My wife and I were driving home this weekend from picking out a little purple collar with a pink flower on it for our growing puppy. Normal Houston January day outside. It was sprinkling. The roads were damp with a few puddles here and there. The ground is so close to sea level that it floods behind bars near closing time when the drunks step outside to pee so this was nothing that seemed particularly treacherous.
Many Houston roads have speed "suggestions" that are way too high. I say suggestions because even though they are way too high people in Houston still blow past the speed limit. On one particular road we took the speed limit is 45. It snakes its way through some neighborhoods for about seven miles between a minor road and highway 290. The part my wife and I use is two lanes through what probably used to be a forest before people started settling. Trees line every road right behind the deep drainage ditches.
So imagine my surprise when I look up and see a car veer to the right towards the ditch around a corner and then jerk hard back to the left into oncoming traffic. 50-70 feet in front of me with both of our cars going at least the speed limit a car is in position to make our vehicles collide head on with both drivers straight across from each other.
Anything could have happened at that point. If we collided I wouldn't be writing this right now. I almost certainly would have left the scene with a concussion. My left leg definitely would have been destroyed. It isn't out of the question that I could have died. If a car had been behind us we would have been in trouble. We could have gone into the ditch after avoiding the wreck. My wife could have suffered serious injuries. Any number of catastrophic things could have happened.
But in the split second or seconds you have to respond to a stimulus you don't have time to go over all of the horrible things that could happen. You simply have to react. I nudged the wheel to the right a few inches and narrowly avoided the accident as the other driver over-corrected again, spinning around behind us before coming to a stop then going on their way.
When you get in a jam you don't have time to think about everything going on around you. If you do, the worst outcomes are more likely. It's a lesson we all learn as we get older, and it's a lesson our neighborhood hockey team all too often forgets. Don't think. Act. Thinking takes time, and time is a precious commodity.
The Dallas Stars aren't being allowed the time necessary to think, but they're still trying to take the time to think, and nothing good is happening. They get stuck in ruts that go from shifts to periods to games and we wonder if they're ever going to figure things out again. At times it looks like they feel it too.
As frustrated as we get watching it, you know they get frustrated participating in it. Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff are making reference to it in post game quotes. No doubt those quotes are watered versions of what has already been a rallying cry in the locker room. These guys see it, but seeing a problem and fixing it are two different animals entirely.
Ruff's best solution this season has been to draw names from a hat for lines at times. At this point we shouldn't be surprised by him going to the tactic, but it still draws ire.He keeps getting the last laugh though because somehow it keeps working. Against the San Jose Sharks for instance he threw Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza out on the ice in the third period. They went on to record two goals as the Stars dominated the period, earning a point they otherwise didn't deserve.
You would like to see that not be necessary though. At some point it isn't going to work. At some point the Stars will have to stop sleepwalking through games then trying to come back on teams who are also full of NHL-caliber talent. At some point someone on the ice is going to have to grab the 18 skaters in the lineup and rock them out of the doldrums without the coaching staff being involved.
When is the last big on ice play you can remember that set a tone for the Stars? The last I can remember is this Jamie Benn goal against the Nashville Predators:
That was on New Years.
The Stars are never going to reach their full potential when they are in their own heads, thinking, and shying away from playing their own game. The broadcast pointed out several examples of players getting outworked and losing battle after battle against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. There isn't enough fight, energy, or will power on display consistently to drag them out of the holding pattern they all too often enter.
Ruff shuffling the lines seems to get them out of their feelings and into games, but the time is here for the guys on the ice to step it up. They have to stop thinking about all the bad things that can happen and just play. When you sit back and think about everything bad that can happen it will eventually happen. All of it. The only way to consistently avoid it is to play to your strengths and actively look to solve the problems by carrying the attack to the opposition. It's time for the ones who actually control what happens on the ice to take over and fix this and remember how good they are.