Are you frustrated, Stars fans? Do you want to yell and scream? Do you want to trade half of the roster? Today's Stargazing quotes may surprise you.
The season has come to a sort of breaking point. There are people on both sides of the fence this morning. Some people are conceding that the season is beyond repair. Mike Heika asked if it was "the death knell." Others look at the schedule and the standings and see 8th place not that far out of reach. It's only 4 points, but not all 4 point differences are created equally. Momentum must be taken into account, and right now the Stars are rolling like molasses uphill in the winter time, as they say. 4 points might be 3 weeks worth of work.
Even I thought I was crazy when I postulated that the goal Vancouver scored off of Daley's skate in Dallas on that Saturday afternoon was the "catastrophic moment" of the season, but I was sure they were going to win three in a row that day and when they didn't, things started to splinter. When the Stars scored to tie that game in the third period, I thought it was the start of something. Six games later, the only bright spot has been Rick DiPietro.
If last night's game was just one lousy outing in the midst of a decent run, I'd examine the loss as a special teams failure. The Stars had chances to re-establish themselves after the Power goal with consecutive power plays, and not only failed to do so, but allowed a 3-on-1 shorthanded break that killed them. Leading by example, Brenden Morrow then sealed the deal with a silly double minor, and his team followed him into the ditch.
Where is your Stars head today? Are you drawing up awesome fantasy trades that package Niskanen and Brunnstrom and Marty Turco? Do you think 4 points and a better finish to the season than Los Angeles, Detroit and Minnesota is perfectly doable?
Follow the jump as we examine some interesting reaction from the team, and most notably, their head coach...
As much as we talk about Marc Crawford (and we will talk about him today) getting these guys motivated and putting them in the right combinations to succeed, this team needs their leader on the ice to be their rock. Here's something he (Morrow) had to say after the game:
``We've talked about a magic number since training camp, and with every effort we had like tonight we're putting ourselves in a deeper hole,'' Morrow said. ``We all have to dig in, and muster up some confidence and win some games here.''
Digging in. I hope that includes not taking penalties that I am sure he regrets. I love Brenden Morrow. I love him like I love Dirk Nowitzki. That's a lot. I have admired him greatly for a number of years and would follow him anywhere, but Mr. Morrow, dude... What are you doing right now?
I know some of you were pretty down on Brenden last night. After a night's sleep do you still think he doesn't fit? To be fair, the Morning News did report that Morrow "took responsibility" for his penalties in the second period, but no quote is available.
Heika says that Marc Crawford let the team have it after the second intermission. They deserved it, certainly, but he comes out after the game and says a lot of real positive things. Things that I don't think fans really want to hear right now.
``In a funny way, it can be a real catalyst for our team, and I'm hoping it can be a catalyst for our team,'' Crawford said after a 6-3 loss to the Flyers. ``We made a commitment inbetween the second period to just stop being a team that blames the referees. That's a big step for our group. All that does is it sucks energy out of our group. From that standpoint, we've got the responsibility to make sure we go out and play.''
I didn't think that was a group that was blaming the officials for anything. When you're given as many chances to get yourself back into the game on the power play as this team has in recent games, how can you blame the refs for anything? Morrow did a dumb thing when he took that penalty last night. Fortunus did high stick that guy. They allowed a shorthanded 3-on-1 rush. Blame the refs for what?
``I thought we had some good parts, some really good performances by Steve Ott, by Lehtinen, by Petersen, I thought Robidas played a whale of a game, but we didn't get good performances from other guys, and we did lose our focus. That's something that's got to change.''
``In pro sports, the people who get you out of poor play are the people inside your dressing room. We've got a lot of confidence in this group. We know we haven't played our best hockey here in the last week. On the other side of it, knowing we haven't played our best, if we get our act back together, we'll get right back into the thick of things.''
A lot of times, particularly in basketball and football I find, coaches will come out and say "it's on me." Marc Crawford is obviously not about to do that. He has called some guys out this year, and continues to say that the teams leadership needs to bring them out of this.
The Stars fan in me wants to hear him wale on his guys a little bit more, because it's certainly what we were doing last night, but I think you have to appreciate the fine line he's trying to walk. The season isn't going to just end for these guys. They have to play it out, and they have no choice but to say the right things and pretend like they believe they can fix it, whether they actually do or not. They can't turn the TV off and walk away like we can.
Crawford is trying to be supportive of his guys, lest he "lose the room." But do you think the support is genuine? Is this just the public face of the torn locker room? Are things really about to get all "Lord of the Flies" in there? I don't think so. Not yet anyway.
The point is that Marc Crawford is getting dangerously close to the Wade Philips line. The "well shucks, we made it to the final eight", "we were 13-3, remember that?" "yeah, we lost, but I think we did some nice things out there" kind of line. People don't want to hear that when you are flat out sucking. I guess it's not their job to worry about what people want to hear.
"We knew coming in they’d take their opportunity short-handed," Morrow said. "Any time you get scored on while on the power play, it’s a tough one. Timonen jumped into the play and made a good shot."
"We played hard in the third, but it was too little too late," Morrow said.
"We gave them every opportunity to take over the game, and they did," Brad Richards said of the second period. "They’re a good team, in their building, they’re probably going to do it."
``Whether we're not doing what we should, or it just is simply bouncing the other way on us, now it just seems like it can only be righted by everybody reaching as deep down as they can,'' Turco said. ``It's going to take everybody, and it's going to take a lot more than just will and effort. We have to find a way to put it all together.''
The orange and black continued their jaunt towards becoming the team we all know they can be tonight with a convincing 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars. Six goals. A goaltender chased for the fourth time in seven games. 14 different Flyers with points, the first time that's happened in 13 years. Ian Laperriere picked up a Gordie Howe hat trick.
How much fun is this?
The Flyers just obliterated the Stars in every aspect of the game: on the power play, on the penalty kill, offensively, defensively, five-on-five, you name it. For most of the night, it looked like the Stars were still taking pictures on the steps of the Art Museum rather than trying to play a hockey game in South Philly.
"The team we all know they can be." I used to feel that way about this Stars team but now I am not so sure. Get back to me in a week.
And now for something everyone loves to talk about: Trades and contracts. Mark Stepneski has a note about Ott contract talks and a link to an interview you may find interesting...
There’s been stuff floating around about contract extension talks between the Stars and Steve Ott. Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk was on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central show earlier this week and confirmed that, saying: "We are in the process of talking with Steve Ott." That was about it.
He indicated any kind of talks with Marty Turco and Mike Modano will come later.
"We haven’t had those types of discussion about their future," Nieuwendyk said. "Those guys have done so many good things for the organization that we’ll have those discussions down the road."
As for trades, still evaluating the team and that he hasn’t been close to making any deals.
The bottom line is the Stars are a mess right now. They’re 0-6-2 in their last eight road games (and that includes five straight regulation losses) and they play four of their next six on the road. If there was one problem/issue that was plaguing them it could probably be singled out and an attempt could be made to address it in some way. The problem is there is no one problem/issue. It’s something different or a variety of different things every night.
The Steve Ott contract talks intrigue me. Nieuwendyk has said repeatedly that they are going to identify "the core" guys on their team and move forward with them. If this is true, then Steve Ott should be flattered, but hasn't he caused as much damage this season as the good he creates? I love Steve Ott, but I just find it ironic that this news comes out on the night he takes a penalty to start a game, immediately putting his team down a man on the road, and then scores two meaningless goals in garbage time.
I trust goals 8 and 9 aren't going to inflate his sticker price. Rather, the price should be paid because Steve Ott has come to play nearly every night this year when so many others have not, no matter how many times he's shuffled between lines.
And finally, because I have to get back to work, Brandon brought up Mike Modano last night:
Does Modano just not care anymore? Ever since being snubbed for an Olympics spot, he's been utterly invisible on the ice. He doesn't have a point in six games.
While that's a fair question, I would like, should the season prove to be lost, some of the focus to shift to Mike in a different way. I don't know if he's coming back or not, but I can't help wonder some things. Was this his last game in Philly? Will this be his last in Montreal? Let's not all get so wrapped up in frustration that we forget to enjoy and honor Mike Modano as he makes what could be his final precious starts for this team.