A year and a week ago, following the Dallas Stars’ third-straight first-round departure from the NHL playoffs, I was calling for Dave Tippett's head. Being a fan and having nothing to do with the Stars organization, no one listened to me.
That Stars’ team, like the four before it, failed early after a promising regular season. Watching games and following the teams, I concluded a Tippett-coached tean had two major flaws.
1) The team was out of shape, and thus lacked physical and mental stamina late in games and later in the (post)season.
2) They don’t give that “little extra”—a longer push on the skate, an extra deke move, a quick step to get to the puck, a longer reach of the stick—all of those intangible tactics that make playoff teams succeed. His teams played solid hockey, won games, and did all the right things, but these traits they lacked.
For sure, I thought, after the '02-'07 departures, the organization would let him go. Nope. I was bitter. I waited. They changed leadership, added a co-GM, but stood by the coach, goalie, and long-time veterans. They made some roster moves to add youth and speed, but kept to their core: Turco, Modano, and Morrow.
It worked. Watching the first two rounds in '08 both of “my” issues are gone. Yes, Dallas is naturally faster with Ribeiro, Hagman, and even Lehtinen, but the team is working. Literally. They push harder, move quicker, take the extra step, move to get “there” first. They’re back-checking and disrupting the flow; they’re fore-checking and applying pressure.
Unlike the Vancouver series last spring, they welcome overtime, and don’t look tired when they get there. And, they are winning. Nice job, Dave.
I admit, I gave up. I wanted all those things above AND a coaching change. All the other moves got the Stars to a better place, so far. I’m glad to see Dave Tippett (and Marty Turco!) achieving playoff success. Let’s just hope they don’t out-think themselves with the 3-1 lead. Until then, I’m glad we’re here.