clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

December to Decide Dallas Stars’ Fate

Big month could salvage tough start to season

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
How will Dallas bounce back at a 6-2 loss in Pittsburgh when they travel to Denver on Saturday.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Well, December couldn’t have started any worse for the Stars.

Dallas lost 6-2 in Pittsburgh on Thursday, falling to 9-10-5 and tied for 5th in the Central Division. The Stars also slipped to the worst goal differential in the NHL at minus-22, though they got a chunk of that back with their 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Yes, I’m well aware I wrote previously that this team’s numbers are turning around. They were giving up fewer goals and slightly scoring more since that Nov. 8 to Columbus.

While I still believe that to be true, the month of December will decide this team’s fate.

Remaining in December are 12 games - nine at the American Airlines Center where they are 6-3-2.

Dallas is just tied with Nashville and just two points behind Minnesota and Winnipeg for third in the division and the final Wild Card spots.

The Stars try to continue their recent string of good play tonight against Calgary and former coach Glen Gulutzan.

We shall see again if it is Kari Lehtonen in net for Dallas coming off of his shutout. We shall also see again who head coach Lindy Ruff decides to sit on defense.

After tonight’s game, they play the Predators at home, travel to Philadelphia and Chicago before a huge five-game home stand against the Ducks, Rangers, Flyers, Blues and Kings.

Dallas ends the month with games against Colorado, Phoenix and Florida.

Now 1-1 in December, the Stars need a big, no, a huge month to climb back into a playoff position and attempt to shrink the 9-point gap between them and Chicago in the standings.

How will Dallas do it?

The power play needs to begin clicking.

Tuesday there were flashes of strong play with the man advantage. Tyler Seguin scored his first goal in 11 games in the second period on a pretty play.

Dallas has enough offense skill when on the man advantage to avoid using the John Klingberg-drop pass to Jason Spezza in the neutral zone.

More work has to be done entering the zone in control and getting more pucks on net.

More from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin

Seguin notching his first tally in 11 games should have gotten the monkey off his back, as he showed with another goal on Saturday. The duo has combined for 48 points (16 goals and 32 assists) so far this season.

The pair, however, are a combined -16. Also, Benn’s 29 penalty minutes are second most on the team.

Seguin has two goals and three assists in his last five games. Benn had one goal and four assists in past five.

That’s more like it from those two. They need to keep it up.

Stronger on the penalty kill

Dallas has surrendering at least one power play goal in five of its last six games.

Currently, the Stars’ penalty kill ranks 28th in the league at 77.3 percent.

Teams are feasting off Dallas’ inability to kill penalties. Look no further than the Detroit game to see proof.

How do they fix it? Pressure.

At times Dallas sits back too much on the penalty kill. Eaves, Benn, Eakin and crew need to force the issue more when short handed.

Better gap control at the defensive blue line will help, also.

Sorting Out the Personnel

Lastly, while I am a strong defender of Ruff, I am not the general manager. That title belongs to Jim Nill.

Nill and Ruff were both brought in during the summer of 2013.

During their tenure, Dallas has two postseason berths and one division crown. And after last season’s success Dallas had high expectations to match, and exceed, what they did last season.

Now, off to a 10-10-5, the question is how long does Nill stick with Ruff?

We’be already seen one coach dismissed this season - Florida’s Gerrard Gallant was one game above .500 at the time of his dismissal last month.

Nill, who signed a contract extension until 2022-23, has loaded this team with talent the past two seasons (Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Jason Spezza, Stephen Johns, Dan Hamhuis, Antti Niemi and Kris Russell at last year’s trade deadline).

Ruff’s contract expires at the end of next season.

However, if December gets away from Dallas, will Ruff make it to 2017?

That’s a question only the Stars can answer.