Another game, another loss, and less important but good for a talking point, another loss on the road, where Dallas has seen no substance within the sewage. There were few, if any silver linings against Boston. Players got injured, players performed below expectations, and coaches managed the roster above vexations.
The tragic myth of the 2016-2017 Dallas Stars is that #Starsing is no longer a description befitting of the team. The blueline moves at a snail's pace thanks to Ruff's insistence on giving Esa Lindell primetime minutes, the forwards have transformed from Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin to Brett Ritchie and Devin Shore, Cody Eakin is in possession of Lindy Ruff's social security number, and this has all helped mold and shape a team always a step behind because they’re incapable of stepping forward fast enough. Boston was just another case in point.
Fiddler from the Goof
Did Pierre seriously just say that the Stars just got Fiddler back from injury?— DefendingBigD (@DefendingBigD) March 31, 2017
It's worth mentioning that Pierre McGuire really did mention the benefit of Dallas of getting Vernon Fiddler back from injury. I think it's less about Pierre not doing the kind of mandatory, fak-a-doodle-doo homework that comes with the territory of knowing hockey essentials, like a basic roster, and instead reflecting on how much I never knew I actively missed Fiddler. I don't believe he's some essential piece Dallas needs to make a Cup run or anything, but being a cornerstone of the penalty kill, and a fun loving dude in general, he was an asset all the same.
Which brings us to the second goal of the evening. Wait, let’s back track. On the first goal Stephen Johns fumbled the puck breaking out of the zone and Brad Marchand did what Brad Marchand has done this season, which is score goals, and score a goal he did. Pierre McGuire, taking cues from Ruff's Ephebiphobia Playbook, would bring up Johns' mistake at least a dozen different times. My focus on the game was intermittent, so it's possible McGuire brought up a Johns turnover he made in Notre Dame at the 41st parallel north against Minnesota-Duluth just in case we weren't historically and geographically literate. And in case we didn't understand what Johns did wrong the first ten times.
If I'm being unusually hostile, it's because Pierre's commentary was a sadness matrix of cliches; the apocalyptic mistake turnovers are branded as, red meat for the narrative that Johns has struggled, the emphasis on youth as a guarantee of miscalculation, and all the assembled non-insight that comes from intersecting these narratives together for public indigestion.
Ghost in the Dwell
To add to that, I've been fairly supportive of Ruff, but there are probably ten different decisions he's made this season with no logical defense for. The season is done. They aren't making the playoffs. You bench players when they're struggling in the middle of a playoff game, or because they took many penalties, or because they lack talent except in the pugilism sideshow, like Tony Twist. Benching a young defensemen in a lost season rather than letting him play through mistakes does nothing but chip away at their confidence. Especially in a season where Johns has been benched for a delay of game penalty. Despite several players also committing delay of game penalties, and not getting scratched. Despite the entire team struggling. And despite some players struggling more than others but who continue to earn an inexplicable benefit of the doubt (hint: his name rhymes with Slowly Weaken).
Honka's pass at 15:36 was so simple and yet so rare on our blue line aside from Klingberg these days.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) March 31, 2017
Julius Honka is the Dallas Stars future, and this future isn't for sale. Oh right, I said that already. Honka excels loudly, but he also excels quietly. Compare and contrast his breakouts to every other defensemen (yes, I'm including Klingberg for the sake of accuracy over hyperbole). The mark of a great outlet passer is how much space the forward has when the defenseman gets them the puck. Because Honka doesn't telegraph his passes (which comes from puck handling feints, switches, focus, and positioning), forwards have more room to receive and react, which amplifies transition flow. He's an essential part of Dallas' blueline moving forward. This bears repeating for only the most senseless.
Exit Stage Left
As for the game itself, we’ve seen the same song, and uncoordinated trance before. Curtis McKenzie was nearly seriously injured because it’s been that kind of season. Thankfully he’s okay. Unfortunately Ales Hemsky is not, as he sat for most of the third, also playing through an injury bug.
I would like to write more cheerfully, and perhaps even be a professional. But this game was a perfect synthesis of Dallas’ issues; they don’t have depth at wing, they’ve lost all of their speed, and they’re playing a system that addresses their weakness but doesn’t exploit their strengths while fueled by lameduck coaching that views prospect mistakes as an essential problem, and a ‘veteran’ center with 11 points for the season as an essential solution.