Momentum is a funny thing.
When a team is riding a winning streak, they can feel on top of the world. Everything seems to come easily. Pucks can go into nets seemingly automatically, without thinking.
On the other end of that spectrum though? Well... things can get really bad really fast, and stopping that runaway freight train can turn out to be a seriously difficult task.
That’s the situation that the AHL’s Texas Stars currently find themselves in.
Not only has their winless skid reached 11 games (0-10-1) after three losses this past week, but they are now sitting at the bottom of the league’s basement, with just three wins and eight points through 17 games.
As I wrote about in this space two weeks ago, this is a young, inexperienced roster, and growing pains this season were inevitable. But the biggest lesson, most likely, will be the one that the team is working through right now.
How can the team right this ship? Stephen Meserve and Ryan Pennington of 100 Degree Hockey discussed the topic in an edition of their Weekend Preview before the team’s losses on Saturday and Sunday.
SM: There are only a few spots to look at to make a change: coaching and players. Nothing about what I understand regarding the relationship between the coaching staff and the Dallas Stars front office suggests that there would be any changes in the middle of the season in the coaching staff. As much as agitating fans may salivate at the thought, it just doesn’t seem likely.
RP: The obvious place to look is at the trade market. The Stars desperately need some veteran leadership to come in and help get this thing on the right track. That’s no knock against Dillon Heatherington and Michael Mersch--those guys can only do so much. Remember how the tone in Derek Laxdal’s voice changed when they brought in Taylor Fedun last season? Though Fedun only played three games for Texas, he had the full trust of the coaching staff, and Laxdal couldn’t say enough about him.
I’ll add one more possible solution to the problem: the answer can come from within.
When the Dallas Stars snapped their own early season funk, the answer didn’t come from a trade or a coaching change. Instead, the team came together, regained their focus, dug deep and played their way through it (well, that, as well as some much-needed adjustments from the coaching staff).
As tempting as a trade or coaching change may be, playing through it, regardless of how long it takes, often offers more long-term benefit. After all, the more times you have to buckle down and snap out of a losing skid, the better equipped you are to do it the next time, and the time after that.
If these young Texas Stars can find a way to do that in their current quagmire, it could be a developmental opportunity that they become thankful for at some point in the future.
Boy, did they come close to stopping the bleeding this weekend, though.
They led 2-1 after the first period on Sunday against the Toronto Marlies, one of the very best teams in the AHL. A bad second period saw them suddenly down 4-2. Texas fired a whopping 20 shots on net in the third, one of which ended up capitalizing as Adam Mascherin’s first of the season, but the Marlies dam did not break. They held on for the 4-3 win.
The loss followed a close 2-1 defeat to the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday (a game where Texas finished with a 37-16 edge in shots), and an 8-4 blowout on Saturday, which was also at the hands of the Marlies.
Over the three games Emil Djuse picked up three assists, also taking the Texas scoring lead in the process. His defensive partner John Nyberg, who looks notably better this season compared to last, had one goal and one helper, as did Mascherin, Joel L’Esperance and Ben Gleason. One of the few overall bright spots from the week is that the team really spread out their shot totals, suggesting some depth to their lineup.
The Stars will have a few more days of soul-searching before returning to action on Friday versus the San Antonio Rampage.
North American Juniors
Riley Damiani is riding a nice five-game point streak for the Kitchener Rangers, with eight points in that span. He leads his squad in scoring with 23 points in 17 games this far into the season.
Thomas Harley had one goal and one helper in three games for the Mississauga Steelheads. The rangy defenseman currently leads his team in both goals (10) and points (21) in just 18 games played.
Speaking of defensemen who lead their team in scoring, that’s also the case for Dawson Barteaux, the captain of the Red Deer Rebels. He had 14 points in 21 games after picking up a goal and an apple in a pair of weekend games.
Swedish defenseman Jakob Stenqvist is on something of a roll in Finland’s top league, the Liiga, picking up eight points in his past seven contests (although four of those points came in one extremely messy game of firewagon hockey). He had a two-goal outing on Saturday, highlights of which can be found here.
After starting his season with Skelleftea in the SHL, winger Albin Eriksson is temporarily off to MODO in the Allsvenskan on a loan from his club. Skelleftea is deep at forward and Eriksson wasn’t getting a lot of ice time, so this could be a nice change of pace for him and help gear him up for a World Juniors push.
Colton Point had a big night in the ECHL over the weekend, turning aside 51 of 54 shots that he faced. Unfortunately for him, however, the Idaho Steelheads dropped a 4-3 decision in the shootout.
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.