This was supposed to be a litmus test for the Dallas Stars against the best team in the NHL. Instead it turned into utter destruction at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, who walked out of the American Airlines center with a 8-1 decimation of the Dallas Stars.
Recapping exactly what happened with the game is easy:
The Blackhawks took advantage of an early scoring chance, while the Stars did not. The early tally gave Chicago instant momentum and the Stars were never able to catch up. The Blackhawks were also exceptionally adept at putting the puck in the back of the net on the big chances they create while the Stars were completely incapable of generating any sort of offense for the better part of the game.
It was a complete deconstruction of the Dallas Stars by a skilled, speedy and motivated Blackhawks team -- it was amazing, really, just how inept the Stars looked on home ice.
It was embarrassing to see so many Blackhawks fans in attendance, and even more so that they were never given a reason to sit down and shut up. The Stars were outclassed in every facet of the game and it led to one heck of a loss.
But let's not get too carried away because of this one game. Sure it's demoralizing and more than concerning, but a single game -- no matter how bad -- is not going to make or break a season. It is important, however, to focus on the bigger picture and this one loss is part of an ever increasing level of concern about where this team is headed.
So now the Stars are 12-12-3 and last in the Pacific and drifting further and further back in the Western Conference standings. With the loss tonight, the Stars are 2-4-1 in their last seven games and facing an exceptionally tough schedule ahead.
The Stars offense had exploded for 15 games or so, but now have just three goals in their past four games. That's just not good enough. We can talk about the young, rookie defense all we want but that's just not good enough. Plain and simple.
The problem is that time is running out.
We've been saying "just wait a bit while they find some chemistry" for 27 games now and once again it seems we're supposed to be asking the same, with the Stars finally putting the full force of forwards on the ice for the first time this season.
So are we talking about selling at the trade deadline, punting the end of the season while seeking future assets?
Are we talking possible coaching changes if things don't soon change, as the Stars are increasingly appearing to be outcoached on a nightly basis while failing to address the same issues plaguing this team for at least the past three seasons.
We're still in the middle of the Stars search for a true identity as a team; as the front office continues to mold the roster the team on the ice still has no true answer for just what sort of hockey team they want to be.
The Stars have already made an incredible amount of changes. Perhaps this is just another sign that we're going to just have to have patience as we wait for cohesion and chemistry to really form with the players in the locker room. This is a team that has been and remains in a constant state of flux.
Perhaps we just need to wait it out a bit more, for the Stars to make further changes on the roster while shaping the future of the team. Perhaps this game was just another stumbling block and learning experience for a young core that is getting more ice team that we ever expected to see this soon.
As bad as this loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was in and of itself -- and it was damn embarassing, especially on home ice -- these losses happen across the NHL all the time. The Dallas Stars were on the other side of one just a few years ago. Teams to do not going into full firesale and rebuild mode because of one horrendous loss.
The bigger picture, however, certainly shows that direction of the Dallas Stars is incredibly unknown -- especially in the short term.
A "blow it all up" approach is not going to happen and nor should it. The Stars are in the midst of sweeping changes that is meant to change the bad fortunes of the past four seasons. Bumps along the way are to be expected, especially against a team like Chicago. We're just going to have to wait it out, know that more changes are coming, and hold on to the faith that coming seasons will be brighter.
It sure would be nice to get a few more flashes of that future from time to time, however.