Last night's loss to the Vancouver Canucks wasn't the worst game the Stars have played this season. It wasn't even the worst game they've played in the past two weeks. Yet turnovers, mental errors and a lack of discipline doomed them and at the end of the night the Stars fell from 3rd to 8th in the conference.
Suddenly, the Stars are no longer in the driver's seat for the division lead.
It's unfortunate that going 11-3-1 in their past 15 games doesn't have them in a better spot but after such an up and down season, that's the situation the team is in. After some tough losses this past week the Stars have given up any leeway they had built for themselves and now face a brutal eight-game stretch where it's like at least five wins will be needed in order to secure a playoff spot.
Now, missing the playoffs can't be seen as a "meltdown" or a "disaster" as it may seem to some fans. The fact is, however, that expectations have suddenly changed over the past month and missing the playoffs would be incredibly disappointing -- on several levels. Getting to enjoy sold-out crowds in a playoff atmosphere has been beyond exhilarating and missing the postseason for the fourth year in a row could prove devastating to the psyche of the fanbase, no matter what he future outlook may be.
The question, of course, is what needs to change moving forward. Does anything need to change at all, or is this simply a case of the Stars needing to buckle down have better execution and discipline at a time where every game is more important than the last?
Let's take a quick look after the jump.
After Mike Ribeiro's failed penalty shot attempt, Glen Gulutzan decided to go ahead and shake things up himself. He swapped Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow in an attempt to spark an offense that generated nearly nothing after the first few minutes of the game. While the Stars would only score one goal the rest of the game, the offense did eventually kick into gear with Jamie Benn leading the charge.
Is this a change that should be made permanent? We discussed this earlier in the week and you wonder if Gulutzan is more open to putting Eriksson and Benn back together in an effort to free up his most gifted offensive player. Benn improved as the game wore on and Eriksson has been playing at a very high level all season long; perhaps having the duo reunited is enough to spark the Stars back into the level of play they enjoyed before this latest slump.
There's also the fact that the Stars have lacked some tenacity and speed the past few games, along with an overall lack of puck possession at crucial moments in the game. With Tomas Vincour scratched the past few games, should he be put back on the ice -- along with fan favorite Ryan Garbutt? There's something to be said about how their energy and ability to tilt the ice towards the offensive zone becomes infectious towards the rest of the team.
The Stars play Calgary on Saturday before departing on a four-game road trip through Canada and San Jose. These next five games could very well decide the fate of this season and the Stars have little room for error? Does Gulutzan stick with this latest roster lineup for one more game or is it time to shake it up a bit in an effort to make changes before it's too late?
Let us know your thoughts.