The Dallas Stars’ defense has not looked good this year. I figured I would start things out with the obvious and move on from there. Although dealing with early injuries to two of it’s leading members – Sergei Zubov and Phillippe Boucher (who has since returned) – the Stars have struggled to find cohesion this season. This has led to a spot that the Stars aren’t used to – dead last.
The Stars blueliners are 30th out of 30 in team defense so far on this season. They’ve allowed 23 goals in 5 games (through Sunday), which is a goals against average of 4.00 if you’re keeping track of such things. They’ve surrendered 123 shots (there are 6 teams who have given up more), but have only stopped 100 of them. That means Dallas netminding has a 0.813 save percentage. 81% folks. 1 out of every 5 shots on a Dallas goal is going in.
Dallas started a three-game road trip against the New York-area teams on Monday (the Rangers, Devils and Islanders) and beat the Rangers 2-1. Dallas got goals by Brendan Morrow and Mike Modano that were much needed and extremely welcomed. Seeing the leadership of this team step up and lead the scoring is great for the offensive side of things. And the defense? They allowed just one goal on 29 shots. That’s a .965 save percentage – 97%. Maybe this is the new attitude of the Stars’ defense and they’ve ironed out the wrinkles. But, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a situation the Stars need to address.
So how does Dallas address this situation? What do you do if you’re in Coach Dave Tippett’s shoes? Or Brett Hull’s? Or Les Jackson’s? Do you push the button on an early trade to shake up the chemistry and let people know that if they don’t do their job, they’re on their way out? Do you change up the defensive pairings and let players work with a new defensive partner for a while? Do you show some patience and let the “kinks” work out of this defensive machine? What’s the fix?
I have a suggestion, modest though it may be. It’s an approach that can’t hurt – it can only help. Work on the communication! The thing that has been most apparent on ice through the first 5 games is that the six men on ice haven’t been on the same page all that often. Whether they’re working better together now or not, there’s no way that some team exercised couldn’t improve the way things go on ice.
The Stars get back into town after the trip to The Big Apple this coming Friday the 24th. They have a game on the 25th at the AAC against the Washington Capitals and another on 29th against the Minnesota Wild before leaving for a five-game trip on Halloween.
During that stretch, maybe the Stars D-squad should get together off the ice and do some team-building, stress-relieving-type activities. Shoot each other with paintballs…challenge one another to rock climbing competitions…anything where you rely on a teammate and talk to one another, which hasn’t been happening during games.