The 2011-12 campaign came to an end this weekend for the Texas Stars (31-40-3-2, 67 pts, #15 Western Conference). For the first time, this franchise is not going to the playoffs. Less than twelve hours after returning from their final road trip, the axe fell. Dallas announced the firing of Coaches Jeff Pyle and Truitt. As the saying goes, you can't fire all the players.
Realistically, this is something that most have been anticipating for a while. Rumors of Pyle losing the room and conflict with veteran players have been bubbling up for a while. Dallas has also not been pleased with Texas's performance this season, as Joe Nieuwendyk told ESPN Dallas yesterday.
Despite lip service at the beginning of the season that the major and minor league clubs would match up their on-ice systems, they never did. Coach Pyle's heavy forechecking style never changed and didn't mesh well with Coach Gulutzan's more defense-first systems. GM Scott White has a stated desire to build his teams on solid D and goaltending, neither of which was solid under Pyle this season.
With the number of prospects now coming through the Stars system, the alignment of the Stars major and minor league on-ice systems is paramount. Even if Texas had some success this year, the system clash wasn't going to be viable long-term.
Texas now has a 50/50 record on ECHL coaches. My bet is that Joe Nieuwendyk spends a lot of time looking at NHL assistants. The organization needs a coach who has a proven record of developing prospects to NHL success. That search will probably start in earnest once the playoffs are over.
More on this week's 1-3 record and the final injury report for the season...
Texas scored early and often in Tuesday's game against the Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks), never looking back after opening a two goal lead in the first. Alex Chiasson and Jace Coyle each picked up their first professional goal. "We play for pride and give it all we've got," said Chiasson, who also assisted on an empty netter. "It was the best game we've played as a team since I've been here."
The Stars were up on Chicago by four before the Wolves got their first goal. Chicago, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a point in the game, started former Star, Matt Climie, but pulled him after he allowed three goals on just eleven shots (Chicago backed into the playoffs thanks to loss by the Rochester Americans). Texas tender Jack Campbell picked up second star honors with a 34 save performance.
Texas also got goals from Tomas Vincour, Angelo Esposito and Mike Hedden.
Despite a comeback thanks to the power play, Texas could not seal the deal in overtime as they earned just their third OT loss on the season. San Antonio's Jon Matsumoto pushed the Rampage (Florida Panthers) over the edge with his 23rd of the season 72 seconds into the overtime period at the AT&T Center. Campbell stopped 29 of 33 in the game and Texas bombed Jacob Markstrom, who had 39 saves on 42 shots. The Stars were 2/3 on the power play.
Texas got goals from Travis Morin, Dan Spang and Matt Fraser.
The Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) jumped out to a lead in the first and never looked back, holding at least a one goal advantage on Texas all the way through the final horn. Mike Hedden was the star of the night, scoring on a penalty shot in the second and at even strength in the third. The penalty shot was only Texas's second of the season, both at home and both goals. The other was by Colton Sceviour.
Brad Lukowich was ejected from the game for abuse of officials. The game was rather loosely officiated to say the least.
With a chance to keep the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) out of the playoffs, Texas couldn't close it out in Houston on Sunday. Texas opened the scoring in the second, but Houston answered with two goals to get the final W of the regular season. Brenden Dillon got the Stars' only goal, and Jack Campbell started his 3rd game in as many nights and twelfth straight overall with 31 saves.
The Week Ahead
The season is over. Most players will begin leaving today. The Idaho Steelheads continue their playoff push against the Las Vegas Wranglers (unaffiliated) this week.
Texas finished the season with several players injured. Mathieu Tousignant and Stephen Schultz have been out for several months at this point. Scott Glennie was added to the list, missing the last two games of the season.