Let’s Talk Stars

by Chelsea

With all the controversy surrounding our beloved but struggling Stars, we at SHR felt it was time to open an outlet for intelligent debate. (If you’ve visited the official boards, you know that “intelligent” is a key word here. I guess “debate” would be too. This isn’t for taking petty shots or thoughtless griping.)

Some notable things:

  • The Stars have not pulled together consecutive wins since the trade that brought Brad Richards from Tampa Bay, at least not in the regular season. That was in February.
  • Three Stars were sent to minors; Mark Fistric, James Neal, and Chris Conner.
  • Marty Turco and Tobias Stephan both sport the worst S%s in the league.
  • The fact that neither important veterans Jere Lehtinen or Sergei Zubov have been able to play in a game so far this season. Both are very close to returning to the lineup.
  • Sean Avery
  • The Stars are now at 4-6-2, the first under .500 October for the franchise since 1991.

We say:

I think getting polar opposites (Richards, Avery) and trying to fit them into a new and discombobulated team is causing more problems than it’s solving. Jackson seems to want pretty, offensive hockey, Hull wants a gritty, forceful team, and meanwhile Tippett wants a tight defense. We’ve lost almost all our “glue” guys and replaced them with specialists that haven’t found good chemistry yet. Modano and Turco were right to call out the people that are making their jobs harder, but I think that’s hardly an excuse for not playing well. Our defense is not confident in their roles, in the ability of the other players, or in themselves to make the right play. I think losing Neal could further disrupt this new, youthful Modano, but the addition of Lehtinen might bring back some much-needed old school Star feel. Fistric has earned his time in the minors by playing stupidly, and hopefully will return looking like himself again. “It’s only October” is over now. Time to stop looking for the problem and start solving it.

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17 Comments to “Let’s Talk Stars”

  1. Getting Zubov back won’t turn the entire team around, but he and Niskanen were solid last year. Matt seems to feed off of Zubov’s confidence, and really, I feel like that’s all he’s missing this year. It may take a game or two to adjust to the new pairs once he comes back, but in the end, I think all three should be more solid than what we’re stuck with right now. (And I think they’ve made the right choice by sending down Fistric and retaining Janik as the 7th d-man. Fistric will be an NHLer — but I don’t think he’s ready yet.)

    I’m not convinced that getting Lehtinen back is going to make a word of difference at even strength. (We’ve got other guys that are capable of forechecking and working along the boards; guys that played more than 48 games last season. That being said, we could definitely use his expertise on the PK.

    Modano’s playing great this year, and I think demoting Neal is the wrong move. If they demote Crombeen, others could claim him… but I still think that Neal deserves to play at this level more than B.J. does — for this season, at least. I’d keep Bunny at the NHL level too, and I’d keep him with Richards. Their chemistry is inconsistent, but at least we’ve seen glimpses.

    Richards is eating too much of the pie, in regards to his salary. I think it was a mistake to bring him in. He’s incredibly talented, and he’s got potential to fit in with this team, but his cap-hit ties our hands in the front office. I’d rather have retained Hagman & Mittens, and kept Jussi. It’d be nice to have Smith right now too, but I think he deserves a shot at more starts, so I’m okay with his departure.

    Avery… I’ve got mixed feelings about him. The Rangers did a lot better with him than without him, so I thought he’d be a big-impact guy. I think he could be. But I think we’re paying him too much for what he brings to our team.

    I’d be tempted to shop Avery, and Richards too (not because he doesn’t fit — but because we need more “glue” guys). But, given their performances and their salaries this year, I’m not sure how many takers we’d have; and even if there were some, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t get comparable talent in return.

  2. “We’ve lost almost all our “glue” guys and replaced them with specialists that haven’t found good chemistry yet.”

    I had been thinking this myself. But I wasn’t sure how to say it. I agree.

  3. “Getting Zubov back won’t turn the entire team around, but he and Niskanen were solid last year. Matt seems to feed off of Zubov’s confidence, and really, I feel like that’s all he’s missing this year”

    Matt Niskanen is awful without Zubov, and while ya, he’s fantastic with Zubov, what are we going to do when Zubov retires? Hope that Niskanen can finally step up and play well without him? That’s really chancing it.

  4. Also, get Janik healthy and play with only 6 d-men and send Nisky down.

  5. I think getting Lehtinen back will make a huge difference; obviously he knows what he’s doing and he plays intelligent hockey and doesn’t get panicked. And, I have to agree that taking Neal out was a bad idea. Why do we get rid of players who score? Send Crombeen back and keep Neal, who skates fast and smart and works well with Modano.

    Bottom line – I think getting our veterans back will help, but however we got into this mess, the way out of it is to get our heads back in the game and out of this funk or whatever it is we have gotten ourselves into.

  6. For one, I agree that Crombeen should be sent down instead of Neal or Brunnstrom. The problem there is that, as Colby mentioned, he would have to pass waivers to do so, and the NHL’s thirteenth-best rookie would probably not last long on waivers. The Stars brass obviously doesn’t want to risk losing him. It also remains to be seen how he’ll jive on a line with Modano and (presumably) Lehtinen. Crombeen and Neal had played together previously so they had some chemistry together already. Now Crombeen will be the odd man out as far as that goes.

    As for Richards, his piece of the pie is much bigger than it should be. Sure, he’s a great player and sure, he needs to find chemistry with somebody here. But truthfully, there are very few players in the NHL right now worth almost 8mil, and he is not one of them. Not to mention that somebody – Richards himself or the Stars brass, I don’t claim to know who – is trying to push him into a leadership core that was already solid and proven. No matter how the players feel about him personally, that’s got to shake things up a bit behind the scenes.

    Another big shake up is Avery. He just doesn’t play the same kind of hockey the rest of our Stars do. He doesn’t seem to have the same respect for the game. The biggest thing for me is that his reputation preceding him means his reputation preceding our entire team, and it’s already starting to show. The refs looking the other way. Our other players having to stick up for him. The entire team being called “dirty.”

    Jen, part of me says it’s silly to put faith in Janik when he’s only played for us for one game. Yet, he’s a solid, experienced defenseman and that’s what we need. Not Nisky’s timidity or (sorry!) Fistric’s over-eager mistakes. If only he were healthy enough to play.

    Finally, Lehts. No pressure or anything, buddy! Really, I hope he exceeds the expectations being placed on him right now. Same for Zubov. So many people seem to think that they will be our miracle cure. That remains to be seen, but I agree that they will at least be stabilizing influences on our hot-headed Stars.

    As far as recent developments, Morrow admitting that he needs to calm down and has been doing some “soul searching” about the whole thing is at least a baby step in the right direction. Truth be told, I think a lot of people involved in this organization need to be following his lead. We’ll see how this week affects the team. Friday will be a test, but Saturday even more so. Saturday we play the Sharks – which promises to be a high-intensity game anyway – and depending on how Friday’s game goes, it could also show if we can finally keep up some good momentum.

  7. Neither Richards or Avery can be shopped. Both have NTC in there contracts. Richards was already asked to waive his for the move to Dallas, and I don’t care how good of a guy he is (and he is a good guy), he isn’t going to wave it again. I don’t know much about Avery, but from what I’ve seen, I seriously doubt he’d waive his. Plus, after seeing his reception around the league, I also have my doubts if there would be any takers for him at this point.

    The way I see it, you’ve got all the pieces need. The only thing missing is putting them in the right order. Hopefully these spankings in the last few games have woken up the folks who are responsible for putting them in order.

  8. Holy Crickey! I just looked up the Stars salaries to see where everything went, and honestly, Richards big numbers aren’t what shocked me. Turco is getting $5.7 million!?!? That’s almost a million per goal against per game! I don’t mean to kick the guy when he’s down, and it isn’t totally his fault, but for $5,700,000 a year, he should be stealing a couple of games for his mates.

    Dang. That’s a mil more than Brodeur.

  9. “Jen, part of me says it’s silly to put faith in Janik when he’s only played for us for one game. Yet, he’s a solid, experienced defenseman and that’s what we need. Not Nisky’s timidity or (sorry!) Fistric’s over-eager mistakes. If only he were healthy enough to play.”

    I’m only going off of what I saw in the pre-season and the few minutes he played in the regular season. He did a hell of a lot better than Nisky and Fishsticks combined. And if all else fails, bench him and bring Nisky or Fistric back up.

  10. I think we’re all accepting that Richards and Avery won’t be going anywhere, but that doesn’t negate the damage those trades seemed to have caused. I think the pieces are in order, they’re just not all functioning in-sync.

    By your terms, Sarah, we’re paying $1 million to Richards for each point he’s gotten this season. Or $2.6 million per goal. It isn’t that he’s that big of an impact player- no, he just only has 3 goals. Leading goal scorer Alexander Semin of the Capitals has twice the points in fewer games, with half the salary.

    Everyone struggles, and the fact is, Turco has earned that big paycheck by stealing games, holding them in games, and being the key player over and over. He’s slumping right now, and it’s not entirely his fault. That doesn’t mean he isn’t worth it.

  11. Yes, Turco makes 5.7, and it’s well deserved (well, with the exception if this year, which isn’t all his fault as you said) For a goalie who has the 2nd longest streak of 30+ wins each season, and has a career of 207-103-42 it’s well deserved. I think the goalie should be your highest paid player.

    $7.8 is the most ridiculous amount of money I’ve ever heard for a guy. The Stars are 7-14-3 with him in the line up.

  12. Hey, I didn’t say Richards has earned his paycheck either. ‘Cause he hasn’t. He didn’t last year, and he hasn’t this year. I’m not sure he ever did or ever will. What blog was it that called him the $5 milkshake? No matter how good it is, it isn’t worth $5. I like him, but that is spot on. I cringed when that deal was announced. Big money contracts are dangerous, especially when they come from badly managed teams to young players: those kids can never live up to the expectations. Overall, I prefer to not look at contract numbers (thus why I had no idea what Turco was getting) because no one deserves that much to play a game. If I stopped to think about how much I’ve done in my life and how hard I’ve worked only to have them make in a day what I’ll earn in a year (maybe), I would be depressed. But I digress…

    But look, I “came to this team” with B-Rad, and I was immediately taken by the great talent, awesome promise, and terrific fans. (I could not say the same about my other favorite player’s new team which had me living in total misery last year). Even when you were losing in March, it was a graceful loss with hope for the promising future. At this point, though, I’m disappointed that a team this talented and fans this smart could possibly use a trade that happened 8 months ago as a legitimate excuse or reason for playing this badly. That is not nearly the extent of what is going on here. It can’t be. I just can’t bring myself to believe that a team this rich is really that pathetic to not be able to move on. They came together in the playoffs (beating the defending champs and a very good SJ team), so it can be done.

    There is something more going on here, and I go back to not the Richards trade ruining team chemistry, and not Avery screwing with the lockerroom, but to the fact that this team does not have a direction. They were put together without one and right now they are playing without one. Nothing can be done to undue what was put together, so it is up to the guys in the room and the coach to get a direction now. I feel much better about that possibly happening with the wake-up call Morrow seems to have finally gotten. If you don’t have your captain behind you, you’re doomed. It looks like he’s finally behind his team.

    Forward people! Look forward. Nothing can be done about the past! (But try not to look forward to Saturday, ’cause I watched the Sharks last night during my dinner break and they were dominating. Ouch!)

    Also, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything nasty about Turco. Obviously there is something about him I don’t know yet. As an “outsider,” I’m still learning the ropes. Can we be friends again? =)

  13. As someone else said, the Stars haven’t been able to string 2 wins together since that trade. That trade had everything to do with it, the stats prove it. The Stars had direction before that trade. I don’t know what HullJack thought we were missing, considering we’d just had one of the best February’s in franchise history (12-2) before. But whatever they thought we were missing, unfortunately Brad Richards wasn’t the missing piece, I personally didn’t think a piece was missing. It was them trying to seem like new hot-shot GM’s who had a vision for this team, and with that vision our team has lost all trust.

  14. Sarah, no bad blood here. The thing about Turco is that he is easily one of our most beloved players. Even when he’s playing badly, loyal Stars fans are quick to come to his defense. He’s proven himself to us, and Dallas in general has faith in him.

    Nobody is blaming the problems on this team solely on Richards and his coming here. It’s just being pointed out that it IS a contributing factor. As Jen pointed out, win/loss stats say a lot about that. You are right that this team does not have a direction. I believe at least a few of us have mentioned that, also. We are not using Richards as our scapegoat or our “excuse,” just like we aren’t placing the blame entirely on Avery, or Turco, or the defense, or Hull. It’s a whole combination of problems. Any one of us here in the blogosphere will be the first to admit that. You seem to be taking it really personally that not all of us are thrilled to have Richards here. It isn’t anything about him as a player, or even as a person. It’s about the fact that his trade contributed to our loss of direction and chemistry. We lost some really valuable players and gained a player who has not proven to be a worthy replacement for them. Yes, it was 8 months ago, but half of those months were in the off-season. As far as post-, pre-, and regular seasons go? It’s still affecting us.

  15. I will say though that I love B-Rad, he is a good player and such a nice man.

  16. I’m not taking it personally, I’m just frustrated. Frustrated that the focus is on the past. It can’t be undone. I like forward moving. Y’all have a good team here. Really. My other player is on the Thrashers. Believe me, it can get a whole lot worse than Dallas.

    I *am* taking it personally that I stayed at work until 10 because one of my students said he needed my help and would come see me at 9:30 but never showed up. He’s so getting an F on the next paper. =P

  17. Hopefully the signing of Parrish means that the Stars suits are looking to move forward too.

    Who’s your other player, Sarah? And sorry to hear about your flaky student! Guess he’ll have to go without your help now. :/

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