From Dictionary.com the word anemic can be defined as lacking power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness; listless; weak. See also the Dallas Stars offense.
It is a continuous issue that has carried over into its second season. There is a narrative that the team fixed their issues last year. Perhaps. Dallas last season finished 29th in the league in goals for and goals for per game. This season? Dallas finds itself 30th in the young season. Bob Sturm of The Ticket did an excellent segment on the Stars offense on Monday, October 28th. The offense has to be fixed and it starts with the offensive philosophy from the coach.
How can the Stars start scoring and save their season? The first area to address is exiting the defensive zone.
Skating and Patience
Dallas has to exhibit patience when attempting to exit their own zone. The players are too reckless with the puck. They are not playing as one unit when on the ice. Everyone needs to flow as one to be in sync with each other and make crisp, clean passes. No one should exit the zone until possession is secured unless they have space to be available for an up-ice pass. This is not happening consistently. Forwards are trying to press up ice before the team has secured the puck leading to bad turnovers. Defensemen aren’t afforded opportunities for the up-ice passes for the odd-man rushes.
Speaking of odd man rushes, this feels like the only way the Stars have the confidence to generate offense. If they don’t have a rush opportunity, they have 3-4 skaters waiting on the blue line for someone to dump or skate the puck into the zone, that one time a game. Dallas has speed and skill. Change the entry style. If you want to dump and chase, fine. Do not do it while your forwards are standing still. Forward momentum is everything and they can skate faster than the other team.
So, what do the Stars need to do differently?
Be patient with the puck in their zone and feel comfortable inviting pressure. Fans of FC Dallas have seen this style work well for the team. Confidence with the puck with options to move it will help create space and opportunities. Force the other team to come to take the puck similar to when a soccer team will maintain possession instead of readily surrendering it. Dallas has the players and skill to execute such a philosophy.
The forwards need to make themselves available and skate. Stop picking a spot to sit and wait for the puck. Dallas needs to be active and moving instead of stagnant. Not only is their style right now boring, but it also is not working and leads to turnovers. On the other hand, the defensemen also need to have the confidence to carry the puck into the neutral zone and into the offensive end. A player has 3 options with the puck, shoot, pass, or keep. For whatever reason, there is no room to adjust on the fly. The Stars puck handlers need to identify what the other team is doing and react accordingly. Doing the same thing over and over is not going to work.
Let us imagine the Stars have actually entered the offensive zone and are now set up. How do they generate scoring chances once in the zone? Well. If you’re Dallas, you get the puck to the point and let Klingberg skate to the middle and shoot and hope for a tip. This is the same old thing they have been doing for years and other teams are finally stopping it. It is a good play. But that is just the thing, it is one play. The Stars lack offensive creativity. Just as with the entrances, the offensive zone strategies need to be more calculated and varied. They are stale in the zone and cannot find ways to get pucks on the net. When they do, it is usually right at the goaltender or it misses the net. This cannot continue.
The key for Dallas is the puck movement. Fast puck movement. Everything in the offensive zone is too slow for the Stars right now. The puck needs to move from side to side faster and needs to be shot quicker. It is about getting the puck on the net as fast as possible. Dallas has been far too hesitant to shoot the puck and thus eliminates their own scoring chances because of it. The team is far too much in its own head and just needs to let go and shoot. Soccer teams who change the point of attack quickly often find themselves scoring more goals. The same principle applies to hockey.
Basketball has a shot clock. Monty and the Stars need to begin to operate under the same idea. Except, instead of a shot clock, it needs to be more of a possession clock. If a player is holding the puck for more than 5 seconds, that is likely a problem. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but in the offensive zone, the Stars need to be more aggressive and keep the puck moving.
If a player doesn’t have the puck, he needs to be skating and trying to find space. So much about the Stars offense as is involves standing and hoping for a tip-in goal. The defense needs to be worn down and exposed by moving the puck and players. Dallas’ strategy of continually either point shots or a wrap-around is not a sustainable strategy. When is the last time we saw one of Tyler’s patented one-timers from the slot? Too long. Notice how that was a theme last season too. The coaching staff has to be better and so do the players on the ice.
It is worth noting and giving credit to the Stars for doing one thing different against the Penguins. Normally, the Stars on offensive zone face-offs will have two defensemen with one more central ice and one on the boards. The forwards will be in a line level with the face-off dot. When Gurianov in particular and Seguin were on the ice, Dallas had Gurianov line up directly behind Seguin. This makes all the sense in the world and the Stars need to do it more.
Numerous times this season Dallas has won a face-off only to have the puck slide between the two defensemen. For no reason whatsoever. If you know the tendencies of the player taking the face-off, adjust to that tendency. The coaching staff and players need to have the ability and willingness to adapt to the circumstances. They have every reason to do so.
Dallas has an offense problem. It needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. Skill and grit will only get you so far when playing the top teams in the league. Dallas has the talent, payroll, skill, and staff to be a top tier team.
The current offense is that of a mediocre team that needs to step up and do better. Puck movement, skating, and patience are the keys to making this work. The time to fix it is now. This team will go as far as the offense allows it. The goaltending is not the problem.
Featured Image: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports