How important is October in the NHL? I was pondering this very question last Saturday night, after having listened to the Stars get pummeled by the St. Louis Blues, 5-0. We've been speculating ever since that this team might not be on the same page with the coaching staff, and that this could produce a slow start to the season as the players become more acclimated to the game plan. Ralph and Razor remarked on the broadcast that they appeared to be thinking too much, rather than doing; that their instincts are going through a re-adjustment period.
We, as fans, try to make all kinds of excuses about what we've seen and how it's all going to be OK, don't we? Let's assume, be it an excuse or not, the team is going to go through some "growing pains" in October to adjust to their new way of life on the ice. Can they afford to have a mediocre October?
Let's recall a stat about October that the incomparable Razor (or some intern he ordered to do the research) provided last season:
"The past 4 Stanley Cup Champions have a combined October record of 33-4-6, and over the past 10 seasons, the Cup champions have combined for a smashing October record of 88-19-15."
After the jump, past Dallas Octobers and a look at how hard it is to make the playoffs after a slow start....
Alright. That kind of stat may be taking it too far. Admittedly we're not exactly looking at the Stars like Cup contenders this year, so maybe they don't need to hit it out of the park, so to speak, in October.
Everyone has their own idea of what a successful season means. Last year I thought a successful regular season would mean home ice advantage. We all know how that worked out. The season before that we were all caught up with getting over the 1st round curse. That went a little better. Given the performance of the team last year, this preseason, the stubborn persistence with which the Sharks, Ducks, and Kings continue improving, and the rest of the West, I think I'm going to lower the bar this year. For me (and for purposes of this discussion) a successful season will be simply the 8 seed, i.e. making the playoffs.
So what kind of October is acceptable, given the impending growing pains while the players learn on the fly? Let's look at seasons past to try to figure out how bad things can get early, without ruining the whole thing...
|Season||October Record||Playoff Seed||Total points for season|
(Side note: I hate listing standings like that. If you're 4-4-2-3...guess what? You're 4-9 in my book. You played 13 games and you lost NINE of them. Anyway...)
The Stars have, in the past 10 season, failed to play a .500 October or better twice, and coincidence or not, those also happen to be the two seasons they missed the playoffs.
I'm by no means saying that a team that plays poorly to start the season can't turn it around and ride on into the playoffs. It happens every single year. But it's not a good place to put yourself, and it's a long shot as Dallas found out. When you start poorly, and you're chasing, sometimes catching up takes it all out of you. You see it all the time in basketball games (if you're a Dallas Mavericks fan). Last season the Stars went from 15th place to 5th in a flash after Christmas, but the climb left them completely and utterly out of gas. When Brad Richards went down in February that was pretty much it. You can't put yourself in a position to play catchup and expect to make the playoffs in a conference as tough as this one will be this year.
A solid first month is even more important this year with the changes in management. A winning October will go a long way towards building the confidence of this group, and reinforcing in their minds that Coach Crawfords way will work. A bad month could put doubts into the players minds, and work against the changes being installed.
A good October is not always a predictor of future success, or playoff qualification, but this particular club's history suggests that they would be wise to figure out a way to get it together pretty soon. They can't make the playoffs in October, but I submit to you that if they don't get it together pretty quickly, they can go a long way towards missing them. (I know, this is a really long winded way to say that I hope they get off to a good start!! I'm a genius)
So on one hand, hopefully the prognostications of slow starts and learning curves are greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, if things start sliding early, remember, as you tell yourself "there's still time to turn this thing around!!!" that in the past, that hasn't panned out so well.
Stars October Schedule:
|10/3||Predators @ Dallas|
|10/6||Stars @ Oilers|
|10/9||Stars @ Flames|
|10/11||Stars @ Canucks|
|10/14||Predators @ Stars|
|10/16||Bruins @ Stars|
|10/17||Stars @ Blackhawks|
|10/19||Kings @ Stars|
|10/21||Stars @ Ducks|
|10/22||Stars @ Kings|
|10/24||Stars @ Blues|
|10/28||Maple Leafs @ Stars|
|10/30||Panthers @ Stars|
|10/31||Stars @ Predators|
How many wins do you see there? Losses? How about that Chicago/Boston back to back? Remember how that back-to-back went last season? (L 5-2 @Chicago, L 5-1 @Boston)