I graduated from SMU Cox School of Business a few years ago. In just about every class I took, the teacher had us read a case study and give a quick SWOT analysis of the subject company. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Businesses use this analysis to take a picture of the company as it stands today, in order to take stock of what they are doing well and need to exploit and what they are doing poorly and how to fix it. Given the Dallas Stars rough month, what does their picture look like?
Throughout the season, the Stars have dominated the possession game. This may come as a surprise to some given the current slide, but Dallas’ even strength CF% is actually higher in the 11 games played since 12/31/15 (vs. NASH) than in the opening three months of the season. In the team’s last 11 games, their even strength CF% is a healthy 54.2% and in the 28 games before 12/31/15, their even strength CF% was 52.7%. So what does this mean? The Stars are still shooting the puck more than their opponents 5 on 5.
(For the record, the swing between this number and the ones Josh posted on Monday are strength, score situation and timeframe. These are from all score situations at even strength, and they include the recent homestand games against Edmonton and Colorado.)
Typically numbers like these would show an uptick in results, but it has not been the case for the Stars since the turn of the calendar. Part of the reason for that has been the PDO of the team, part of it has been some hot goalies in the other net, but most of it has been special teams (more on that later). Just the way the Avalanche overachieved two seasons ago, or Flames last year, the opposite is occurring in Dallas. The underlying numbers say they should be winning games, but they aren’t.
Regardless of results, the Stars ability to tilt the ice in terms of shots has been a strength all season and continues to be today.
Special Teams have submarined the Stars’ chances at winning games, despite their heavy advantage in shots at even strength.
To give you an example, the Stars power play had a goal differential of plus-25 (28 for, 3 against) in the 38 games before 12/31/15. In other words, they scored 28 power play goals and allowed 3 shorthanded goals. In the 11 games since 12/31/15, the Stars’ power play is being out scored by their opponents penalty kill. I will let you read that sentence again.
It is difficult to believe, but since the turn of the calendar the Stars have actually surrendered four shorthanded goals and have only scored three power play goals.
That is only half of the equation, as the penalty kill has been almost as porous. The Stars’ PK percentage for the first 38 games of the season was 85.5, and in the 11 games since the turn of the calendar they are killing a ghastly 63.6 of opponents’ power plays. Tactics, goaltending, and luck are a part of any equation that spits out “goals for” and “goals against”, but the penalty kill stinks.
Much has been made about the Stars’ special teams, but any way you slice it the special teams are killing the Stars right now.
The trade deadline is fast approaching (February 29th at 3 p.m. EST). It is this time of year when writers get to put players in different sweaters and play general manager. Not unlike journalists, fans build trades, match salaries, and part with hypothetical draft picks.
With the current state of the team, many view the trade deadline as an opportunity to improve the team and make a push for a Stanley Cup. Nearly every contending team will, or has already, made a trade to improve themselves. It is almost a rite of passage in the world of the contenders, “well if everyone else is acquiring rentals…”
There are some good players that may make sense for the Dallas Stars, but at what cost? If you believe the strengths and weaknesses as outlined above, does that change your opinion of who the team should pursue? Is there such a thing as a player that boosts the PK percentage by 20? How many players in the league could the Stars bring in that would actually play first power play unit minutes? I would say the answer is, “not many”.
Personally I do not view a trade as the way out of the slump, but it is certainly an opportunity to improve the team overall.
1. a statement of intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone (or “a team”) in retribution for something done or not done.
2. a person or thing likely to cause damage or danger.
Obviously, if the special teams continue the way they have been for the month, that is a threat. But that should go without saying. What are the threats longer term to the team than what is happening on a game-by-game basis?
First, the MDK Division threatens to put a noose around the neck of any team going through a rough patch. Chicago’s recent 49-game winning streak, Colorado’s 7-3-0 record over the last 10 games, and the Blues are now only one point behind the Stars (Dallas has three games in hand). Gone are the days where Dallas had eight points between them and the nearest pursuer.
It isn’t like this is breaking news, but the Central Division has been as tough as advertised. The difference between winning the division and getting third, is the difference between facing the Wild on home ice and facing St. Louis on the road. If that isn’t a threat, I don’t know what is.
The next most immediate threat to the team comes from within. Within the pipes, that is.
Goalies are fragile creatures. The Stars’ goalies have been okay, but their play has suffered of late. Using our familiar timeline, the Stars’ goalies had a save percentage of 91.3 percent before 12/31/15, and have an 89.6 save percentage since. Some of that can be explained by the ~2.5 more high danger chances allowed per 60 since 2016 began and part can be explained by special teams, but that is not why goalies are a “threat” to the Stars.
The Stars are playing a dangerous game of defecating on their goalies’ confidence. The danger comes when the skaters recover from their slump, but the goalies have been shaken. I am not supposing this is happening or would happen, but if it did, would anyone really be surprised?
There is hope because everything listed above is within the Stars’ control. The team can continue to shoot the puck, get better on special teams, acquire a game changer in the trade market, and get better results. It isn’t like the team is getting hopelessly outshot and taking on water up and down the lineup. The tools are there to fix this.
Sometimes slumps feel like they will never end, but that isn’t the case. The Stars need will work out their kinks, and get back on that horse. Last night’s game against the Flames was a step in the right direction.