This team, huh? Coming back from a 3-0 deficit only to fritter away the game in the final two minutes of regulation, which led to the (this year) practically inevitable overtime loss, then following up that effort with not an effort in Colorado. I never liked that state much anyway. At least be a square state if you're going to be that close to it, okay?
You hear "compete" and "try" thrown around after a lackadaisical loss like last Saturday's a lot. The Stars did not, many said, have those things. They were outrageously outplayed, magnificently manhandled and preposterously out-possessed. Of course, the other team doesn't look at the Stars' inept play so much as breaking down what they did right in their own. Per Adrian Dater, one of the things Patrick Roy did right was to bench the star players for a power play:
First, Matt Duchene was plowed into the boards and nearly injured. Then he got no power-play time after the hit. After that, Duchene played mad — and the Avalanche was the benefactor.
Coach Patrick Roy sent a few messages to certain players, Duchene included, by withholding some of their ice time during Saturday night's game against the Dallas Stars. They responded the right way, helping the Avs win 5-2 at the Pepsi Center.
A game that was even with two minutes to go in the second period turned in Colorado's favor, with Duchene leading the way. Coming into the game with no points in three of his previous four and looking ineffective for much of the first two periods to that point, Duchene assisted on the tie-breaking goal and added an insurance marker as the Avs won for the fifth time in seven games.
Duchene was drilled into the boards by Dallas' Cody Eakin at the 10:11 mark of the second and was shaken up, but he got no power-play time; neither did linemate Ryan O'Reilly. Depth forwards such as Marc-Andre Cliche and Max Talbot received some of their ice time. [Denver Post]
The Stars have been frequently admonished by Lindy Ruff for their woeful play over the first two months of the season, so it isn't as though they are being coddled. But when you look at a team that is quite similar to the Stars in terms of their position in the conference, it makes sense that the players would respond to a bit of a wake-up call. Duchene really did come out flying after that benching, after all. And of course we saw how Ales Hemsky started to look better (at least on the scoresheet) after his benching a while back, which may or may not be a coincidence. So maybe it's mental, right? These players just need to experience the consequences of their actions through a benching or a healthy scratch in order to change their mindset and jump-start their game.
The problem with this tactic is that you can overuse it. Yes, there are instances where players are legitimately disengaged and they need to be shocked back to life, but I would argue that, by and large, these players are doing the absolute right thing on a lot of their shifts by only giving it 80% or so. You can't skate your absolute fastest each second you're on the ice and expect to play a good third period, no matter what kind of shape you're in. And you can't try to body check the Gushers Tropical Bursts out of everyone on the ice each time you're out there, because then your whole body will start to politely scream out against the massive amounts of lactic acid building up all over the place, and suddenly you find that you can't keep up with your mates when they get an odd-man rush towards the end of your next shift.
In other words, the players don't need to give it 100% all the time. They need to choose the right times to give more effort than normal. It's part opportunism and part savvy play, really. Look at Ovechkin, Seguin, or even Datsyuk. Those players are all world-class, but they usually spend some of their shifts coasting simply because it's the prudent thing to do. Then the puck gets into the right area, or they see a seam they can exploit, and bam: they're off to the races, and that deke/shot/one-timer leaves your jaw on the floor.
So, I don't know, maybe Ruff does need to follow through on some of his comments a few games back and cut ice time for guys who don't look like they're getting the job done. If making Trevor Daley play five fewer minutes will really turn this team into a force, then that would be a great idea, sure. But will it have a positive enough effect to outweigh the morale impact to him and the other players? The coaches know who really deserves to pay some bench penance better than most of us, so there has to be logic behind why they "discipline" some guys differently than others. And yeah, it looks great when you make a superstar sit, then he responds by skating really hard his next shift and doing good things. But if you're expecting him to skate really hard five or ten shifts after that one? And then again the next night?
As an enthusiastic observer, we don't want to hear about these elite athletes' physical limitations. They are paid handsomely at this level, and we want to see them justifying that investment, which is funded by our investment in them. The Stars this season have frustrated a lot of those investors, and our immediate reaction is to scream for change. They must be punished because we are not seeing the victories we have paid to see, and they are responsible for that. If they knew how maddening it is to watch a game like Saturday's, then they would play "better", somehow. We want to make our annoyance palpable to them, and oftentimes the best way we can hope to do so is by seeing their coaches or managers discipline them out of something akin to our own frustration.
It's getting to the point where the Stars will have to make some tough decisions about who might respond to discipline by elevating their game, and who simply can't be any better than they have been and must be replaced, if possible. We all know that Jim NIll is probably more patient than we are, but this season has surely worn him down a fair bit by now. Don't be surprised if the changes keep coming.
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Monday Links are part of this complete breakfast. (Is there a picture there? I don't know how to make html web sites go. It should be a picture of a guy eating a dozen bran muffins, five grapefruits...)
Here is a quirky little post about why the Stars should just "quit defense". It loses all semblance of believability when it suggests trading Lindback could happen. [Fansided]
Erik Haula: more than just a corny Gwen Stefani reference. [THN]
From that same game, a scary moment: Alex Burrows narrowly avoided an eye-injury from a skate blade. [SportsNet]
Todd McLellan laughs at your Corsi questions. [The Hockey Writers]
Dennis Wideman asked his goaltender to, er, adjust his posture last night. [Puck Daddy]
Like Britain in Children of Men, the Eastern Conference could only try to isolate itself and hope for the best, but to no avail: Mumps has (have? Someone look that up.) found them. [NY Daily News]
Gordie Howe is back home recovering from his recent stroke. It's good to hear that he's improving. [SportsNet]
Finally, If you missed it Saturday, the Stars ran a neat piece on the 2013 re-branding of the franchise that looked at the various concepts, colors and logos that fell by the wayside en route to the new D-Star logo we have with us today. Did someone say blue and gold? You will at least think that after you watch this video, which Icethetics looked over as well at this link if you're interested.