Anyone who has been through a reorganization at their work-place can testify to how unsettling it can be when a new management structure comes in, bringing with it different ideas and emphasis.
When the change is unexpected and unanticipated, it can take a little while to get over the shock and for the changes to bed in. It’s perhaps not surprising then that after a win against the New Jersey Devils the day Jim Montgomery was fired the Stars have struggled for consistency, losing each game at home since and with the exception of their 4-1 against Winter Classic rivals Nashville, looking decidedly shaky on the road.
The Stars are not a team that play spectacular high skill hockey as a general rule. They are a team that, at their best, relies upon puck possession, with gritty offensive pressure on the forecheck to pin other teams in their own defensive zone.
They regularly rely upon the second man on the forecheck to grab the puck that’s been knocked loose, setting up a rush offense. The last few games the Stars have seemed too passive and willing to sit back in their own zone rather than retaining possession high up the ice. The penalty kill and goaltending, which have long been two of the Stars greatest strengths look shaky. The Stars gave up 3 powerplay goals against Calgary, and although you can argue that the Stars had the rough end of the officiating, that would have been unimaginable a couple of weeks ago. The Stars conceded few goals on the penalty kill even during the dismal start to the season in October.
Ben Bishop has also been giving Stars fans cause for concern. He was pulled by Montgomery mid-way through two games earlier this season and was once again yanked in the Panthers 7-4 mauling of the Stars (although you can argue that he should have been pulled much earlier than he was and was hung out to dry by the Stars coaching staff). He looked better against Calgary but still seemed below his usual stellar standards, often a beat off in his placement and timing.
One can hope that the Christmas break gives the Stars time to rest up, heal niggling injuries and take stock of the last few weeks. The break will also give the coaching staff time to make adjustments to their playbooks and possibly shuffle some responsibilities a little.
With only one game between now and the marquee Winter Classic on New Years Day they have time to make small adjustments.
However, with major changes in coaching unlikely (and further disruption unlikely to be beneficial) and the Central Division one of the toughest in the NHL, Stars fans need to hope that small changes are enough to find their form once again.
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