Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News has always been a beat writer with a keen sense of his team's psychology. So as the Dallas Stars are beat-up, banged-up and looking up at the other 14 teams in the Western Conference standings, Heika has written what passes for a first draft of the team's eulogy for the 2008-09 season. One of the primary problems, he writes, is that the Stars are playing alone:
And with each step, the Stars become less of a team. Avery leaves a side of the ice unprotected, Ribeiro cheats the next center waiting for his shift, Turco's play makes defensemen believe they have to get out of position to make stops.
Confidence in everyone is gone. But then why would the Stars play with confidence?
When they have trusted their teammates, too often a turnover has led to a scoring chance. When they have trusted their goalie, too often a one-on-one play has slipped through his pads or over his blocker. When they have trusted their skilled players to get a key power-play goal, too often a shot has gone wide or a pass has been tipped or intercepted.
It's a vicious cycle, and one that's difficult to break.
Indeed. This team has the robust commitment of a child attempting to climb up stairs and then quitting after tumbling off the second step. Every positive action as a greater negative reaction when mistakes are made; it's systemic, and seemingly irreversible for this team.
Heika's column mentions Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Sean Avery by name as being aggressive to a fault in trying to make something good happen. He mentions Marty Turco as a goalie "struggling to see through passing lanes and has been battling to make saves that once seemed easy."
Again, and not to belabor the point, but whipping-boy Avery and overpaid Richards and the team's shoddy defense don't excuse five wins in 18 starts, a 3.53 GAA and a .870 save percentage.
There may be many sins on the Stars, but there's only one player shouldering the majority of the blame for the biggest disaster in the NHL not to have Barry Melrose behind the bench -- and that player's name is Marty Turco.
The bloggers at Stop Hitting Robidas (great name) nailed it on their comments about the Stars' loss to the Philadelphia Flyers:
Plain to see, the many many turnovers led to the Stars downfall this time. However, people do make mistakes, and that's what we have defense for. And when defense makes mistakes, that's what the goalies for. I find it hard to say we should excuse Turco for his 5-goal 5-hole, because I refuse to accept that we've become a team with such a poor netminder that we've now begun nitpicking the other players for letting it get to him in the first place.
The injuries to players like Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen have devastated the team. The lack of chemistry among the forwards and defenseman has been stunning and equally destructive. But when your last line of defense has a five-hole as tempting for opponents as free hallucinogens at a Flaming Lips concert, then you're destined to fail.
Heika calls Dallas's lack of confidence "vicious cycle." It won't be broken until the team gets a rudimentary level of stability between the pipes from its starting goaltender. After that's established, maybe then you worry about Turco playing as well as Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have in this insult-to-injury season for the Stars.