At the beginning of the season, the Dallas Stars were ranked fourth in most analysts' NHL Power Rankings. The Stars play in an incredibly difficult conference with the likes of Anahiem and league leading San Jose. Everyone expected Dallas to challenge for the division title, not for the dubious honor of the league's worst team.
As the Stars sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, questions are being asked about what happened. After coming off of a spectacular playoff campaign, there were high expectations entering the season.
For all intents and purposes, it is the same team that went to the Western Conference Finals after beating Anahiem and San Jose, respectively, so what exactly is the problem?
Marty Turco played his best hockey ever in the postseason and Brendan Morrow was a man possessed. Stephane Robidas also had a great postseason and is one of the few Stars that has carried that over into this regular season.
Turco hasn't been able to stop a beachball all season, but even though it is easy to blame Turco for this season's woes, it wouldn't be completely fair.
Injuries have played a large role in this season and it is only becoming more of an issue. They started the season without their best defensemen, Sergei Zubov. He has recently returned to duty, but now the captain, Brenden Morrow, will be out the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. Steve Ott broke his right hand and is now slated to miss the next month. So, as the injuries pile up, so do the losses in Dallas.
The Stars only made one significant offseason move. They lost Niklas Hagman to Toronto via free agency and signed Sean Avery to a lucrative four-year contract. Avery draws a lot of negative attention to himself and wants to be in the spotlight. The problem is, he is playing hockey is Dallas.
Morrow had been on record saying he hates Avery before the team signed him. In a game against Boston, Avery and Ott's antics were heavily criticized. Even Mike Modano, longtime franchise player for the Stars, stated to the Dallas Morning News, "if this is how the organization wants this team to play hockey, they need to find him an off-ice job."
Avery has also been ridiculed by his coach for not following the team's dress code. There have also been instances in which he would be skating around by himself in the middle of the ice while the rest of the team listens to the coach as he draws plays on the glass during practice.
Something is going to have to give in Dallas. I have a hunch that coach Dave Tippett will find himself unemployed before the New Year. It appears that he has lost control of the dressing room, and I think Avery has been a cancer to the team. Simply put, they aren't playing anything like the team that went to the conference final last year.
I think it is fair to ask if the team overachieved in the playoffs which led to inflated expectations or if they are just underachieving right now and are every bit as good as they were in last years playoffs. I believe that it is a bit of both.
I think they are underachieving definitely because they shouldn't be anywhere close to the bottom of the league. However, last year they had a lackluster second half of the season rarely winning in back to back games and only a few wins in all the month of March.
If Dallas has a chance of turning its season around with all the injuries it is facing, some players are going to have to step up and play like they're worth their salaries.
They will need some leadership and scoring and who other to look to than Brad Richards. He is the guy making over seven million dollars a season playing on the second line. He is going to have to play a huge roll. Turco is going to have to turn into the old Marty Turco who lead the league in goals against average. Lastly, Avery will have to park his ego at the door and concentrate on helping his team win, not getting his name in the papers.