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On Brenden Morrow and the Dallas Stars Defense.....

On Thursday I wrote an article that talked about a lot of the issues surrounding the Dallas Stars, but one short mention has begun to get a ton of attention; how Brenden Morrow decided not to go after Sean Avery for fear of missing the Olympics. Since I didn't want Morrow to be misinterpreted and I don't want Defending Big D to be accused of sensationalizing something that isn't there, here's the transcript from that part of the interview where Morrow talks about Avery. [Morrow appeared on BaD Radio on 1310 The Ticket on Thursday. You can hear the entire interview here.]

I think in New Jersey we knew what to expect; they're a kind of team that just kinds of grinds you down and they take advantage when you make mistakes but they're a real boring team. They get great goaltending, they cover well, they don't give up a whole lot so that was expected. It was just disappointing the effort we had last night against the Rangers...we all knew what was at stake, who was involved. We all expected more from ourselves, that one wasn't very good by us.

Bob: Plenty of chirping, huh? I saw you and Sean eyeing each other a couple of times.

Yeah, you know, he holds the trump card. We're both paying him, so he's got an advantage on anyone who wants to try and trash talk because right now he's uh...he's got us beat.

Dan: How come no one ran him last night? I kept thinking someone was going to...I thought there'd be a Sean Avery fight.

Uh....Well....It probably should have happened maybe, and there probably would have been more emotion in our game had it happened, but...I think we all tried to get a good lick in on him at some point but he was prepared for it and defended himself well and didn't put himself in positions to get ran. And then we didn't really have anyone...that's the last thing I would want to do is go and get in a fight with him and hurt my hand or something and have to miss the Olympics on top of everything else that has happened with our team. That would be kind of a shot at me for getting into a fight with him and having to miss the tournament.

Morrow goes on to talk about some of the team meeting the players have had regarding their efforts and how they realize they need to get a hold of things before they get out of hand. He also mentioned how the Stars don't have those big, bruising players that will take over a game physically and how they have to have a pack mentality.

After the jump, some thoughts on Brenden Morrow and these quotes as well as another take on the Stars' defense and goaltending.

When I first hear that interview on Thursday, my first thought was "this isn't the Brenden Morrow we've all grown to adore. This isn't him. This is a pod person." OUR Morrow was a guy who would do whatever it took to put the team on his shoulders and carry them through adversity. Not someone who would, in the midst of his team fighting for an identity, decide to put his Olympics health above the good of the team...

Perhaps we overreacted a bit, however. There's a chance that the sight of seeing our beloved Dallas Stars stinking it up two nights in a row in New York, where they exhibited an alarming lack of will and heart and allowed Sean Avery to just walk all over them without anything resembling repercussion. That was tough to swallow, certainly. But it's not as if Morrow has shied away all season long and is suddenly become a player more concerned with his own health rather than the success of the team he captains.

In the long run, Sean Avery is not worth getting into a big fight over nor is he worth getting hurt over. Any other player that Morrow talked about not wanting to fight, then I'd feel different. But it's Avery. Would we have preferred at least some sort of emotion to be shown in that game against the Rangers, especially when Turco was bowled over in the crease? Certainly.

After watching last night's game against Morrow, I'm convinced that he does in fact still care about this team. Whether is was a personal resolve to not let the same issues in New York plague them three games in a row, or whether he read some of the comments fans were making (doubtful, but that'd be nice) and just wanted to answer some of the criticisms facing the Stars. It's not as if Stars fans want Morrow to drop the gloves every game (he showed his willingness to protect his teammates by pummeling Tim Gleason). But at least show some moxie.

He was perhaps the best player on the ice last night and while the stats aren't earth-shattering (1 goal, 2 shots, 4 hits) his presence was felt each and every shift. That is something that was sorely missing the previous two games, and it was important for the Stars to have that in this game. Now the questions is whether he can keep this going as the Stars head out on the most important stretch of games they'll have this season, and most of them are on the road.

Brenden Morrow said some things in an interview that most likely wasn't the best thing for him to say at that particular time. Yet he's not all of a sudden lost his drive to lead this team; he's just in a funk and the rest of the team is following suit. If we see more efforts like we had last night, then the Stars have a great chance to climb out of this mid-season adversity and get things moving in the right direction again....

....which brings me to my next point.

Heart, will, effort and fight can all be found against in a team. It doesn't just reappear over night, but adversity either brings a team together or pulls it to pieces at the seams. These issues we've had with the Stars just seemingly rolling over in defeat and not fighting back can all disappear, especially if the Stars somehow find a way to finally win more than two games in a row.

We talk about it as is this is quantifiable material, but in reality a team's heart and effort is something that is more than a feeling than anything else.

Last night, that feeling started to change a bit. The Stars showed some great resolve and continued to put the pressure on the Islanders despite continually being kicked in the stomach with some horrendous defensive coverage and even worse goaltending miscues.

No matter how much the Stars try and how much heart they might have, it won't mean anything if the goaltending and defense don't improve drastically, and soon. The Stars should have won last night's game 4-1 easily, and instead were fighting until the final seconds not to go into overtime yet again.

The defensive breakdowns are something we've discussed ad nauseam this season and instead of improving it's actually getting worse. Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen continue to struggle with coverage in front of the net and you can see it's getting into the their heads now. They're flailing at pucks, missing open players in front of the net and then giving the puck away at an alarming rate.

Adding onto that is the continued decline of Marty Turco. He started the season so well and in fact carried the Stars in a number of games. Turco has allowed less than two goals just twice in his past eleven, and in fact has allowed four goals four times.

He's not comfortable in net, he's falling and flailing in his crease and he's two far back in his net too many times. He's allowing more short side goals than ever before and each game Turco appears in becomes an adventure. Turco is showing he is not the sort of goaltender that can bail out a struggling defense, which is exactly what the Stars need right now.

So what to do?

At one point I would have said to try some of the younger players from the AHL, but that's out of the question. Brent Krahn was the feel-good story of the season, coming out and dominating all season long for the Texas Stars and was named as the starter for the AHL all-star game. Yet he hasn't played since November 22 and continues to struggle with the injury woes he's had his entire career.

Matt Climie is still not the answer, as much as we'd like, and you can forget about Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany for the next few seasons.

So goaltending and defense. Big issues that won't be fixed anytime soon. The Dallas Stars have the offensive talent to make some noise if they regain their confidence and their fight to win, but this team will only go as far as the defense and goaltending will take them. And at this point, that's not very far at all.