may have started well, but they were something of a farce. There were problems swept under the rug of a winning record. Problems that went unresolved as those years went on.
The early going may be rough this season. The Florida game was indicative of that. Dallas controlled the game early but suffered from a number of breakdowns that proved catastrophic, while failing to cash in on a number of quality chances.
Dallas attempted more shots this weekend than their opponents, winning the Corsi battle (shots, goals, missed shots, shots that were blocked) in both instances. The same could not be said for what appeared in box scores to be stronger efforts (victories, even) in 2011 and 2012 that cultivated hope built on smoke and mirrors.
Win or lose, Lindy Ruff and Jim Nill will take their time instilling the right system and mindset into this group. Even at the expense of this season, if you believe some close to Nill. Because it's about the next 5, 10 or 15 years. Not just this one.
What can you take out of these first two games?
That the process is going to be a lengthy one. That we need to have a stomach for the growing and groaning that will accompany a defense that will take a number of years to properly make over fit for contention, or the nightly errors that will accompany players like Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Chiasson.
Those are pains we can live with.
Watching Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy try to make it work with Brenden Morrow bouncing up and down the lineup last year was a different thing entirely. Jamie Benn was shoe-horned into the center position and was stuck checking other team's top lines rather than looking like the offensive force he'll need to be if the team is to be more competetive. Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom loomed large in that season's planning.
Last year was a stopgap, plain as could be from day one. There was little in the way of a future in which fans could invest. It was make the playoffs or don't- And then tear the whole thing down. Outside of Brenden Dillon's development and a cup of coffee for Chiasson there were little in the way of developments promising a brighter tomorrow and a ton of holes to fill.
Any lessons learned in those 48 contests needed to be applied the following night. Immediately. It was a year that could serve nearly only itself.
This year, even riddled with failures as it might well be, will serve the next five or ten. It's about young rookies finding their game, and an updated, younger core learning how to win, rather than an aging hodgepodge taking a one-year swing at it.
That's an important difference, and one that should breed patience and hope, no matter what transpires on the ice.
Viewing a current season with considerations of what it means for the next four or five is against the very nature of a sports fan. We want it all and we want it now. Luckily Jim Nill's group is a bit more patient. Be frustrated at the struggles this year, sure, but remember that there's more to gain from them this time around.
More from Defending Big D:
- Dallas Stars Daily Links: Capitals Weigh In On Disallowed Goal in Dallas
- Video Fun: Nick Backstrom Tries to Decapitate Kari Lehtonen; Shawn Horcoff Admonished "You Can't Do that"
- Alex Chiasson Scores Again As Dallas Stars Defeat Washington Capitals 2-1
- Washington Capitals' Joel Ward Gets Trapped in Omni Dallas Bathroom
- 2013-2014 Texas Stars Season Preview